It's News To Me

CES 2015, the Internet of Things, and Future UX

January 15, 2015          

Episode Summary

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES),  after a few years flirting with irrelevance, is on the rise again, as the wild technology and gadgets from the 2015 conference captured the imagination of consumers and media pundits alike. A big and important theme of CES 2015 was the Internet of Things, with major companies like Samsung taking IoT strategy for a new connected world. In this episode of the Digital Life we discuss some of the cool tech from CES, like Intel’s Curie chip, and how it relates to the IoT, wearables and the future of UX.

Jon:
Welcome to Episode 85 of The Digital Life, a show about our adventures in the world of design and technology. I’m your host, Jon Follett, and with me is founder and co-host, Dirk Knemeyer.

Dirk:
Hey, Jon.

Jon:
Today I thought we would reflect a little on the excitement of the CES Show in Las Vegas and talk about a few of the things that are coming along the technology pipeline, in respect to at least one of the future technologies that we’re excited about, which is, of course, the Internet of Things. To start us off today, I thought it was worth mentioning this new Curie chip from Intel, which is the size of a button, which immediately makes me think that it’s not only going to be put into wearables, but also very likely going to end up in your clothing somewhere. It continued to amaze me how the computer has worked its way from being basically a room at one point at an enterprise company, onto our desktops, which was the Bill Gates vision. Steve Job’s vision was puts in your pocket or in your hand. Now, whoever the leaders are of this Internet of Things revolution, is going to insert it into our fabric and down the line, I guess, under the skin as well.

What’s your take on this push to make these micro and very powerful processors part of our everyday lives?

Dirk:
It’s exciting. There’s so much to talk about with it. One thing that has really made me do is look back on the history of personal computing. The technology that has undergirded everything that has caught on from certainly before, but the first Apple PCs to where we are today. Consumer computing is the processor.

It’s Intel. At the beginning of it all, that is the technology that has made all of this happen. The fact that it’s taken it first in our pockets, but now the application’s getting into things we talked about before that are embedded in our bodies and used in other ways seamless with who we are and how we’re living.

It’s super exciting. The potential for it is magical in ways that would affect and make better our lives as we understand them today. What’s even more tantalizing is the potential to – completely is an exaggeration – radically redesign the very environments and ways that we live and go through the world.

Jon:
Yeah, I saw a photo of this chip. It’s remarkable how very much like a button it was, which, from my limited personal experience with personal computers, as a child, I just remember these boxes that were intimidating when you took them apart. They’re dinosaurs now, but they almost feel like they were these imposing objects on our desk. Then to see that transformation where there’s a certain elegance it its smallness. It’s no longer intrusive, it’s no longer imposing – not in the way that the first PCs were. I think that’s significant for me as a user perspective.

Dirk:
We’re really getting close to integration. I remember I got my first Blackberry, I don’t know, maybe 2002 or something, -ish. From very early on when I had it, I just wish that it was in my hand, literally part of my hand, as opposed to something I held in my hand. It’s like the device was in the way.

The way this technology is going is that the device won’t be in the way anymore, in ways large and small. They’ll be integrated. Maybe not so much as literally being our hand, yes, but we’re heading down that path very quickly.

Jon:
Yeah, I agree. Another interesting release at CES was the Nvidia chip which is very powerful. One of the expressed purposes for it is to connect our cars, basically. It looks like, in another round of technology, we’re now undergoing this transformation from a car being almost a mechanical horse that gets us from place to place, right?

Dirk:
I love that analogy.

Jon:
This wonderful thing that gets us to work and back home or on vacation, whatever. Now it’s transforming into this rolling box of technology. You can imagine all the capabilities of this room now that you’re in that’s connected in every way. That may very well be driving itself at some point. The particularly ambitious might be able to get some work done while they’re on their commute perhaps.

Dirk:
Yeah, you’re right in a lot of ways. First of all – and I’ll make this prediction today – in the 2020s, all cars will be soft-guided, or the majority of cars traveling on the roads will be self-guided. That is happening. That’s not a “will it?” It’s a will. I think that’s the time frame.

It does change us from the mechanical horse model, which goes back to something that’s 19th Century and previous technology to what I’ll call a mobile room model, where suddenly we are behaving and acting and doing the same things we would do in our home, but, oh, yeah, now we’re getting from point A to point B at the same time.

That is a huge shift in context and much closer to the reality, not just of how we live and function in general today, but how we treat our cars today. It’s pretty insane. As I drive down the road – and I’m guilty of this as well – I look over and everybody’s on their God damned devices. They’re not 2 hands, 10 and 2, and looking forward.

They have removed themselves from the physicality of trying to move this vehicle forward to take them where they’re going. They’re doing the minimum they possibly can to keep the vehicle in progress, and the rest of it they’re retrieving into how they would pave and operate normally around their technology.

It’s all been already-asked-and answered. The only issue now is to get the cars to take care of themselves so we’re not dangerously driving, half-paying attention down the road.

Jon:
Yeah, that’s right. I think it also introduces some interesting models that we’re beginning to see abstracted out, the idea of the sharing economy and Uber or Zipcar, where you’re less concerned with what it is you’re driving in and more concerned with the access to it.

If the car becomes this rolling technology, does it matter quite as much? As long as you have access to it, and it’s self-driving, maybe it can just show up on Uber when you need it. Maybe there are a bunch of those rolling around your neighborhood.

It’s another way of looking at public transportation, certainly for those folks as well who only need cars in certain instances, but then really need them. We saw that right now by having services that’ll pick up folks who don’t have their own cars and take them to doctor’s appointments or what have you. A lot of those things could be managed by software, especially if cars self-driving.

Dirk:
Yeah. How that model comes together is a whole different kettle of fish. I already anticipate problems going to self-driving cars because there’s going to be a minority percentage or a clear vocal percentage who want to drive their own car, the romance of the highway. They already are going to be barriers to whatever a full system could entail. The more communal system that you’re talking about, that’s even fuzzier. I can’t fully see my way there.

I can see the model, where we have our own cars. I think the model you’re advocating is the smart one, is the efficient one, but I know we’re not ready to get there now. If we’re ready to get there in 2020-blah, blah, blah, the world would look very different.

I’m not capable to see that far ahead in knowing how that would come together, but I’d love to see it come together in a way similar to your vision, even though my vision might involve having your own car and choosing a massage table and hot tub, that’s not going … If someone else chooses a reading shades or some such.

Jon:
Right. That’s interesting. I’m sure we could do a whole show on the future of the automobile. There’s another piece of technology out of CES that definitely feels a little bit out of the realm of science fiction for me, and that’s the 3D scanner.

I know that these already exist, but this one from I believe it’s called Fuel3D is hyper fast in terms of the taking scans in less than a second.

Dirk:
If we lay you down in this thing, in less than a second, we need to clone you. Is that what you’re saying, Jon?

Jon:
Sure, but, of course, it’d be a little bit hard to print me back out. In theory, you would have this scan of me or perhaps something more interesting.

That just starts to introduce, at least to me, this idea that the digital world is dimensional, but not in the same way that our everyday reality is. It’s interesting to me to see that dimensionality being introduced in such a way that you can transmit this 3D scan of something that perhaps you have on your desk. I could send this scan of, I don’t know, this pen or something over to you and you can print it out at home.

That’s not a particularly useful example, but you can imagine sending over, say, game pieces or sending over objects without a lot of moving parts; where I possess something physically and then I can share it with you digitally and it reemerges into the physical realm for you.

I don’t know that we’ve seen a lot of that happening just yet, but you can see where this is going. From consumer standpoint, it’s pretty exciting, I think.

Dirk:
Yeah, the consumer printing technology. We’re talking about this offline, but the consumer printing technology has a long way to go before this really manifests.

Jon:
Sure.

Dirk:
But it is tantalizing and exciting. To change tracks, if you don’t mind, one thing I’m really thinking about in the context of the CES today is that it’s interesting how the CES – the Consumer Electronics Show, which is what we’re talking about – how it’s evolved, where 5 years ago, the CES was on the down slope – companies were backing out of it, it was getting a lot less media coverage – because Apple was the big event in January.

It’s very interesting how post-Steve Jobs and how as the Internet of Things ramp up, which are much more open and certainly they work on the Apple platform as well, but more in the PC ecosystem. The CES is on the upswing, too, and it’s getting a lot more media coverage than it was 5 years ago. It’s a lot more interesting than it was. It’s part of this whole shift back away from Apple and back to the more traditional ecosystem of computing devices.

Jon:
Yeah, I think that’s an interesting insight, Dirk. The shift away from Apple being the centerpiece of the tech universe, which is bound to happen at a certain point anyway. Yeah, that is a very telling sign, I think, that there’s so much attention given to CES this year.

One aspect, of course, a lot of the things we’re talking about today are part of the Internet of Things or emerging technologies. What’s so fundamental to CES is that its consumer-facing technology, but, at the same time, all these technologies are going to be equally robust – and perhaps even more than that – central to industrial manufacturing to agriculture to supply chain management to all these things that make up our industries.

CES is the icing on the cake for the consumer economy, but when you’re talking about the Internet of Things and additive fabrication, those are bubbling along underneath the surface at more the technical conferences.

It’s interesting that we can see the sheen of these technologies on the consumer side, all the while knowing that the technology’s underpinning some of our most important processes are also changing.

Dirk:
Absolutely. Things don’t hit the consumer side until a lot later. 10 years ago, we had Leandro Aggro, who was a startup entrepreneur from Italy doing Internet of Things stuff and INVO doing a tech talk on the Internet of Things. It’s only a decade-ish later that this is breaking the surface of being at the big, mass Consumer Electronics Show.

It shows the slow gestation that when we’re talking about emerging technologies and cyborgs and all the crazy things we are learning about and talking about. For us, that’s for the present, but we’re not going to see it at this level for some time yet.

Jon:
Yeah, that’s precisely right, Dirk. Listeners, remember that while you’re listening to the show, you can follow along with the things we are mentioning here in real time. Just head over to thedigitalife.com – that’s just one L in the digital life – and go to the page of this episode. We’ve included links to pretty much everything mentioned by everybody, so it’s a rich information resource to take advantage of while you’re listening, or afterward if you’re trying to remember something that you liked.

If you want to follow us outside of the show, you can follow me on Twitter @Jonfollett. That’s J-O-N-F-O-L-L-E-T-T. Of course, the whole show is brought to you by Involution Studios which you can check out at goinvo.com. That’s G-O-I-N-V-O (dot) com. Dirk?

Dirk:
You can follow me on Twitter @Dknemeyer @D-K-N-E-M-E-Y-E-R, or e-mail me at dirk@goinvo.com.

Jon:
That’s it for episode 85 of The Digital Life. For Dirk Knemeyer, I’m Jon Follett. We’ll see you next time.

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