In this interview, Elena Corchero, futurist at Unruly, talks about the highlights at this year’s CES trade show in Las Vegas, and the key trends that will influence how we live in our homes in the future
Interview by Emma Hedges
TM. You’ve recently come back from visiting CES in Las Vegas. Tell us about some of the things that were on show.
EC. There were more than 4,500 exhibitors across 2.7 million sq feet, and the Las Vegas Conference Centre was where all the major brands were. That had the innovation car and mobility area, which is one of the largest because obviously, you have driverless cars, you have flying taxis – you might think that it doesn’t link to kitchens and bathrooms but the fact that they are driverless, means that being in a car becomes your second home.
That raises the question, what do you do there? Do you have more entertainment? Do you do sports when you are going from one place to another? Are you going to focus on efficiency and work? Are you going to do cooking? That’s not coming any time soon, but cars eventually will be like a second home, so almost like caravans. So you can imagine eventually this will lead to the question – why have a home?Cars eventually will be like a second home, so almost like caravans. So you can imagine eventually this will lead to the question – why have a home? @ElenaCorchero @unrulyco Click To Tweet
A key trend is everything to do with mobility. This has two sides – one is the obvious mobility of future cars, flying taxis and so on. The other one is tech that is more mobile. So we have flexible screens that you can roll like a yoga mat, and phones that you can fold.
There will be a lot of technology that follows you around. Robots that have a screen that you can talk to or use to talk to someone else, so you are hands-free wherever you go and can be exercising or playing. The screen detects you and moves with you.
TM. How do you see the trend involving voice assistants progressing?
EC. There is a difference between voice assistants in any device and those in smart speakers. Most people do have an iPhone, and the majority of voice assistants used are Siri (44%), Google (30%) Alexa (17%), Bixby (which is Samsung, 4%) and the rest are 5%. Those are the statistics for voice assistants on their own.
When we go to the smart speakers, that switches around, Alexa is number one and Google is catching up quickly going from 8% in 2017 to 30% now, it is the only assistant that reaches 100% understanding and they promoted it in a truly surprising way during CES with a Fun Park train ride!
Right now 41% of American consumers have access to a smart speaker. In 2017 that was 21%, so the amount of people in the US with access to a smart speaker has doubled. Eventually, the voice will be omnipresent. Now your fridge has it, your TV has it, your oven has it, so very soon you will just speak wherever you are and there will always be a device that can capture your command.
TM. Which were the other products that stood out at the show?
EC. One of the award-winning companies was Toto, who produce smart toilets. We know smart toilets are big in Japan, but now they are coming to Europe.
Eventually, they will be able to do analytics of people’s waste. Toilet analytics is a growing trend and it will become common at some point. You will collect this data for your own awareness, or to sell the data because that data might have value one day, or to connect to your doctor or trainer.Toilet analytics is a growing trend and it will become common at some point. You will collect this data for your own awareness or to connect to your doctor or trainer. @ElenaCorchero @unrulyco Click To Tweet
This was also evident in the pet industry. We know that more people have pets, and there were companies at the show launching automatic pet toilets that also one day will monitor pets’ health.
Fascinating to see that there are so many other problems in the world but technology is focusing on where the money is, and we know that pet owners invest a lot!Fascinating to see that there are so many other problems in the world but technology is focusing on where the money is, and we know that pet owners invest a lot! @ElenaCorchero @unrulyco Click To Tweet
So the ‘quantified self’, and access to technologies to track health are growing and in new directions. There was a home blood test kit, and there was also a concept by Proctor & Gamble’s Oral B where your toothbrush will be able to analyse your saliva… one day these biometrics will be shared with your kitchen, with your fridge and food assistant to manage your nutritional intake, bathrooms and kitchens have never been more connected!
We’re looking at ensuring at an older age we’re fully able, so we can retire at 80 and not at 60. We imagine a longer future but with better health. The ageing population is a massive market that is starting to become much more obvious and Japan is focusing their technologies and initiatives very much on this.
Samsung was doing a lot of robotics aimed at this. Assisted robotics that can help you in the home, but also assisted robotics that you can wear to help you with mobility issues – ‘Exoskeletons’ they’re called.
Two other areas associated with health are quality of sleep and quality of air, and a lot of brands are developing devices that will make you aware of the quality of your air, and others are doing this plus purifying the air.
TM. Which other innovations might have an impact on kitchen and bathroom design?
EC. Well, the idea that any surface of any shape becomes a screen is very obvious. On the LG stand there was an installation called ‘The Massive Curve of Nature’ and it was literally an all-involving screen projecting nature – so you were under the sea or in a forest and the screen was curvy. It was fascinating. That is the new flexible-screen technology that LG can apply on any surface.
Also, there was ‘The Wall’ from Samsung, which is modular and bezel-free making it flexible in screen size so users can customise it to fit any room or space making a wall look seamless.
Audi showed a car with a beautiful wooden interior but it was, in fact, a screen and acted as a display as well. We see something changing in the way we interact with surfaces.
We saw this with mirrors, which when they are touch screens get dirty very easily. So all the mirrors I saw at CES detect gestures, so you control the mirrors by moving your arms and hands, and by facial gestures.
We see less touching and more gestures; appliances being self-aware; any kind of surface becoming a screen; health awareness everywhere, from the fridge to the toilet; and everything leading also to the nomadic life. I really believe in all this technology moving with us, and allowing us to be more nomadic – more free and flexible.I really believe in all this technology moving with us, and allowing us to be more nomadic – more free and flexible. @ElenaCorchero @unrulyco Click To Tweet
TM. Do you think in general consumers are embracing Internet of Things technology more?
EC. There is not enough information out there for consumers to understand how user-friendly it can be, but now companies are figuring this out.
The new Bosch video is brilliant. They had a problem – they have all sorts of products, from fridges to lawnmowers, and they didn’t have an identity for it all. They finally came up with this hashtag that is very trendy already – #likeabosch – and they show that if you only use Bosch products, because they are all connected to the internet you can live ‘like a boss’ because you don’t have to do anything. This video really puts the IoT as a mainstream subject that last year it wasn’t.
But the good thing about the IoT is how it allows you to stay closer to your loved ones. You might ask for example, why have a smart kettle? I still need to fill it up with water and all it does is turn on and off. But the thing is, if you give that to your grandmother you will know how often she has her tea, and you know that at 9 am that kettle goes on every day, and if one day that doesn’t happen you can give her a call to make sure she’s alright.
So the IoT shouldn’t be seen as a selfish thing or a comfort thing – it is about how it is going to make us part of collective communities.