Would you like your reality shaken or stirred?

Alison Kay,

Global Vice Chair - Industry EY

More about the author

As Global Vice Chair of Industry, Alison’s role is to help businesses navigate disruption across industry sectors and help balance between growth, profit and trust.  She joined EY in 2007 with a strong background in advisory and utilities. 

Mixed reality, along with voice recognition software, were the stars of CES 2017

Woman wearing virtual reality glasses

You’d expect nothing less of Las Vegas. Crowds. Glitz. Lights. Add CES, which often acts as the launchpad for new consumer technology, and you have an extravaganza featuring the latest gadgets to potentially life-changing products. That’s enough to shift anyone’s reality. 

Augmented reality + virtual reality =

But CES made it clear it’s not enough to talk about virtual reality (VR), which shuts out the real world,  or even augmented reality (AR), where the real world is enhanced with digital pieces (see the next section on Hollywood).

Mixed reality is the new kid on the block, with some predicting a mixed reality future – a blending of both reality and virtual reality.

Mixed reality is the new kid on the block, with some predicting a mixed reality future – a blending of both reality and virtual reality.

If you’re wondering what the difference between any of these realities is, you’re not alone. In essence, mixed reality takes VR and AR to the next level. It combines sensors, advanced optics and next generation computing power to scan your environment, place sophisticated digital content within it and interact with it using gestures or voice commands.

Imagine wearing a headset that lets you see your physical hands as you manipulate a digital object, or collaborate with a holographic representation of a colleague. It’s early days yet, but the applications are endless. 

Tablet displaying shops and restaurants in the street ahead

The voice of smart homes and much more

If you were one of the approximately 4m people who bought a voice-controlled speaker over the Christmas period, you may already be a fan of the latest voice assistant platform that dominated CES.

There were endless products embedding it: washing machines, cars, robot vacuums, home security and televisions to name a few. There’s clearly something about natural language, voice-controlled products that is capturing the imagination of product designers and the public alike. It will be interesting to see which products take off once they hit the stores. 

There’s clearly something about natural language, voice-controlled products that is capturing the imagination of product designers and the public alike.

Bye bye industry silos; hello convergence

Convergence and collaboration were writ large at CES 2017, for example:

  • Clothing brands investing in health and fitness tech
  • Shoe manufacturers embedding devices in your shoes to give you feedback on your workout (no thank you!)
  • Automotive manufacturers using home technology, voice assistants and smart in cars

The convergence of wearables into healthcare – to track alcohol consumption, blood pressure, eye movements, etc – is an interesting development. There’s a deeper level of monitoring than before, with conditions such as Parkinson's and dyslexia being targeted. Most importantly, many products have received the all-important clearance from the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), so no hold-ups there.  

Given my last blog, I have to sneak in a mention of the motorcycle with its 3D printed parts. With desktop metal 3D printers and carbon fiber printing, as well as 3D printed electronics, we are witnessing a big step forward. Integration with smartphones was also in evidence, with a company in the start-up area scanning faces on smartphones and 3D printing them.

So what happens IRL?

Gadgets are one thing, much as we like them. But what happens in real life (or IRL, as it’s referred to on Twitter)?

I think we’re at a turning point. There is a sense that we are now on a threshold of real integration of all these amazing technologies – robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, 3D printing, connected cars, the internet of things (IoT) – in real life. We are nearing the point at which these technologies stop being “bleeding edge” or even leading edge and simply become what we use in daily life. 

There was an assumption about driverless cars at CES: the phrase “While we are still driving cars...” was heard multiple times.

There was an assumption about driverless cars at CES: the phrase “While we are still driving cars...” was heard multiple times. There’s a level of acceptance that is invigorating. Let’s see how long it takes to cross that threshold.