Reflections on CES 2013: the Coming Individualization of Reality
By Greg Heist
Although I’ve never attended Consumer Electronics Show (CES), I love following it on the blogosphere. The annual industry ritual allows tech players new and old to share their latest inventions with the public and offers a preview of how technology will further incorporate itself into our daily lives.
Broadly speaking, attendees didn’t see CES 2013 as a vintage year. As one Ars Technica blogger remarked:
The feeling pervading the entire show seemed to be one of forced optimism. All the various technology companies appeared to be heavily pumping out the message that ‘happy days are here again’ and that any trace of a burst bubble is long gone. However, when pressed, no one really had anything earthshaking to show off…it mostly felt like leftovers from the microwave.
Ouch. 4K televisions, anyone? Anyone?
In spite of the forced optimism pervading the show, there were some interesting developments with the potential to profoundly shape our lives in the coming years. One that is particularly striking is the individualization of reality.
Gaming guru Jane McGonigal’s thesis is that reality is broken, to borrow the title of her fantastic book. As a result, emerging technologies will begin blending the physical and virtual worlds into realities of our own creation. One example of this phenomenon is the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset. When worn, the Oculus Rift creates an incredibly immersive gaming experience that takes “being in the game” to a whole new level. Eye tracking and motion technology allow the Rift to create a truly 360-degree virtual experience. Imagine the ways this technology will evolve over time: the universe seen in The Matrix films seems possible.
Augmented reality is another way to enhance our consciousness. A standout in this space is iOptik, a company creating contact lenses that display “immersive personal media” as we execute our daily routine.
This Youtube video presents an interesting vision of how this could play out in the future. To use another movie analogy, these technologies will bring the world of Minority Report outside of the realm of science fiction.
The potential applications are incredibly exciting: gathering consumer insights for use in future product designs and retail spaces, for instance. Imagine what an augmented reality overlay might look like in a retail space; it guides the shopper through the store, exposing them to highly personalized deals and identifying store sections where their insight is needed. Or think about how much more authentic a vehicle product design evaluation might be if virtual reality technology allowed shoppers to view the car from every angle as if they were in a dealer showroom.
These possibilities provide a very early glimpse of a future where we can move beyond the limitations of physical reality. They point to an era where consciousness will be shaped by our moods, our whims and our momentary needs. It will transform the Internet from a place we “visit” to an atmosphere we live in.
And that’s just scratching the surface from a consumer insights perspective. The societal implications are so staggering that I’ll leave that topic to a future blog post, so stay tuned on that front.
I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. Do you see the individualization of reality as a pipe dream or an inevitable future outcome? What will it mean for our culture?