5 Insights on Innovation, Focus & Technology from CES

The Consumer Electronics Show can be a bit overwhelming. Nevertheless, the last few days have spurred ideas and excitement around new techno
Head of Behance, VP Products - Community, Adobe
January 10, 2011

The Consumer Electronics Show can be a bit overwhelming. Nevertheless, the last few days have spurred ideas and excitement around new technology that is likely to change our lives. I enjoyed the opportunity to stroll the halls in search for things that will actually be relevant. I also tried to experience CES from the metaphorical balcony as opposed to the dance floor, trying to make sense of it all. Amidst all the knock-offs and accessories, what will actually impact the way we think and work?


I also had the opportunity to speak along with Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan and Ramon Ray at American Express' Open Forum center at CES and met a number of small business leaders.


Enclosed are a five insights and observations worth sharing around innovation, preserving space for deep thinking, and how all of this new technology might help us focus and work more productively going forward.


New technology will further permeate our everyday lives. This is good and bad.

The wide display of new gadgetry at CES suggests that our lives are bound to be more high tech. This is both great and concerning. For instance, just like our mobile phones, our cars will have apps. You will be able to download applications for navigation and entertainment that are sure to make driving more enjoyable. However, such innovations are likely the kiss of death for a quiet and thoughtful drive. For many people with a daily commute, the car is a sacred space to escape from the constant flow of stuff – a space for deep thinking. Like all indulgences, technology must be managed responsibly and with restraint.


There is a herd mentality in technology. This is depressing.

I was amazed by how much of the same thing was on display at CES. Countless 3D televisions, endless piles of iPhone cases and other Apple accessories, and many new tablet computer models. It seems that technology innovation moves in herds. While I understand the business reason for developing the "hot product of the season," I wish there was a greater difference among the output.

Why is Apple always absent?

Apple famously shuns the Consumer Electronics Show every year. They have no official booths or representatives at the show, despite the fact that they are the largest consumer electronics company in the world. At first, their absence is puzzling. But if you think about it more carefully, it makes sense for many reasons. For starters, they don't need the hype of CES. Relegating themselves to a trade booth among the masses would go against every core value of the Apple brand. Apple also thrives off of control. 


When Apple launches a product, they release the only images that everyone references for articles and publicity. In contrast, products launched at CES are photographed by everyone passing and then placed on blogs. As you'd expect, these amateur photographs that circulate the web are poor quality and not nearly as striking as the first ones we see of Apple's products. Nevertheless, it's important to note that Apple is still the center of attention of CES without being present. I counted more iPads on display in booths than any other sort of device – and more booths for Apple accessories than any other sort of technology.


There's some really cool stuff to look forward to!

I was particularly impressed by the innovation in speaker/sound technology, security and sustainability. A number of CES booths had DJ's on site to demonstrate the breakthrough sound quality on display. After hearing such great sound, it has become more difficult to wear my headphones!


One highlight of CES was the GE booth. I am in awe of GE's work to support a future of environmentally-sound electric vehicles, a more energy efficient home, and everything in between. GE's recent collaboration with superstar designer Yves Behar to create the recharging station of the future helped emphasize the important role that designers will play in transforming the way we travel, work, and live.


Entertainment first, work second?

It seems that the pioneering function of most new technology is pleasure; productivity follows.  


It was pointed out to me that the adult entertainment industry has also pioneered the mass adoption of most new technology including the VHS and the Internet. The same goes for entertainment. 


The newest technology – whether 3D televisions or motion-controlled gaming consoles – is first adopted as a luxury before it is considered for productivity. I left CES wondering how the newest innovations will be adapted for the work environment. Will we be watching work presentations in 3D? Will we be building models with hand gestures?


Overall, CES was an enlightening experience. My key take-away is that the best innovations in technology (and beyond) help solve problems; The rest is just commentary!


Find more highlights from CES – including insights on social media, innovation, and technology from Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan, Scott Belsky, and Ramon Ray – at openforum.com/ces.