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Consumer Electronics Show 2013: Fridges, Forks, and Social Media
Posted on January 29th 2013
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) took place in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago and some of the world’s biggest technology companies used the event to reveal yet more ways their gadgets will force us to socialise with each other in 2013.
Samsung’s T9000 Four-Door Refrigerator is interesting for two reasons. The first is that it sounds like a murderous robot from the future. The second reason it’s interesting is that it has a ten inch Wi-Fi enabled tablet embedded in it. Tweeting about what you’re having for dinner has never been easier.
Making previously mundane devices “smart” isn’t an especially new idea – we’ve been thinking about it since the “Home Of The Future” films of the ‘50s. In 2013 most of us still choose a fridge based on how well it keeps food fresh, rather than whether you can play Angry Birds on it, but smart appliances are becoming more numerous and more commercially viable.
What better place than the kitchen for food and drink brands to engage with their customers?
Sticking with the theme of devices that know too much about our eating habits, Hong Kong-based HAPILABS unveiled the HAPIfork. The HAPIfork is a gadget designed to train you to eat more slowly. It does this by measuring the time between individual “fork servings” – the act of transporting food from the plate to your expectant facehole – and vibrating and lighting up like a Christmas tree if you have the insolence to do it too quickly. Alarm! Alarm! Stop enjoying that pizza!
Anyway, so far so offline. The part that warrants a mention on a social media blog is that the HAPIfork records your meal time with the precision of a Grand Prix qualifying session and uploads it to an online dashboard that looks a lot like the analytical tools we use at eModeration. Now eating can be just as much fun as calculating ROI for our clients!
The gadget’s promotional video suggests that comparing your HAPIfork data with friends is a “fun social game.” I suspect that most people will stick with Words With Friends.
Kickstarter is a shining example of how the social web enables inventive people to make exciting products and establish successful businesses. Kickstarter is also, for some, a leading cause of frustration and disappointment.
The website has successfully delivered crowdfunded films, books, games, and gadgets, but many of the site’s most high profile projects remain in development with projected release dates that fruitlessly passed long ago.
Kickstarter’s most lucrative project to date is the Pebble E-Paper Watch. In April 2012 its designers revealed their plans for a customisable smart watch for the 21st century and sought $100,000 to go into production. By day two backers had pledged over $1,000,000. Vocal online support from people like revered cyberpunk author William Gibson made the Pebble a must have gadget and by May, when funding ended, Pebble Technology had raised $10,266,845 from pre-orders.
Understandably, some of the people who contributed to that eight figure total were disappointed when they didn’t receive their watches, as promised, in September. Backers had to wait until CES earlier this month for confirmation that their Pebbles would finally be shipping, and in fact they should be arriving in homes as you read this post.
For your $150 you get a watch with a black and white e-paper display that communicates with your iOS or Android phone via Bluetooth and provides a second screen for its apps. Runners and cyclists can track their journeys by borrowing their phone’s GPS data, while using the watch to control their phone’s music app. A Pebble watch can also keep you informed of incoming emails, tweets, and Facebook messages, ensuring that you can never escape the internet. Never! Mwuhahahahaha…
Coasters are mandatory
Today Microsoft Surface is a tablet with a fancy keyboard cover. You know the one. It has the commercial with all the bright colours, clever choreography, and the attractive, well-dressed people who, in reality, are surely Apple devotees. Six years ago, before the touch-screen tablet revolution, Microsoft Surface was something completely different.
Most of us didn’t rush out and buy a table computer in 2007 – it was pretty much just Björk – but eventually these multi-touch surfaces would get about 20 inches smaller and make their way into our pockets and purses.
Lenovo, it seems, haven’t given up on the old form factor as they were at CES 2013 showing off their Horizon Table PC. At $999 it’s a lot more affordable than Microsoft’s original $10k+ models, so it’s not entirely implausible that we could start seeing devices like this in our homes.
In their promotion of the product, Lenovo is driving the point home that the Horizon is a more social device than traditional PCs. It will launch with 3000 apps specifically designed for multiple user input and is compatible with peripherals like joysticks, air hockey paddles, and dice. Fun and games are all well and good but we know we’d just put Tweetdeck on it…
Obligatory video games section
Lenovo aren’t the only ones trying to put a PC in your living room. There’s a growing trend in gaming for traditionally deskbound PC users to start playing games from the comfort of their sofas. Hardware manufacturers NVIDIA, Razer, and Xi3 all showed off devices designed to stream content from your desktop PC to your TV, or to put a small, affordable but capable PC under your TV. Steam – a leading digital distribution platform and online community with 54 million active users – has also recently unveiled user interface alterations tailored for the sofa experience.
This all adds up to the PC coming out of a dark corner of your house, getting much more social, and quite a bit more appealing to the Xbox crowd. Will it make your Call Of Duty-addicted kids more interested in playing the PC’s massively multiplayer online games like World Of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic?
The NVIDIA Shield, Razer Edge, Xi3 Piston, and new consoles from Microsoft and Sony are all expected to be released in 2013, so the gaming space could look very different by CES 2014.
Single screen viewing is so 2012
The big trend I’m keeping an eye on is second screen functionality. This is the idea that you can watch a television show, listen to music, or play a game on your TV and sync it up with your tablet or phone to give you additional information and engagement opportunities.
As our recent white paper on Live Events demonstrated, look at any social network in the evening and it becomes very apparent that a lot of people like to post about their favourite shows while they watch. The TV and technology companies noticed this and have spent the last few years developing applications to enhance this experience and hold the user’s attention. For example, after the Grammys racked up 13 million social mentions broadcaster CBS created a second screen app to keep viewers hooked to their other broadcasts. Now CSI viewers can review evidence on their iPad along with the on-screen investigators and engage in live chats with the show’s stars.
CES 2013 hosted a 2nd Screen Summit where the industry discussed the latest business opportunities and technological innovations in the field. One topic of discussion was discovery, and how developers and content producers can more effectively help the user to find content they’ll enjoy. DISH, an American satellite TV company, revealed their second screen app at CES and highlighted its use of data from sites like Trendrr and Thuuz to tell viewers which shows and sporting events are trending online.
There’s definitely a two-way relationship between television and social media. The TV networks have clearly spotted the opportunity to point their online communities at more of their content, and a few more ads along the way, but I’d like to see more TV companies creating communities based on viewers’ mutual appreciation of a show. Then I’d like them to ask eModeration to manage them.