What does a post-virus future hold for consumer electronics?
No one can refute the fact that the coronavirus has changed the world forever. But there is a specific industry that will surpass even the pandemic in terms of how “world-changing” its effects could be. Indeed, to be world-changing means making an impact so tremendous that the effects of such an event will trickle down to the most common of the masses. And good news, folks, the global consumer electronics industry is doing just that.
This robust market is showing no signs of slowing down even after the great lockdown of 2020. A staggering $2.9 trillion global market value is predicted to have been achieved last year according to research firm Persistence Market. For comparison, the UK’s pre-pandemic GDP is estimated to be at $2.93 trillion.
What drives this unprecedented growth despite the ongoing economic crisis widely acknowledged as the worst since the Great Depression? The exploding demand for “touch-free” AI-powered devices and smartphones that keep people connected in a physically distanced society has been driving this growth. Leading markets are India and Southeast Asia – home to nearly a third of the world’s population.
Behind this technological revolution are the tech titans – corporations with all-encompassing influence and capitalistic might that function like mini-governments, entitled to powerful legal boons and rights of their own. They spearhead the world’s technological race by pouring out billions of dollars into their respective R&Ds. Their products have graced the planet with world-changing machines, from pocket PCs of the early 2000s to bendable smartphones of the ‘20s, these companies are at war with each other.
The world’s biggest yearly tech event, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), hosts the industry’s most bleeding-edge pieces of human craftsmanship. We will discuss the trends that will – according to experts – define and lead the industry as the planet slowly recovers from the massive turmoil caused by Covid-19.
As a remark, we will highlight technologies showcased in the 2017-2020 editions of CES.
Augmented and Virtual Realities
These two industries are steadily becoming a requirement for their respective targeted markets.
Augmented reality is mainly for consumer devices: smartphones and tablets that are intended for corporate or professional use. AR provides easy-to-view information for workers whose hands may be occupied (literally speaking, like a surgeon in mid-operation for example). We must expect this trend to continue, starting with your Snapchats or a demo for a clothing store. Augmented reality exploded in the last couple of years, also at CES, trickling down to games, photography, and messaging apps. This boom will certainly continue after the pandemic, providing experiences that immerse users while keeping them connected through mobile, a huge plus for this sub-industry.
How about its twin—virtual reality? This industry has cemented its worth and value in the consumer market primarily for entertainment and leisure. As more and more people buy gaming consoles rather than sticking to their PC or Mac, VR-oriented companies, with the help of gaming masters like Sony, are building experiences specific for customers in this area. Tourism also benefits from VR via state-of-the-art, government-operated theaters designed to entice tourists to experience a tourist hotspot in real life. Theme parks from around the world have started incorporating virtual reality into some of their roller coasters, adding up another dimension into an already thrilling experience.
As these twin industries rise to become a necessity rather than a dispensable fad, a new area of technology appears at the previous editions of CES with a serious potential to change the landscape of an enormous US$532 billion industry.
Digital Cosmetics and Therapeutics
Can you imagine the topsy-turvy a breast pump launch may cause in a tech-oriented show? We bet you can’t, and for many at the 2017 edition of CES, they didn’t see it coming either. The Willow Breast Pump took a device that was left unchanged in decades and reimagined it as a smart wearable—with an app, to boot. The product launch was so brilliant that Digital Trends gave it a Top Tech of CES award. What’s more amusing is that it didn’t end there—in 2018, the Mommy Tech was launched with a bang, targeting more women to become more oriented with modern tech and to minimize a neglected gender gap within the technology industry. The world is seeing real growth in tech products meant for women designed by women; not just rosy, floral phone cases or easier-to-use washing machines.
But what holds more promise for women is the highly possible collaboration of the beauty industry giants with tech titans, and the good news is CES has always had a section for this much-anticipated alliance. As proof, cosmetics leaders L'Oreal and Olay are present at CES 2019 for the first time. Expect smartphone-controlled skincare devices and AI-powered beauty apps to dominate the beauty industry in the foreseeable future. By extension, the current trend will soon tackle medical practices in the form of apps that can store medical records or make basic to intermediate diagnoses of a wide range of diseases – from diabetes to clinical depression. Let’s stay tuned as the years bring more fruitage to this particular tech.
One particular aspect of technology will continually prosper and once it reached its prime potential, the world will change as we know it. How? Let’s talk about artificial intelligence.
Artificial Intelligence Will Drive the Post-Virus World
It’s no longer fiction, friends. At least, it doesn’t want to remain as is. Artificial intelligence is being introduced to almost everything: devices will be voice-commanded, smart speakers will be running Amazon’s propriety A.I. Alexa and Google's own Home will be embedded in TVs and light bulbs and windows and other things you can think of. But the capabilities of artificial intelligence go well beyond simply recognizing your voice and obeying registered, hard-coded commands. LG Electronics President and chief tech officer I.P. Park, in one of the first keynotes of 2019’s CES held on January 8-11, discussed in vivid detail the company’s vision for A.I., which can “solve this problem of using complex systems, so that future devices become smart—and smart devices mean they will know exactly what you want and what you need,” he told Digital Trends.
The opportunities for A.I. are endless and the technology’s power is being harnessed in every sector. In the field of medicine, for example, artificial intelligence is already being a huge aid to surgeons during medical operations, and despite being in its early years, medical experts believe that it can unlock significant breakthroughs in the world of medicine. Thanks to A.I., medical procedures that would have previously taken years to complete can now be accomplished in a matter of days. And as we progress towards the second decade of the 21st century, the industry expects smarter everything—smarter products, smarter vehicles, smarter processes, smarter living, and even smarter cities. But to harness the power of A.I. means being more superior to A.I., with the capability to regulate powerful algorithms that enable machine learning.
The greatest, most fearsome potential of artificial intelligence is its probability to become self-aware, to give way to sentient aspects such as consciousness or cognition which are reserved only for humans. It may sound like a recipe for a movie manuscript, but if such a complex neural network as A.I. becomes so advanced that it will no longer require human intervention, machine autonomy is possible within the next hundred years, research suggests. The dawn of artificial intelligence made it possible to transform every industry sector, but corporations must—without fail—consider the ethical implications when implementing it, according to industry expert Megan Burberry.
The power of technology is undeniably incredible, and the usability and practicality of these techs are progressing quickly with every passing edition of CES. Consumer electronics may have suffered from the reeling effects of the coronavirus – so did the rest of the world – but it will bounce back to pre-pandemic levels of growth, according to Forbes. It’s just a matter of time for this industry to lead the consumer market back into the green side.