New Automated Store Demos and other CES Innovations

Top Innovations at CES 2012

Regardless of what business you’re in, there was a lot to be excited about at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, which wrapped up last Friday in Las Vegas.

Here are the Top 10 “game-changing” innovations for Consumer Packaged Goods marketers:

1. Automated In-Store Demos.
Would you like to have a “demo person” in every store, but just can’t afford it? Now you can. Intel has a new video system with package recognition capability. Just hold up a package of something, and the system recognizes it and shows you what you can do with it or how you use it. Lego is using this to show toy shoppers what can be made with each of its kits.

Verizon uses a slightly different twist. The Video screen is connected to a live customer service rep from the manufacturer, who can answer any question you might have about the product. Want to buy a lawnmower at Home Depot? No problem, the John Deere Rep will get on the live ‘Facetime” screen and tell you about the different models.

There is also Microsoft new Swivel Facecake system that includes a personal 3D avatar who shows you how clothing will look on a perfect replica of your body – so you can try on dozens of outfits complete with accessories in just minutes without going to a dressing room.

2. Your Smart Phone as a Remote Control.
There are a number of new docks/ converters for iPhones and iPads to allow them to control other things. The benefit is that your Smart Phone stores all of your personal data and preferences, so when you plug it into something else it allows that device to use your preferences.

Some of the applications include TV Remote Controls that will recognize your favorite stations, oven controllers that will find your favorite recipes, and gaming devices that remember your past performance. But our favorite was a device called the ION Guitar Apprentice. It is an air guitar that docks your iPad and uses it as strings – to produce music and provide feedback on your performance.

3. Cloud Sharing.
Almost everyone is launching Cloud-based applications that allow you to share photos, data and other information with multiple devices. You might already be using Apple’s new iCloud service, which instantly shares songs, photos, etc., between phone, tablet and computer. Sony has a cloud-based entertainment network that stores gaming results. And Ford is launching cloud-connected cars which communicate with a real-time traffic database to provide the fastest route from point A to point B.

4. Facebook/Social Integration.
Everything is more fun when you can do it with others. Several products have found ways to create automated Facebook postings to enhance share-ability. For example, Sony’s new TVs have a feature that allows the TV to automatically post what you’re watching. You can also see if any of your friends are watching the same program – so you can chat about it during the show.

5. Bigger Phones/ Smaller Tablets.
It looks like many of the tablet makers are looking at something smaller than the iPad and many ofthe phone makers are looking at upsizing – so maybe eventually we’ll meet somewhere in the middle with just one device. On the phone side, the Samsung Galaxy Note is most noteworthy, with a 5.3” screen (yet still a phone that fits in your pocket).

6. Feedback Loops.

Tracking your own results on tasks – and comparing them to past performance and to peers – is fun and allows you to improve. Enabled by technology, feedback loops are getting built into more and more devices. Many companies were showing off exercise devices that allow for tracking and comparison of speed, endurance, heart rate, etc. There are also several energy-tracking devices that allow you to see how your household is managing energy consumption – with detailed diagnostics, all available on your laptop or smart phone.

7. Chore Elimination and Simplification.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of much of the new technology is eliminating work and making our lives simpler. LG has several household innovations to eliminate housework. The LG Clothes Manager looks like a regular closet, but when you close it, it automatically steam cleans and sanitizes your clothes, so you don’t have to take them to the drycleaner. New LG ovens include an infrared cooking option – allowing you to cook in one-quarter of the time with better flavor (more like real grilling).

8. Easy Controls.
Still puzzled by all of the buttons on your TV remote? No worries. Soon you can chuck it. Samsung has a new TV that is controlled by voice commands (e.g., “go to channel 7”) and hand motions (like an iPad from a distance).

9. Power Management.
With the price of gas and electricity high and all of these gadgets consuming more power, there is a need to get smarter with power management. Many companies were showing off smart appliances that measure and manage power consumption – so power is used in off-peak hours. Some companies are also offering “whole home batteries” that store power collected from home solar panels or windturbines for later use. LG, Samsung and other Korean companies have set up an entire city of 6,000 homes in Jeju, South Korea, on this system, and the homes consumer zero power from outside sources.

10. Personalized TV.
Most video manufacturers continue to push more advanced 3D and even higher high-def. But the best TV innovation we saw was the Samsung “Full Dual HD TV.” The TV allows two people to sit together on a sofa and watch different shows on the same TV. The shows are not miniaturized – they’re full screen and project on the same monitor on top of each other. Each viewer has a different set of glasses and headphones to separate the images.