CES, alternatively known as the “Global Stage for Innovation”, represents the annual culmination of the worlds latest technology, products, and thinking from the biggest brands and exciting new players. The capitalist driven melting pot of the best and strangest innovations is held annually in Las Vegas, USA – which unfortunately is a tad excessive for a Blender team field trip. Hence upon the recent conclusion of CES 2019, like countless other designers, engineers and fresh thinkers we scoured the web in search of new technological approaches and themes we need to be considering for all our current and future projects.
Luckily, we came across this great article from C-NET, debunking the four main trends of CES 2019 which you can read here. For the reader’s digest, these main trends were:
Tech that adapts to you
Technology has been constantly transforming products, but now products are adapting to their users, and one can see what we know as a “user interface” may diminish significantly. Scarily, in fact, we are becoming the interface for our products as they learn about us.
Tech that saves lives
As designers and engineers we love the latest gadget or superfluous artisan hand sculpted piece of furniture, but at the crux of our identity we really only want one thing – to make a difference. Designing technology and products with a focus on saving lives rather than margins, is rewarding, to say the least. The concern (or lack of concern) for our human future and safety is increasing in prevalence in our industry, and this was reflected at CES with new connected automobile-to-everything safety systems, meat replacement alternatives, and natural disaster coping infrastructures under the banner “Resilience”.
Tech that helps you sleep
The fact that “Sleep” at CES drew its own card as a theme, rather than a part of health or wellbeing speaks volumes. Sleep undoubtedly is the most overlooked aspect of our lives, and we are only just beginning to understand the flow-on effects in its absence. According I decided to investigate the realm of lullabies further.
We never used to need Amazon’s Alexa to tell us when Season 4 of Desperate Housewives Re-Run is on, or felt the need to save 50 of our 86400 daily seconds brushing our teeth. Half of today’s new technology products are developed to solve health and mental problems caused by, you guessed it, technology. Isn’t this just fighting fire with fire?
I pondered, unlike the other themes and issues addressed at CES and other product releases – sleep has always been a constant, yet a meaningfully misunderstood problem throughout the ages. Margaret Thatcher infamously managed to live on four hours sleep a night, but it probably wasn’t good for her. People have begun to wise up to the benefits of sleep, and work-induced insomnia has become an outdated badge of strength for 20th-century professionals in the western world at least. Yet a change in working attitudes has not improved our sleep counters. A myriad of modern factors including family responsibility, stress, health impairments and more topically blue light overexposure and stimulation from screens, means the world is still not resting as much as it should.
Through interactions with researchers on account of my own personal Diabetes product ventures, I was shocked to learn a couple of nights of poor sleep will put a healthy individual into a temporary state of undiagnosed Type 2 Diabetes, which along with other factors could lead to a permanent holding of the condition if poor sleep continues.
Professor Matthew Walker, director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, said in an interview with the Guardian in September last year: “There is a catastrophic sleep loss epidemic [affecting the world].” And it turns out New Zealand is just as sleep deprived as the rest of the world, with a third of us suffering from sleep deprivation. In 2015, a Southern Cross Health Society survey revealed almost a quarter of Kiwis felt tired or fatigued every day, rising to 36 per cent for under-30s. According to Walker, after just one night of only four or five hours’ sleep, your natural killer cells – the ones that attack the cancer cells that appear in your body every day – drop by 70 per cent.
With powerful links between sleep loss and, among other things, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health – how crazy is it we obnoxiously turn a blind eye to resting up?
Enter a new wave of products, aimed at changing that for everyone. Athletes to the elderly, the education and enhancement of sleep is a new technology focus that is genuinely making the world a better place. I found three new products I personally favour, addressing three different problems – individual customization (for those in sleep-deprived relationships), education & awareness, and temperature.
Sleep Number smart beds
At CES 2019 Sleep Number came to the party as the “Official Sleep and Wellness” partner of the NFL which no doubt is a valued marketing partnership for the company. Sleep Number’s mattresses have had basic tech in them for a while, but the addition of sensors and an application ramps up their capabilities for couples and individuals. The technology senses your movements and automatically adjusts firmness, comfort, heat and support as you continue sleeping. Interestingly, even the elevation on an individual side of the mattress can be automatically raised to instantly combat a partner’s snoring capabilities. Touching on the earlier theme of “tech that adapts to you”, it’s nice to see this technology being applied in the space where we spend half our lives (or should be at least).
The Oura ring has been proclaimed as the “most accurate sleep and activity tracker” – in the compact form of a ring (found upon Prince Harry’s finger) lies an array of advanced sensors (i.e. Infrared, Body Temperature, Accelerometer/Gyrometer). The ring monitors and informs you with a “readiness” rating depicting how much activity you should exert based on your rest. We should really appreciate technology like this, that allows us to make the right informed choices and take our health into our own hands.
Moona Smart Pillow
The startup Moona offers an active intervention to aiding better sleep by changing the temperature of your pillow. Controls on a connected nightstand water pump allow a liquid transfer of heat throughout the system. The upper extremities area is a key body heat exchanger, and having the ability to adjust the temperature between 70-100 degrees Fahrenheit may combat any difficulties closing the lids. This product operates on a scientific basis and is clear in its function – targeting a problem people seem to have been having for years.
So, in conclusion, CES 2019 looked like another interesting culmination of tech on the other side of the world. One that showed promise in using the efforts of designers and engineers for more noble and humanitarian causes – who knows what will problems will surface next year, and what technology will do to address them?