How the latest tech is becoming more human-centric
The most obvious trends at CES this year – curved TVs and smartphones and wearable devices – indicate technology is now literally trying to fit the user.
For years the race has been to innovate for innovation’s sake in the hyper competitive world of consumer electronics.
The goal was to find that next killer feature that will make one product stand out from all the rest.
But while that is still the aim of manufacturers there has been a distinct rethink in the approach.
For too long the focus in consumer electronics has been on the electronics side but now the attention has rightly shifted to the consumer side.
The wearable technology industry alone is estimated to go from an estimated $US3 billion industry in 2013 to more than $US42 billion a year in the next three to five years according to Credit Suisse.
It’s no wonder then to see the cavernous halls of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas filled with not just wearable products but also other devices that are literally designed to fit the users.
The curved TV is another example of an existing and hugely popular product that has evolved to become more focused on the viewer.
The curved shape of the screens is the same shape as our eyeballs and designed to immerse the viewer even further into the experience.
The same can be said for LG’s G Flex – the world’s first curved smartphone – which has a gently curved OLED screen that literally fits the curve of your face and the shape of your hands.
LG’s stand at CES featured a range of curved TVs that have been packed with millions of extra pixels.
Another benefit of a curved screen is less reflection. Because the angle of refraction has changed, the reflections are bounced away at different angles.
A flat screen, on the other hand, bounces light back at the viewer at the same angle across the display making it far more reflective.
But LG’s bid to fit the product to the user didn’t just end with the hardware, it was extended to the software as well.
Its new webOS smart TV operating system is refreshingly simple to use and guides users step by step through the set-up process.
The user experience has been honed even closer to people who are watching and these new TVs, on top of their new curly shape, can attune themselves to what you watch and when you watch it and even suggest programs you’re likely to be interested in.
Wearable technology is the next frontier for consumer electronics.
We’ve seen the first wave of the technology already with smartwatches and activity trackers that can both present data when we need it and also collect data about ourselves.
In the case of smartwatches, it is making it even easier to receive and read notifications from our smartphones to complement and enhance the user experience.
LG’s new Lifeband Touch is worn on your wrist like a bracelet so it can effortlessly record your movement and steps before relaying that information to your smartphone.
LG’s Heart Rate Headphones, as its name precisely explains, take wearables a step further.
Now headphones are already something we’re used to wearing but the technology has been extended to not only supply your music but to even take your pulse at the same time.
It does this by measuring the blood flow of your inner ear that can be used to read your heart rate. And it can send that information to the Lifeband Touch and to your smartphone.
This is a great example of a product that’s stylish, wearable and practical.
Consumers are already warming to wearables. Research is showing a positive reaction from those who have already taken the plunge.
Cloud-based storage company Rackspace conducted a survey among US users of wearables with surprising results.
Of all of the wearers who took part in the study, 47 per cent said they felt more intelligent, 61 per cent felt more informed, 37 per cent said it helped their career while 61 per cent also found it helped improve their personal efficiency.
Of course these devices have the potential to do so much more especially in the medical field where they could reinvent the way we monitor our health and improve diagnosis and treatment.
The brave new world of consumer electronics is moving inward rather than outward so technology fits the user rather than the user having to fit the technology.
* Stephen Fenech travelled to Las Vegas as a guest of LG