Ecosystem around conversational interfaces getting stronger
One of the top trends is that conversational interfaces underpinned by AI technologies now have an ecosystem developing around them. While Apple and Google dominate the mobile-first ecosystem through their respective platforms and app stores, Amazon Alexa and Google voice assistant present the next frontier for a new voice-first, zero-touch ecosystem.
- Huawei Cube and Bose rely on Amazon Alexa.
- Sony SRS, Bang & Olufsen’s BeoSound as well as Harman Kardon Citation 500 range of speakers use Google voice assistant.
- Bang & Olufsen ‘Beosound Edge’ that supports both and has an intriguing design that allows the speaker to rest on its edge as well as be mounted on the wall.
Voice control is going to be a mainstream technology in a few years. Gartner predicts by 2022, more than 50% of premium white goods in developed markets will have a voice interface, up from less than 1% in 2018.
Challenge: Although voice assistants are getting adept at natural language processing, the technology is not at a point where context is adequately preserved to carry out a meaningful conversation. The diversity in language dialects and accents adds to the complexity. However, these are merely growing pains and the technology will mature.
Notebook innovation is ongoing – Dual screens, bezel-less laptops galore
The second trend seems to be the emergence of dual screen notebooks. Dual screen notebooks aim to meet the needs of both creativity and productivity. Lenovo launched the YOGA BOOK C930, one that includes both an LCD for regular work and an EInk display that serves as an e-reader and scratchpad.
One of the other interesting trends I noticed was how laptops are increasingly becoming bezel-less. Smartphones pretty much are bezel-less these days, but laptops have caught on as well. The Acer Swift 5 has a screen to body ratio of 87.6% while the Swift 7 takes it even higher to 92%. Dell XPS 13 and the newer Macbooks have killed the bezel as well.
Key Insight: If you want to see where laptops are heading, just see how smartphones evolve. Laptops manufacturers are asking themselves – what if this were a mobile device. What would users expect of it? Then optimize the aesthetics of laptops around the mobile form factor.
The Move From the Connected Home to the Intelligent Home
The third trend is the shift from connected home to an intelligent home – nowhere was this trend more evident than at IFA 2018. Innovative providers are using AI to elevate the user experience while making this transition. Check out Gartner research – Market Insight: The Move From the Connected Home to the Intelligent Home
Wear OS is doing to smartwatches what Android did to the smartphone
What took me by surprise was the unveiling of new smartwatches based on Google Wear OS by the likes of Skagen, Diesel and Casio. This brings the same competition to the smartwatch segment that smartphones have seen for a long time. Right now, consumers don’t have many options in terms of price and functionality. Google Wear OS based watches ups the ante for a market that is starved of choice.