CES 2021: Consumer tech trends

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Key takeaways from Kathryn Venediger, Tech Senior Account Executive

CES 2021 was a little different. Replacing the January rush to Las Vegas was an all-virtual affair. As with all aspects of life right now, Covid-19 dictated where a proportion of brand and media focus was directed. Clean tech and health tech were therefore well represented at the show’s many online unveilings.

Here’s a selection of our top picks and what they mean for the year(s) ahead.

Consumer Tech trends for 2021:

Gaming will continue to grow in popularity

Gaming is mainstream. It’s not, as some may report, the next big thing. Gaming has been a big thing for decades.

However, gaming isn’t mainstream when it comes to our homes. Avid gamers may have a powerful PC setup, but for the majority of console gamers the PS5 or Xbox Series X are an extension of an existing entertainment setup. Razer showed us with their Project Brooklyn concept how far a standalone gaming setup can go.

With its full ergonomic construction, immersive rollout screen, dynamic lighting and haptic modules, the Project Brooklyn seems to us like the arcade machine of the future. A fully standalone space that’s ruthlessly dedicated to gaming. We can expect to see gaming given more prominence in homes as tailored and optimised solutions like this come to the fore.

Clean tech will thrive post-Covid

‘Clean tech’ was one of the big stories of CES 2021, which comes as no surprise at all of course. A key question remains: just how much will the obsession with cleanliness continue post-crisis?

That question depends on the things changing in the near future. Regardless, the Motrex smartphone sanitization pod feels future-proof. It fits into a car’s cupholder, and both charges and sanitizes your device. Whilst phones may not carry Covid-19 in years to come, they will continue to harbour germs. The University of Arizona calculated that devices carry ten times more bacteria than most toilet seats, so I’ll be buying this as soon as I can.

Masks will get smarter

With medical masks acting as one of the most crucial deterrents of Covid-19, it is little wonder the tech industry has looked to enhance the trusty N95.

In addition to its impressive new gaming setup, Razer is making moves in the health-tech sector, with its Project Hazel prototype. Self-proclaimed to be the “world’s smartest mask”, we would struggle to disagree.

Razer’s surgical N95-grade face is not only made from recycled materials but also uses a replaceable and rechargeable disc-type ventilator, reducing the need for disposable masks entirely. It’s also transparent, in order to benefit those who rely heavily on visual cues for communication.

Even better, it comes with a built-in microphone and amplifier, therefore reducing the ‘mask muffle’ and its charging case disinfects the mask using ultraviolet light to kill bacteria. As mask-tech goes, this is one of the most forward-thinking examples we’ve seen, and there’s certainly the market for it.

Educational technology will empower teachers around the world

Where Brexit looks to limit us with the loss of the popular Erasmus scheme, tech steps up with an opportunity for learning without borders. Schools and universities have adapted during the pandemic, but the majority of them have been making do with tools like Zoom that were ultimately designed for the world of work rather than schooling.

Step forward Engageli. What it lacks in succinct naming is made up for through features that prioritise teachers in classrooms over CEOs in boardrooms. The features focus on ensuring class engagement, helping teachers by tracking participation and alertness. Breakout sessions take Zoom’s feature to the next-level with the ability to synchronize videos across groups and the creation of polls and quizzes to drive further interactivity from students.

And what could all this mean in the long term? Potentially that could be a more engaging way to learn remotely with the world’s best universities. Or a way to spread the world’s best teaching talent to a wider range of schoolchildren that may normally be receiving a substandard education.

Emotional support animals get intelligent

We all know the emotional strain that the pandemic has had on much of the population, leaving many of us craving the companion of a cuddly pet.

Far from Boston Dynamics’ Humanoid robots, Vanguard Industries presents Moflin. This little AI pet robot may look a lot like a boom mic with eyes, but it’s actually equipped with a unique algorithm and built-in sensors. This provides it with ever-evolving “emotional capabilities” and the ability to learn and interact with people as a normal pet would. It’ll even make little noises and twitch in its wireless charging “nest”.

Moflin is an example of how AI is expanding into new parts our lives and could well set the precedent for a new branch of the wellbeing market. And, for city dwellers, this could be the future alternative to a loyal pet without breaching any landlords’ contracts. A support animal without the vet bills? Sign me up!

GoodMaps makes good progress

In addition to a plethora of entertainment and Covid-focussed tech and gadgets, CES 2021 also reflected the increasing focus to accessible and inclusive tech.

Despite most outdoor and public spaces being well documented through Google Maps, indoor spaces have been largely ignored. Until now.

The GoodMaps Explore app intends to solve the issue of navigation of indoor environments for an often overlooked demographic when it comes to day-to-day tech. Using the app, those with visual impairments will be able hear a snapshot of their current location and direction, just with a shake of the phone.

Nominated for the CES Innovation Awards, GoodMaps Explore is a great start in transforming accessible and independent travel for everyone, visually impaired or not.

Rollable phones

Finally, it wouldn’t be a CES roundup without mentioning the latest announcement from the mobile industry.

Just as the world is beginning to warm to the notion of foldable phones, we’re hit with the aptly named LG Rollable. Feature-wise, little is actually known about the device other than that it will extend to create a small tablet and could be launched this year.

That’s it. That’s all we know. So, do we think that rollables are going to be the next foldable smartphone? Possibly.

Samsung has already had great success with 88% of the global foldable smartphone share in 2020 thanks to its Galaxy Z Flip and Galaxy Z Fold 2. This shows that there is certainly appetite for novel smartphone designs, especially when it is said to increase productivity thanks to being both a phone and tablet in one. However, for most of us, spending £1400 on a phone is just not realistic, no matter how cool we think we would look whipping one out in public.

The rollable phone rounds out our top picks from the first ever virtual CES.

2021 is predictably unique in terms of the huge number of health-tech and smart home gadgets, but it is nonetheless exciting to witness epic progress being made across sectors. We’ll stay tuned through the year as these trends take shape and concepts and prototypes turn into fully fledged products and services.

Are you at a tech brand with a big 2021 lined up? Eulogy is ready to help develop your communications approach, helping new and established brands cut through at a time busy with innovation. Get in touch with James Steward, who heads up our tech division: [email protected]

  • Kathryn Venediger,
    Senior Account Exec