A Designer’s Perspective on CES 2024

January 26, 2024

While approaching the Central Hall at this year’s CES, it was impossible not to notice the extremes of the setting, the mood, and the cacophony of sensory stimulants. Underneath the layers of sound, light, and company banners calling to passersby, there were some real insights into what to expect from the future. Promising paths forward, meteoric technologies fated to burn out, and small, exceptional innovations were displayed at all corners of the conference.

Sustainability Moves from Panasonic

One of the first and most impactful experiences was the Panasonic booth. Panasonic boasted an impressive, multi-room sustainability showcase exhibiting work on topics ranging from green hydrogen to reducing plastic use through improved industrial design and engineering. Among Panasonic’s creative solutions to the climate problem were perovskite solar cells, developed to provide solar power generation on the exterior of any building. Perovskite requires less energy to produce and is more flexible in application than typical silicon solar cells, allowing it to be a great solution for architecture, urban planning, environmental design, etc.

Another small, but noteworthy solution from Panasonic was the design of bespoke fasteners to build and structure their booth. More and more, design and sustainability are moving toward disassembly and repair, instead of high-energy processes like recycling. These “Kinari Joints” are made of Panasonic’s proprietary plant-based resin and allow for the reuse of the plywood planks they join together and the joints themselves.

AI & Bots From Korean Tech Giants

Samsung, another large presence at CES, presented an intelligent connection between home appliances with “AI for All”. Witnessing the dominance of large AI-powered “boxes”(i.e. waste bins for robot vacuums, air purifiers, and wall-mounted air conditioners) at this stall and many others seemed to be creating a design challenge. Soon, designers will be required to consider more carefully how to curate and reduce the spatial and visual impact of technology in our living spaces as appliances continue to become members of the smart home.

At both Samsung and LG, observing each company’s own robotic AI assistants became a game of comparison for the Whipsaw team. LG, presenting a vaguely rabbit-shaped AI “agent”, seemed to project an active, more sentient approach with its emotive eyes and two-legged design. Meanwhile, Samsung updated the “Ballie” bot it originally revealed in 2020, with a round, R2D2-esque three-wheeled design. Presented as an autonomous bot with the same affability as your canine companion, the emotional emphasis appears to be more on companionship and entertainment, with a short-throw projector working in tangent with its other capabilities. These two design approaches beg the familiar and ongoing question, which image of the home-based autonomous robot will prevail?

Environment Evolution

At the center of LG's exhibit, transparent OLED TVs stole the spotlight, drawing crowds with their futuristic allure. Yet, the question of whether this trend will endure or fade into obscurity was hard to ignore as we walked through the large exhibit saturated with transparent displays.

The Venetian housed smaller stands, with standout displays from Kohler and Swarovski Optik. Swarovski's AX Visio, a collaboration with Marc Newson, showcased the perfect blend of ergonomics, form, and visual stimulation. The incorporation of AI that informs the user of bird characteristics hinted at a future where artificial intelligence will enhance interaction with our lived environment. The Kohler stand presented unbridled creativity and a sheer display of emotional products that resonated with our beliefs that function as well as vision offer a more fulfilling future. Collaborations with artists like Samuel Ross and Daniel Arsham showcased the transformative power of merging creative viewpoints with cutting-edge technologies.

Eye On Mobility

Venturing into the West Hall, mobility took center stage. Kia and Hyundai showcased their latest innovations, with hydrogen reclaiming its position as the fuel of the future. Hyundai's sleek, metallic designs exuded an industrial charm, while Kia embraced a friendly aesthetic with calming whites and subtle pinks, channeling a 3D Anime vision. Both brands showcased modern and engaging vehicles, seamlessly integrating clever mechanisms into their systems—check out the seating arrangement in KIA's PBV. Hyundai’s Dice vehicle displayed a fresh take on the personal mobility vehicle with a modern digital experience and with a form that draws attention to its four corner modules by almost completely hiding its wheels, shaking the traditional expectations of a four-wheeled automobile.

The Takeaways

  • The Growth of AI - AI is not ubiquitous, yet. While we are well on the path toward AI integration — with almost any booth at CES embellishing things with artificial intelligence — the proven end-user benefit of such integrations is yet to be seen. AI, for now, appears to be a fashionable tack-on element.
  • The Importance of Imagination - As we navigated through the labyrinth of innovation, the future cannot be improved by tech alone. Major stand outs to us came from a range of exhibitors: large companies tackling enormous problems like the climate crisis through authentic efforts, small startups designing for very specific, need-based problems, and established heritage brands breaking new ground with unconstrained imagination. We loved seeing this first hand.

Share this article