“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
So said U.S. Patent Office Commissioner Charles H. Duell in 1899. While Duell was proven laughably wrong, his words recently came back to me as I read reports from the just-ended Consumer Electronics Show. The yawn-inducing “new” products have me thinking we are in an innovation slump.
If so, what does that mean for consumers and tech company profits?
In this modern era, we expect to be wowed by technology. After all, look at how far cell phones advanced in just a few years – from bulky portable telephones to sleek handheld mini-computers. But consider the only incremental change between the iPhone 6 and 7. New emojis and it’s kind of waterproof. Is that all you got, Apple? Wow.
But no need to pick on mobile phone makers. If you think about it, there hasn’t been much that’s new and exciting in any technology over the past few years. Innovations really haven’t been, well, that innovative. To analogize with the world of fast food, we’ve gone from squeeze-only single-serve packs of ketchup to containers that let you squeeze or dip – but it’s still the same old ketchup.
So, is innovation dead? You be the judge. Take a look at this list of products featured at last week’s show. A few are sure to make your jaw drop, whether in amazement or to let out a nice, long yawn.
Our Top Three Flops:
1. Smartypans: Frying pan? Cookbook? Check. Calorie counter? Wait, what? It’s a frying pan that gives you cooking instructions and measures the amount of calories in the food you’re cooking. That’s right. It does all of that these things. This new “culinary tool” was welcomed by some CES attendees as a new health-and-fitness buddy. But, is a smart frying pan going to help us eat healthier? Maybe or maybe not. With a price tag of about $300, I would hope it would grocery shop for me too.
2. Kerastase Hair Coach: Honestly, it sometimes seems like manufacturers try to create problems to sell products. Case in point: a new smart hairbrush assumes we are fretting over how healthy our hair is. How? This hairbrush is internet-connected, uses a built-in microphone and other technology to measure your brushing patterns and to determine your hair health. If you pair it with a mobile app, you receive a daily hair assessment and personalized hair routine suggestions. Do folks really need this much help brushing their hair?
3. Smarter FridgeCam: Have you every really wanted to know what was in the refrigerator but were too lazy to go look? No? Me either. For those that don’t want to miss a moment of a Netflix binge, there’s a new device that let’s you take stock of your fridge without budging from the couch. This gadget connects to an app that shows the contents of your refrigerator, sends an alert when food is about to expire, and suggests meals based on what you have.
Our Top Three Favorites:
1. Motiv Ring: With the recent success of activity trackers (think Fitbit), new technology seeks to up the game and streamline the use of daily digital monitors. The new Motiv Ring is the first device you wear as a ring that tracks your activity, heart rate, and sleep patterns. Compared to wrist trackers, the Motiv Ring is more comfortable to wear to bed. And, get this: it’s waterproof, so you don’t even have to take it off to shower. In fact, you’ll only need to remove it every five days or so to recharge the battery.
2. InspEar Custom Earbuds: Whether it’s a friend, family member, or colleague, we all know a loud talker that we’d like to tune out sometimes. The InspEar will let you do just that, and more. Plugged as the first “bionic ear,” these new earbuds let you fine-tune what you hear in any environment. Not only that, but the earbuds allow you to use subtle voice commands to control your smartphone or connected smart devices. No matter where you are, you can use the earbuds to listen to high-quality music without compromising awareness of your surroundings. And for those of us who find ourselves in a conversation with someone in another language, the InspEar provides real-time translations.
3. Chrysler Portal Concept: Millennials rejoice; the minivan just got a lot cooler. This new and hyper-updated model of a family classic features eco-friendly electric propulsion with a 250–mile range. Bells and whistles of this modern ride include vibrant exterior LED lighting, a retracting steering column for autonomous mode, connected interfaces and zoned audio so riders can listen to their own soundtracks without headsets. For the purest millennials out there, a group selfie-cam is built into the ceiling. This is not your mom’s minivan, folks. And even if you don’t fit the millennial demo, it’s still a sweet ride.
Cover Image: Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock, Inc.