By Ari Popper
Last week I spent a few day’s at CES in Vegas. My experience there is best described as a mix between an awestruck Charlie in Willy Wonka’s Technology Factory and a technophile browsing a humungous Best Buy with over 2million square feet of consumer electronics on display. In the first of two blog posts, I’ll share my thoughts about what CES can teach the MR industry. In the second I’ll share the results of the worlds smartest research robot Eye2d2.
The science fiction Jetson’s like vision of a smart home is now a reality and it is going to open up a whole new world of insights. I was impressed with the smart home technology on display from companies like Lowe’s, Belkin and Whirlpool. Since the 50’s and 60’s home appliances have been our humble servants catering to our domestic needs but now the big difference is that they are ‘smart’ thanks to tiny sensors and wireless connectivity. Our appliances can now make suggestions, anticipate our needs and save us time and money. Apart from a few protocol and standards issues that may hinder broader adoption (think VHS and Betamax), surely, it can’t be too long before real time domestic appliance big data is integrated into ethnographic research? We no longer need to take consumers words for what they do at home, with permission, their appliances will tell us.
Incremental innovation is everywhere, radical innovation is rare but for extreme disruption do the creative mash-up. Walking around the show, I was struck that there were only a handful of genuinely disruptive innovations on display – 3D printing is a great example. (To be fair, 3D printing has been around for many years but is in the verge of being affordable for individuals and therefore will create mainstream mayhem.) However, when you creatively mash-up these ‘smaller’ innovations, you create powerful new paradigms.
One of my favorite items in the show was a 3D printed shell that uses nature’s Fibonacci ratios to amplify sound. This inventor mashed up 3D printing, biomimicry and our insatiable appetite for iPhone accessories to create the world’s first 3D printed, shell shaped, iPhone amplifier. (It worked amazingly well). The second example was an idea I had after passing two booths that are both working on energy innovations. The first harnesses human body heat to recharge batteries. The second has devised light and flexible solar panels. Individually they don’t add up to much of a solution (yet). I am not an engineer but if we combined both and say added kinetic energy as well, wouldn’t we have a viable way to charge our devices as we used them? The same thinking applies to market research. For genuinely striking insights, we should creatively mash up tools, techniques and data sources.
Finally, after spending three days surrounded by dizzying technological advancement and innovation, I am more than a little embarrassed by the market research industry’s slow and cautious approach to innovation. A few exceptions aside, I bet that the majority of the tools and research techniques that are still being used are over 10 years old. What the MR industry needs is an incentive of sorts, like a Market Research X-Prize. The X-Prize Foundation donates $1m in prize money for the creation of world changing inventions such as the Star Trek inspired Tricorder (hand held medical diagnostic device)
We badly need an equivalent of a Market Research Apollo Space Program. Luckily there is now an initiative to help this Market Research Science Fiction become a reality: The Insight Innovation Competition. It’s a start to help prepare MR for a future that is rapidly emerging today.