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Reflections on CES 2013: the Coming Individualization of Reality

Although I’ve never attended Consumer Electronics Show (CES), I love following it online. The annual event allows tech players to share their latest inventions with the public and offers a preview of how technology will further incorporate itself into our daily lives.



By Greg Heist

Although I’ve never attended Consumer Electronics Show (CES), I love following it on the blogosphere. The annual industry ritual allows tech players new and old to share their latest inventions with the public and offers a preview of how technology will further incorporate itself into our daily lives.

Broadly speaking, attendees didn’t see CES 2013 as a vintage year. As one Ars Technica blogger remarked:


The feeling pervading the entire show seemed to be one of forced optimism. All the various technology companies appeared to be heavily pumping out the message that ‘happy days are here again’ and that any trace of a burst bubble is long gone. However, when pressed, no one really had anything earthshaking to show off…it mostly felt like leftovers from the microwave.


Ouch. 4K televisions, anyone? Anyone?

In spite of the forced optimism pervading the show, there were some interesting developments with the potential to profoundly shape our lives in the coming years. One that is particularly striking is the individualization of reality.   Fish cutouts

Gaming guru Jane McGonigal’s thesis is that reality is broken, to borrow the title of her fantastic book. As a result, emerging technologies will begin blending the physical and virtual worlds into realities of our own creation. One example of this phenomenon is the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset. When worn, the Oculus Rift creates an incredibly immersive gaming experience that takes “being in the game” to a whole new level. Eye tracking and motion technology allow the Rift to create a truly 360-degree virtual experience. Imagine the ways this technology will evolve over time: the universe seen in The Matrix films seems possible.

Augmented reality is another way to enhance our consciousness. A standout in this space is iOptik, a company creating contact lenses that display “immersive personal media” as we execute our daily routine.



This Youtube video presents an interesting vision of how this could play out in the future. To use another movie analogy, these technologies will bring the world of Minority Report outside of the realm of science fiction.

The potential applications are incredibly exciting: gathering consumer insights for use in future product designs and retail spaces, for instance. Imagine what an augmented reality overlay might look like in a retail space; it guides the shopper through the store, exposing them to highly personalized deals and identifying store sections where their insight is needed. Or think about how much more authentic a vehicle product design evaluation might be if virtual reality technology allowed shoppers to view the car from every angle as if they were in a dealer showroom.

These possibilities provide a very early glimpse of a future where we can move beyond the limitations of physical reality. They point to an era where consciousness will be shaped by our moods, our whims and our momentary needs. It will transform the Internet from a place we “visit” to an atmosphere we live in.

And that’s just scratching the surface from a consumer insights perspective. The societal implications are so staggering that I’ll leave that topic to a future blog post, so stay tuned on that front.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. Do you see the individualization of reality as a pipe dream or an inevitable future outcome? What will it mean for our culture?

Please share...

6 responses to “Reflections on CES 2013: the Coming Individualization of Reality

  1. I’d ask a different question, Greg. How many people actually want this? No doubt companies will build it, but will enough folk buy it to make it interesting to marketers and marketing researchers?

  2. Individualization/personalization is a reality when everyone understands that people think differently and as a result have predictable behaviors. Xyte will launch a phone app in March where advertising will be personalized to the individual based on the different structures in the way people function intectually.

  3. Steve, I think you raise an interesting question, the answer to which we likely won’t know for some time. Fundamentally, it will come down to the degree to which it delivers more value to consumers than the cost and inconvenience of adopting it. Based on the trends I follow, I see a decent chance for augmented reality in this form (or some future form) to gain traction.

    Like you, I’m interested to see how this all plays out!!

  4. That’s controversial – first the idea that reality is ‘broken’ and then the suggestion that we can fix the rift by making it like an F29 flight simulator. A vision of reality which may be exciting for gamers but not the rest of us. This feels like push media with a capital P that takes away from my individuality. Technology free I can browse a mall by scanning a sequence of store signs on each side. Individualised reality can clutter my visual field with all the stores shouting for my attention all at once. Choice artictecture is more than labelling. Let me suggest an alternative – a filtration system that actually removes clutter. So when I look across the bay all I can see is the single hotel that is right for me. Ingredients in supermarkets that produce tones that when selected make up balanced meals which sound like a well tuned chord when I make the right sequenced selection. If technology can simplify then it needs to supplant and remove what is already there the way that human consciousness and emotion filters out noise enabling me to make decisions which are less stressful..

  5. John, your point is well-taken. You’ve pointed to perhaps the most critical value element that could make-or-break this emerging technology: does it help tailor and filter the user’s experience in a way that creates the desired simplicity of experience (as your examples point out so nicely) or (as a worst-case scenario) does it become yet another realm for bombarding users with irrelevant or undesired messaging and clutter.

    I would be interested in your vision of simplification. Not at all a fan of the latter…

    Great points!

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