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AI fever at CES 2024: The era of the AI device has begun

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) of 2024 saw AI turn out to be the acronym du jour, with almost the whole lot, from advanced gadgets to on a regular basis items, being branded with the AI tag.

The Rabbit R1 and AI robots from LG and Samsung were just the tip of the iceberg – AI was embedded in products as varied as pillows and toothbrushes. 

For instance, the AI pillow by Motion Sleep was designed to regulate itself to cut back snoring, using AI to differentiate between snoring sounds and ambient noise.

The AI Motion Pillow uses AI to cut back snoring. Source: Motion Pillow.

You’ve got to ask, as more firms rebrand their algorithms as AI, how can we determine real AI from mere marketing messaging?

The semantics of the term “AI,” often rooted in anthropomorphism that machines with AI are ‘intelligent’ in an identical strategy to us or other organisms, results in over-extended expectations about what AI truly embodies.

‘Artificial Intelligence’ itself, a phrase coined within the Fifties by computer scientist John McCarthy, perhaps did the sector a disservice on the time. It conjured up images of sentient machines, echoing the realms of science fiction reasonably than the fact of the technology.

Magazine covers and news stories from the era imagined humans living beside high-tech robots inside just just a few years.

The World of the Future: Future Cities from 1979. Credit: The Retrofuturist.

Reality soon hit as researchers grappled with the limited computing resources of the time, eventually plunging the industry into an ‘AI winter’ of slow development. 

Earlier types of machine learning have given strategy to today’s neural networking and generative AI, and no company desires to miss out on the excitement that comes with it. 

Despite technological advancement, public understanding and trust in AI stays low, resulting in a widening disconnect between what firms call AI, what AI really is, and what people perceive it to be. 

Arun Chandrasekaran, a Gartner analyst, weighed in on this, noting the risks of doubtless overzealous AI branding. “There is a conflation now of generative AI and other AI that might muddle the sector somewhat bit,” he observed. 

He further cautioned, “Marketers could be shooting themselves within the foot after they advertise something that finally ends up not being what people expected.” 

AI in unlikely places

CES saw AI toothbrushes, pillows, masks you’ll be able to wear to have private conversations in public, and mirrors that enable you to meditate.

There were in-car sound systems that change music as you drive, AI vacuum cleaners that adjust suction based on surface evaluation, and washing machines that detect different fabric types.

Samsung’s AI fridge features an in-fridge camera that documents the several items you might have. 

The lines between AI for the sake of utility and AI for the sake of AI are thoroughly blurred.

Walmart also introduced AI technologies, including augmented reality (AR), drones, and generative AI, to reinforce the shopping experience. This includes tools for product search and replenishment and a brand new AR social commerce platform called “Shop with Friends.”

There were loads of sincere ideas being dropped at life with AI, too, like OneCourt, which presented a miniature haptic display field that helps visually impaired individuals ‘see’ sports games in real-time, using touchable covers that imitate pitch or field lines.

In addition to frenzied labeling of products involving “AI,” CES raises one other pertinent query: Do we wish or need AI for each aspect of our day by day lives, from cooking to shopping to sleeping? 

It’s a tough one, as, on one hand, AI is a incredible novelty technology. Just have a look at the Rabbit R1 – certainly one of the more original and modern products showcased at CES. Rabbit predicted just a few hundred sales on day certainly one of opening preorders but sold over 10,000. 

Rabbit R1The Rabbit R1 AI device was certainly one of CES’ highlights, selling over 10,000 on its first day of pre-order.

You can be certain some buyers were swept up by the novelty value of owning an AI device just like the Rabbit, compounded by its fresh branding, which plays into its novelty.

And who can blame them? $199 is a tempting price for a tech toy, which undoubtedly helped sway people. I have to confess, I had the Rabbit R1 in my shopping bag before I noticed shipping outside the US could take months.

The R1 may turn into a particularly useful device, however it’s a stretch to grasp its true utility. One top comment on the official promo video said candidly, “I still dont know what this thing even does.”

When we began constructing r1, we said internally that we’d be completely satisfied if we sold 500 devices on launch day. In 24 hours, we already beat that by 20x!

10,000 units on day 1!

Second batch available now at https://t.co/R3sOtVWoJ5
Expected delivery date is April – May 2024. pic.twitter.com/XqaHqqk36L

There was a 24-minute demo, however it was still pretty ambitious, with X commenters again remarking along the lines of, “Yo in your landing page speak about what this product does in very clear terms, i don’t get it” and “looks very nice, but i don’t see why this isnt just an app.”

Introducing r1. Watch the keynote.

Order now: https://t.co/R3sOtVWoJ5 #CES2024 pic.twitter.com/niUmjFvKvE

AI’s ambiguity hasn’t gone unnoticed by industry observers either, with Eric Siegel, a machine learning expert, describing how “AI suffers from an unrelenting, incurable case of vagueness.”

AI in marketing: a muddy message

In 2017, the Association of National Advertisers chosen the term “AI” because the Marketing Word of the Year.

This symbolized how AI has transcended its technical boundaries to turn out to be a ubiquitous catchphrase in promoting and product promotion. Marketing strategies tap into AI’s allure and mystique, attracting customers and investors who may not fully grasp the technology but recognize its buzzword status. 

By the mid-2010s, you’d be hard-pressed to search out software and SaaS products presented without some type of AI or machine learning-related marketing messaging, which has now spread to physical products.

The widespread use of AI in marketing parallels historical examples within the financial sector, where complex terms were used to create a facade of performance and reliability. 

Mass reforms within the early 2000s placed a greater onus on financial services firms to avoid fictitious claims and catchy buzzwords.

AI products won’t be for the masses, yet

Companies should tread fastidiously when integrating AI into every aspect of their products.

The integration of AI in products and marketing, as evidenced by recent situations involving Magic: The Gathering, Wacom, and others, shows that the general public is maybe not as interested in the tech as businesses might assume.

Meanwhile, surveys have shown that trust in AI and the businesses behind it’s lacking. 

In any case, CES 2024 showcased a tech industry entranced by AI, often stretching the term beyond meaningful application. 

On one hand, the novel integration of AI in the whole lot from pillows to toothbrushes showcases how flexible the technology might be.

On the opposite hand, it risks the technology descending into an ever-increasing spiral of ambiguity and vagueness. 


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