Dylan’s Desk: At CES, the ridiculous never goes out of style

Segway robot at CES 2016

A lot of us sort of expected CES 2016 to reveal a new, more practical side to the consumer electronics industry.

Guess again. Despite a looming global economic slowdown, the devaluation of tech-company unicorns, and the fact that everybody already has as many smartphones, tablets, and wrist gadgets as they need, CES continued to show us the same cavalcade of craziness and excess that it always has. Smartphone-connected kegel exercisers? A Wi-Fi-enabled Febreze scent dispenser? Modular TV screens? Yeah, baby.

Some of it was even kind of cool.

Facebook’s Oculus division finally announced the price and shipping date for its VR headset, the Oculus Rift. Despite being almost twice as expensive as expected, at $600, eager consumers snapped up all the available preorders almost instantly. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey went onto Reddit to humbly beg forgiveness for understating the price last year, when he led everyone to believe that it would be about $350. Even at $600, it’s still worth it, Luckey said: “I will use whatever credibility I have left to assure you that you are getting a pretty crazy deal.” The Oculus is what most observers regard as the most promising VR headset, and with Facebook’s reach and marketing muscle behind it, we’re sure to hear a lot more about this in the coming year.

Segway announced a combination hoverboard/personal robot, and somehow managed to not get laughed out of Las Vegas. It’s a smallish, self-balancing two-wheeled contraption that rolls around on its own, with a cute little face and optional arms, so it can take photos, carry your stuff, or maybe even act as a tiny personal teleconference robot. When you’re ready to head home, you literally squeeze the robot’s face between your legs and off you scoot.

And several old brands embraced decidedly retro products, in hopes of eking out a few more moments of relevance, perhaps. The most ambitious: Kodak (which went bankrupt a few years back) has re-emerged, teamed up with famed industrial designer Yves Behar, and is planning a revival of the Super 8 camera that launched a thousand film careers. The new Super 8 will shoot movies on film, just like the old one, but will also have some unspecified digital capabilities. We don’t know much, except that it will take film cartridges ($50-$70 each) and will also have a USB port and a slot for an SD card. You may chuckle, you may lust for it, but either way, one thing is certain: Kodak lined up a truly impressive array of Hollywood directors for its press release, with quotes from Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, J.J. Abrams, and a host of others.

This is all in striking contrast to the realities of the marketplace. As VentureBeat learned earlier this week in a conversation with Accenture, the consumer technology market is in a serious global slowdown. Consumers have reached a saturation point — first noticed a year or two ago when tablet sales started tapering off — and are less likely to buy the latest shiny new thing until it’s demonstrably useful and necessary. (Hello, Apple Watch.) Many gadget categories, like smartphones, have matured to the point where the differences between market leaders are marginal at best, based largely on design and brand.

And, as Accenture noted, consumers are worried about security and privacy. Electronics makers have forged blithely forward into a world where your every step is logged and stored in the cloud, and where even your wall sockets and light bulbs have Internet connections. Yet at the same time, over the past year we’ve seen one horrible security breach after another — 76 million customer records here, 40 million there, 240 million there. No wonder buyers are leery: They’re not idiots.

So in the coming year, will you buy an Oculus headset, a Segway robot, a weird digital/film camera from a failed brand, or a fitness tracker with a color screen? Probably not. You’ll hold out for something more useful — and if you’re smart, you’ll wait until you hear more about how these companies are going to protect the increasingly personal data they have on you. Maybe these things will be useful enough, or cheap enough, to buy in 2017.

In the meantime, enjoy the show.



originally published on VentureBeat

Dylan’s Desk: At CES, the ridiculous never goes out of style

Why you are here.

“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”  —Woodrow Wilson (via pangeaseed)


Life hacks for using social networks without being miserable.

Using Facebook can make you depressed, according to a survey of some relevant social-science research in the magazine Nautilus. The reasons include the fact that everyone online always seems to be doing better than you are, the stress of responding to other people’s requests, and sheer envy. Simplistically: Asking for help on Facebook can be helpful to your own state of mind, but it offloads your stress onto others.

I took a few things away from this article: Useful techniques, or life hacks, for those who want to use social networking better and live better.

See more people in person

There is something fundamental about meeting with people face to face that fulfills an essential human need. But you could look at this cynically, too: People will like you more if you talk to them directly, as opposed to just posting online.

… studies show we don’t actually present our best, most sympathetic selves when we write, although we think we do. Behavioral scientist Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago had business-school students do an “elevator pitch” in several formats. While the students felt that they presented themselves better in a written pitch, the evaluators judged them more favorably in a spoken pitch.

This also applies to Facebook: A recent study that echoes Epley’s results showed that our friends think we are better in person than in our profiles.

So look for opportunities to meet your Facebook friends in real life. Meet for coffee. Go to lunch. Grab a beer together. (And maybe leave your phone in your pocket for an hour while you’re meeting with them, eh?)

Use social media more actively

Passively browsing Facebook or Twitter is addictive. It’s also more likely to make you feel like crap. People who use Facebook more actively (posting, commenting, and liking other people’s posts) feel better than those who use it passively, according to one study.

Perhaps the most intriguing finding in the recent literature, however, is that people do themselves the most harm when they’re not posting. …. On the one hand, the finding is a good thing. It means that there’s a way to escape the Facebook blues without losing access to social media’s positive benefits: Be more active. On the other hand, very few of us take advantage of that loophole.

This lesson is easy to implement: Engage more. Don’t just browse.

Post considerately

It’s easy to slip from #humblebrag into outright bragging. And to be honest, most of what we post is positive, uplifting, the happiest moments from our lives — because who wants to hear about yet another episode of your kids acting like terrorists or your husband moping around all day?

Yet we can stop short of glorifying everything. As the article puts it:

An extraordinary achievement of human civilization is that, every day, people suppress the instinct to outcompete others in order to build meaningful and rewarding relationships. Yet online, with those seemingly harmless #nofilter travel pics, flawless #iwokeupthisway selfies, and relentlessly positive #humblebrags, we inadvertently make our friends feel like losers and contribute to a swirling vortex of envy, in which we ourselves risk drowning.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Cocktail party conversation isn’t normally all about your own glorious vacation photos. Sometimes it’s about the other person, or about politics, or about Star Wars, or about how you had a rough week at work but you’re really glad it’s Friday and you’ve got a glass of wine in your hand. Maybe we should try to comport ourselves online the same way.


Life hacks for using social networks without being miserable.