The Danger of Tech Overreach: Don’t Forget About the Consumer

At CES, it’s not uncommon to see lots of ‘vaporware’ e.g. products that seem clearly destined to go nowhere (and may not really even get made). Just a few years ago, it seemed we were all about to plunk down thousands to get 3D TVs. Today, not so much.

Aside from such big ambitious bets, it’s also common to find new products that blur the lines between gimmick and – head-spinningly ridiculous. Marketers can appreciate that some of these ‘innovations’ are good stunts, but it’s important to remember there needs to be some rigidity to what tech is useful.

Proof Points

Like a Microwave, But for Cold Beer. Take the TCL Rapid Cooling Refrigerator, which promises “Ice Beer in 5 Minutes Frozen.” While there were plenty of moments in college where this might have come in handy, and it probably would make a fun wedding gift for the right couple, rapid beer refrigeration may not seem to be as pressing a need in the world as say sustainable cities. We could see this being built into a smart appliance, but probably not as a standalone device.

Not Music to Our Ears. Of course, if you’re going to bring tech to the party, you’ll need music. A way to get your tailgater tunes pumping is the “Party Cooler” from Cerwin Vega Mobile, which promises to “keep fresh, enjoy the music everywhere.” It’s essentially a cooler with a built-in boom box. Considering most people have playlists on their phones, we’re not sure how big the need is here. It’s the truly silly stunts that are easiest to spot.

But There is Some Hope in Tech for GoodThankfully, there’s plenty to be optimistic about. technology designed to provide companionship or create human bonds with people was also prevalent at CES. Whether it was Amazon showing off how Alexa can play a board game with you, to a range of “companion bots” for children or the elderly, we saw signs that some developers' purpose was much bigger than cold beer and tunes.

Vaporware's close cousin, tech that nobody has yet with no clarity if anyone actually wants it.

Jeremy Heimans, CEO of Purpose and co-author of New Power

Our View

The technology landscape is littered with thousands of gimmicks but today’s savvy consumer can see through them now more than ever. Marketers are better served connecting with a purpose that truly enhances consumers’ lives. This creates long-term appreciation and affinity versus the ephemeral, short-term buzz that publicity stunts generate.

Further Reading

  • The 8 Coolest Robots Spotted at CES, TechRepublic

  • These Gadgets Can Help You Live Your Best Lazy Life, USA Today

  • The Weirdest Tech We Saw at CES 2020, PC Mag

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