The technology products that hit and missed at CES 2022

    730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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    The technology products that hit and missed at CES 2022

    From lifelike ‘humanoid’ robots to the latest TV and projector technology – and all the software to convince even the most stubborn technophobes out there that the metaverse era is imminently approaching – the hotel technology unveiled at CES 2022 was a reflection of today’s hospitality scene. Editor Hamish Kilburn reviews the ‘hit’ and ‘miss’ products from the largest technology show on earth…

    Quiet floors, a lack of international travellers and it all coming to close a day early due to the organisers facing pressures from travel restrictions and the Covid-19 crisis: is this really the same CES that dominated the world’s attention every January with the biggest tech show on earth? Well, the answer is ‘no’ but for good and healthy reasons for the hotel technology sector.

    Regardless of physical numbers – many visitors and exhibitors opted to host or attend virtually – the hardcore travel-sanction-avoiding ‘tech ninjas’ among our community who were able to make the trip to Las Vegas last week were promised great things. And, we would argue strongly that the event delivered a true, somewhat stark, reflection of where hotel technology is heading.

    Before we go into the physical robotics and telecommunication devices that hit and missed this year, to paint a clean picture, let’s start by looking at some of the key movements that emerged to the surface throughout the show.

    The most obvious trend was the lack of hotel tech. Don’t be alarmed, though, as this was to be expected. For years, modern travellers have demanded for hidden tech within luxury and lifestyle hospitality. More recently, that demand has mutated into insistence for tech-free spaces, amplified somewhat by a rise in wellness trends. Given what was on display at CES 2022, I think it’s safe to say that tomorrow’s hotel will be judged less on the technology it offers and instead more on whether the hotel can support consumer software and hardware.

    When it comes to buzzwords, there was one that roared loudest in Las Vegas in early January. The metaverse, which in its currently state is swinging somewhere between impossible and inescapable, is fast transforming from Mark Zuckerburg’s dream into reality. For an industry like hotel design and hospitality that has long strived towards authentic, one-off travel experience, the thought of a 3D, interconnected virtual space that allows users to ‘feel’ the real world is terrifying and seems equally unrealistic. However, so did Facebook once upon a time. If the metaverse does take off, which it looks like it will sooner rather than later, then it will undoubtedly impact the behaviours of modern travellers.

    What hit and what missed at CES 2022? 

    The new era of hotel TV and projector technology – HIT

    Every year at CES, the latest TVs are unveiled, which is always met with a gasp from tech enthusiasts. 2022 lived up to the same expectation, with the likes of LG, Sony, TLC and Panasonic unveiling QD-LED, OLED Evo, micoLED and even miniLED. But, aside from impressive render displays, it was in fact a projector that stole the show. With its compact design that looks more like a spotlight than a portable screen, the Samsung Freestyle is a powerful and compact projector, smart speaker and ambient lighting device all rolled into one lightweight package that weighs just 830 grams. The product would be ideal for hotel guestrooms and suites, transforming F&B spaces into sensory experiences or for last-minute outdoor cinemas.

    The space hotel – HIT

    With the increased awareness around sustainability and materiality, the days of pop-up hotel have somewhat been erased in hospitality history. However, when it comes to forward-thinking technology at CES, exhibitors have their vision fixed on the future. Looking the farthest forward by a long way this year was Sierra Space, which displayed a series of giant inflatable houses on the moon. It sounds far-fetched (and it is) but the launch of LIFE Habitat got us thinking about folded up hotels that could, if consciously designed, offer an extraordinary travel experience that can continuously evolve.

    The smart door – MISS

    Render of a Smart Door

    Image credit: M-Pwr Smart Door

    We are all for hotel concepts that challenge conventional approaches to hospitality here at Hotel Designs. And by our judgement of the smart door, we are not saying that we don’t rate the contactless hotel – we do! However, the idea of a smart door, for us, is one gimmick too far in an era when hoteliers and designers are striving for paired-back approach to technology. Having said that, we can’t argue that the M-Pwr Smart Door is not a clever evolution from the smart doorbell.

    Sci-fi baths – HIT

    A stillness bath by Kohler

    Image credit: Kohler

    Kohler is never a brand to disappoint at CES. Following the Amazon Echo shower that was unveiled a few years ago, the bathroom brand that is always ahead of the curve when it comes to hotel and bathroom technology, arrived at CES 2022 with its answer to the future of wellness in residential and hotel design. Available in a variety of sizes, the Infinity Experience Freestanding Bath comes complete with LED lighting effects, and relaxing fog that has been inspired by Japanese hot springs. The bath is surrounded by a hinoki wood base and uses PerfectFill technology that maintains the ideal temperature and water level.

    Humanoid robots – HIT and MISS

    A surprised robot - CES 2022

    Image credit: Engineered Arts/Ameca

    Robots have long been a contentious topic among hoteliers globally – Aloft robot butler called ‘Botlr’ that showed up in 2014 threatened taking away the human interaction in hospitality and therefore never really landed. Since then, other robots have tried and failed to takeover hotel technology. Challenging the opinion that robots will never replace face-to-face service is Engineered Arts. The company have launched a new robot called Ameca, which first made contact with the public at CES 2022 with its surprisingly vivid and emotive facial expressions using no less than 17 motors inside its head.

    Ameca, with a grey non-human metal and plastic body that is deliberately genderless, has been designed with eerily lifelike mannerisms, but goes down as a ‘miss’ from us as it can’t yet walk or move around, making it null and void for today’s hospitality landscape (phew).

    In-room robot vacuums – HIT

    Notwithstanding our tasteful dissing of the hotel robot, one android we do believe has a place in at least the boutique hotel environment is the robot vacuum, which has developed extensively since becoming popular domestically in recent years. The S7 MaxV Ultra moves a step close to being sufficient. And with 30 per cent faster charging, reliable coverage, compact docking and detailed 3D mapping, the technology is becoming more and more relevant for hotel commercial use during a time when housekeeping is at a minimum due to social distancing.

    The Amigami Ham Ham – MISS

    Amagami Ham Ham soft toy with finger in mouth

    Image credit: Yukai Engineering

    We seem to be the only media platform that is not giving its thumbs-up to Amigami Ham Ham, the cuddly animal robot that ‘melted hearts’ at CES 2022 with its ability to nibble fingers (we are not making this up). The unusual product uses ‘play biting’ as a method of providing comfort.  If we are really pushed to offer some credit, we are impressed by the soft toy’s ability to automatically engage its motor and algorithm (or hamgorithm) so that no bite feels the same. We’ll leave how this would possibly be utilised in a hotel setting down to you.

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    Main image credit: Engineered Arts/Ameca

    Hamish Kilburn / 17.01.2022


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