Hi-tech devices were everywhere at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but nothing in actual innovation made headlines during the event. Instead, companies focused on the design of existing technology to make them more user-friendly, accessible, and quirkier to look at.
Bluetooth speakers weren’t an exception, from complete shockproof turtle designs to lightweight, flexible “swimmers”; you couldn’t walk thirty seconds after looking at the last one before stumbling over another one.
Industry observers noted the industry shift to design as part of a natural life cycle for technology. Specifically for Bluetooth speakers, the technology has matured to the point that the concept is simple enough that people can start playing with the usual conventions.
To take a classic example, printing, before Guttenberg bookmaking was such a laborious enterprise, only a select few had access to the written word. Today, there are millions of different printing formats around the world, not counting digital content.
The shift may be viewed by some as counterintuitive to the goal of innovation, which is to push the limits of technology. But, others will argue that though the technology is the same, creative design still tenders to the goal of innovation by putting well-known tech in places it’s never been before.
Micro-cameras have been around for at least a few decades, but only with specific design tweaks were scientists able to produce “critter cams”. Critter cams allowed scientists to observe wildlife from a completely new perspective, which allowed them to understand their subjects better.
Bluetooth speakers and flexible phones are only the latest in a long line of devices made better by design-focused progression. Neither of these new devices is going to revolutionize their respective industry, but they do indicate a next phase in their evolution.
Developers have once again reached the stage where experimentation is the encouraged mode of trade, and that could lead to truly innovative ideas.
Who knows, the secret of the next breakthrough may be hidden in one of those designs, just waiting for a crazy developer to make that one improbable connection from novelty to progress.