Amongst the many exciting trends on display at CES this year: manufacturers repurposing materials was a notable sighting throughout the show floors. There were innovative designs that energized tired old forms. But despite all the buzzwords revolving around connectivity, much of the show spotlighted technologies which seemed to disconnect people from the friends and family in the same room...
On showcase this year were more multiplayer displays that give each user their own view of something on a screen, sometimes they even give us completely different audio. There were also virtual games systems that one would wear on their head — to be fully immersed in a new virtual world while at the same time being completely removed from the world and people in our own homes.
Watching people use these new devices from afar was a stark contrast to just a few years ago - when the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Kinect allowed us to play and participate with others in new and exciting ways. The focus back then was to encourage interaction and it worked. Both the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Kinect were huge successes - and it injected new life into both companies.
This year there is encouraged disconnection. Nintendo and it's latest console (the Wii U) is actually a perfect example of this. The Wii U's tablet-sized controller, fitted with its own screen, has games we've loved in the past very similar to Mario Party, and Wii Sports. But this time multiplayer games promote the user to focus on their own screen (one player the tablet device, the other the main television) during gameplay. You may as well be in a different state than the person next to you, and sometimes you quite literally are.
It seems manufacturers are coming up with solutions to feed each individual in a room their own content when really they should be asking how can they connect us together in a way to encourage community. I'm sure this is just a fad. I believe the general public's response will prod them to try again. Because we're not designed to do things alone. We don't go to a movie theater and then part ways at the entrance to see different films. We do things together, as friends, as people, as a community. That's how we learn and develop, and hopefully the manufacturer's figure that out soon so that they can do the same.