What the trends at CES 2020 could mean for the future of digital health

LAS VEGASMany of the innovations showcased at CES 2020 are years away from actually becoming reality, such as the flying taxi concept developed by Hyundai and Uber.

Other products could have real-world applications in the not-too-distant future, like Samsung's artificial intelligence virtual chatbots. The AI humanoid chatbots, part of Samsung's Neon project, are designed to “look and behave like real humans” and can act as teachers, concierges or healthcare providers, the company said.

As the lines between consumer technology and healthcare continue to blur, the products shown at CES provide a glimpse of the future for health technology. Here's a look at some of the trends to expect:

Misty II (Misty Robotics)

Get ready for robots.

From the Charmin Rollbot to self-driving, AI-powered luggage that follows you, CES had no shortage of robots. 

It could be several years before we see robots used at scale in healthcare, but many experts believe there is a place for AI-powered robots. Misty Robotics recently launched the Misty II robot, an approachable, tabletop robot with big eyes. Misty is an autonomous, self-driving device that is equipped with a camera, a microphone and 3D sensors.

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The robot is a tool for software developers, according to Misty Robotics CEO Tim Enwall. Potential uses in healthcare include concierge-type services and eldercare as Misty can detect falls.

Patient engagement company Catalia Health developed a personal healthcare companion called Mabu that's an intelligent, socially interactive robot with conversations tailored to each patient it works with.

Catalia Health has formed partnerships with pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer to test symptom management and medication adherence trends in a group of patients using the Mabu robot.

Voice assistants are everywhere. 

The rivalry between Alphabet’s Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa is heating up. Voice assistant technology is being built into cars, smart home systems and other devices.

At CES 2020, Google announced new third-party devices that will work with its voice assistant. Those devices range from smart locks and lamps to garage-door openers and washing machines.

Amazon showcased a partnership with exotic car maker Lamborghini, the first carmaker to feature Amazon Alexa in-car control. Drivers can use Alexa to change the temperature, tune radio stations or turn on the seat heaters. 

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As consumers adopt AI voice assistant technology, many experts predict it will make a big impact on healthcare.

Everything has sensors.

Clothing, watches, bathmats, toilets, mirrorsthese are all products that now come with sensors that monitor users and collect data.

Xenoma developed e-skin, what it calls "next-generation smart apparel" that contains sensors and can track bodily movement. The company created sleepwear designed to monitor elderly consumers and detect falls. An ECG shirt can track cardiovascular health. The smart clothing also links to smartphones via Bluetooth. When a smartphone powers a VR headset such as the Samsung Gear VR, the e-skin can be recognized and is able to mirror a person’s motion within the VR experience.

Everyone wants to get into health and wellness.

Expect more consumer technology companies to extend their products into health and wellness. 

At CES, Analog Devices, a semiconductor company specializing in signal processing and power management technology, demonstrated how its technology could be used for infant monitoring. The company showed how time of flight technology, which is a type of 3D imaging, can detect small movements and breathing patterns.