From digital diapers to techy toothbrushes and even toilet paper robots, Procter & Gamble’s press conference at CES 2020 offered a welcome relief from the walls of 4K and 8K televisions that tend to dominate conversations at the annual tech event in the desert.
P&G’s brands are household names: Oral-B, Pampers, Gillette, Olay, Tide, Pantene, Charmin, and more. And just as much research and passion go into those devices as into the latest flat panel. To underscore that point, P&G hit CES with its “LifeLab,” where consumers can see how everyday products are improved via tech, as well as a wide variety of special events: A panel on blockchain, a research summit, and more, all aimed at showing how to combine tech with a human touch.
“These innovations are really reinventing consumer experiences,” Phil Duncan, Chief Design Officer, said at the company’s press conference.
It’s easy to say but harder to do, especially with the existential threat of startups waiting to eat your lunch. How does a giant company compete with smaller, more nimble startups? According to Marc Pritchard, P&G’s chief brand officer, the answer is to act like a startup. P&G has 180 seed-stage experiments, he said — and many such projects have already made it into consumer products. Pritchard calls it Constructive Disruption.
“We like to think of CES as the Consumer Experience Show,” he told the crowd. “Everything we do starts and ends with the consumer.”
Among the products the company highlighted: Airia, a new smart scent device that uses technology borrowed from ink-jet printers to create “a luxury scent experience throughout your entire home,” explained Fama Francisco, CEO of baby and baby care products. Everything is customizable, from the scent to the release rate, she said, and all of it can be controlled via an app. It’s available at PGlifelab.com.
Gillette’s heated shaver is similar, debuting as a prototype last year at CES. This year the company is allowing attendees to test out the razor for themselves. And the brand brought out a new innovation: Gillette Treo, the first razor designed for caregivers.
“There have been over 4,000 razors designed to shave yourself. But none, until now, designed to let you shave someone else,” Pritchard said.
Then there’s the Lumi by Pampers system, which combines a video camera and smart diaper system to allow parents to track sleep info and “output” from their baby, and offers a platform to track exactly how the baby is doing. And Oral-B’s iO Power toothbrush, which has a 3D positional sensor to detect location in the mouth, apparently. Plus Opte, which corrects uneven skin tone thanks to a camera that can detect imperfections.
Then there’s the Go Lab, to reinvent the bathroom experience.
“Yes, car companies have concept cars. We have concept bathrooms,” Pritchard joked. To that end, he showed off the RollBot, which when activated by a smartphone, delivers a fresh roll of toilet paper to you in the bathroom should you run out. Sure, it’s just a concept, and just a joke — as is the forever roll of unending toilet paper, which you can actually buy today. But the point behind it is serious: How do you ensure that consumer experiences are improving? Where can tech help out?
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