CES 2020 is either the 15th or 16th year that I have attended CES, so needless to say, I’ve seen a wide range of creative product launches at the show. But HBO’s Westworld and the team at Giant Spoon has managed to outshine every other launch for me.
It all started when we received an invite to a dinner at CES from a company called INCITE. We’d never heard of INCITE, but the mention of Westworld was enough to get our attention, so we RSVPed. The online RSVP form asked some unusual questions. That was certainly a red flag, but we still had no idea what was in store for us.
When we arrived at the restaurant, before even stepping inside, I was greeted by a host which asked me how my two dogs were doing at home while I was in Vegas. I felt my skin crawl as she named each one of them. My colleagues received similarly creepy greetings.
Once inside, our “Host” continued to randomly come over to spew out personal facts about each of our lives. Each time we were left feeling more and more uncomfortable and bewildered.
There were a few misfires, however, like how our Host brought me a McCallen whiskey drink, after explaining how much I enjoy McCallen whiskey. This is in fact incorrect… I actually can’t stand whiskey, but not too long ago I did attend a few McCallen Whiskey launches and I posted about it on social media.
Early in the evening, our host introduced us to a tall striking redhead. “This is Professor Ellsworth” he said, “And it’s her first CES”. I immediately smelled a rat and was certain that she had to be a Host too. The charming Professor Ellsworth spent the rest of the evening with us, insisting that she was not a Host, but that she was one of us. She never left character and was very entertaining and nearly convincing.
Each one of us seated at our table was given a different, pre-selected 3-course menu. Needless to say, everything was delicious and they did a pretty good job with what they selected for me. Sometime after the second course, an INCITE spokesperson got on stage to speak about their technology.
“The world can feel chaotic: big problems, no solutions, no one to lead the way. Global issues may seem so complex that untangling the answers feels impossible. Here at INCITE, we want to make “impossible” a thing of the past. Chaos is merely a pattern waiting to be uncovered. You can help us chart a better future. Powered by our revolutionary strategy engine, we are able to calculate sophisticated solutions to problems large and small, from global climate change to personal career growth. We believe we have a personal responsibility to make the world a better place, starting at home. Here at INCITE, your data doesn’t work for us – we work for you.”
Perhaps the creepiest thing about the presentation was the fact that it didn’t seem all that unlikely, nor did it seem all that futuristic. A company that mines your data and uses AI to predict your future and help you make your best life decisions? All over the CES show floor this year we’ve encountered AI and gadgets that mine your data. A company like INCITE isn’t all that fictitious, it’s inevitable.
It turns out that the evening was personalized and designed to showcase INCITE’s “extraordinary computing power”. INCITE used data points harvested exclusively from public databases and guests’ online profiles, to treat them “to a customized and enriched experience, bearing witness to a future in which the use of personal data is boundless.”
During the course of the INCITE spokesperson’s presentation, she pulled up photos from Prof. Ellsworth’s personal life. Soon after, the professor ran away from the table in tears. It was a total Murder Mystery moment and we were all entertained.
The evening concluded when our checks were brought over. We each received a personalized check holder emblazoned with our initials. Inside the check holder was a paper that listed each of our life expectancies. One of our dinner mates was especially shaken up to see that his life expectancy was 62. Better make the best of each moment, right?
“Fears surrounding data privacy aren’t new, yet to exist in today’s world, we make information about ourselves available every day. Our intention is to invite a conversation about future implications over dinner – where data is the main ingredient,” said Trevor Guthrie, co-founder, Giant Spoon
I’m a Westworld fan who stuck around for season 2, which I personally, thought was brilliant. It turns out that INCITE is a company that will be featured in the upcoming season 3.
Westworld Season 3 is scheduled to premiere sometime this year.