Brands launch new discreet smart tech

In Cassandra’s 2018 Innovation Outlook, we wrote a macrotrend called The Invisibles, which highlighted young consumers’ desire for discreet, unobtrusive technology (in both appearance and sound) that can be integrated into their homes. Recently, the following brands made waves at CES 2020 for showing new discreet smart technologies that align with modern youth’s desire for tech that blends in, rather than stands out.


Japanese startup Mui Lab won the 2019 CES Innovation Award with the launch of the Mui Wooden Smart Display, a discreet wooden panel that acts as a touch-sensitive display. Users can connect the tech to a smart home device, like Nest or Sonos, and then tap or swipe the panel to control its features. The Mui also has a dedicated Google Assistant button, allowing users to access the assistant by touch rather than voice. When not in use, the Mui Wooden Smart Display blends nicely into any environment, allowing consumers to seamlessly integrate the device into their home decor. The innovation has earned Mui Lab nearly $2 million in funding to continue production.


Sentons is leading the development of software-defined surface technology, which uses ultrasound and AI to make any surface responsive to touch, gesture, and other forces. The company recently launched SurfaceWave, a processor and gesture engine for smartphones that creates virtual controls on the screen. It uses algorithms to measure not only a phone users’ touch but also their force and intent and has already been tested in gaming phones, including the Republic of Gamers phone. While the technology is currently being marketed to mobile manufacturers, Sentons plans to apply the technology on other hardware, like cameras, cars, clothes, and even the human body, as the technology can turn any material into an interactive smart surface.


UltraSense has developed a system that uses 3D ultrasound to transform any surface (from metal to glass to wood) of any thickness into an interactive surface. The company recently released its UltraSense TouchPoint, which is the world’s smallest ultrasound system-on-chip, that can be integrated into smart devices. As smartphones continue to feature fewer mechanical buttons, ultrasound touch technology like TouchPoint enables the development of more virtual buttons and surface gesture features. Outside of mobile phones, UltraSense envisions integrating software into other products, from automotive to appliances, as consumers seek out more discreet technology.