CES introduced an entrepreneur-focused keynote this year called "Next Generation of Innovators," part of a larger strategy to pull in smaller startups to the trade show. Black Eyed Peas member-turned-techie will.i.am stole the show with his Jetsons-esque prognostications.
"Have you ever thought about the bathroom?" will.i.am asked, recalling a conversation he'd had with a construction contractor. "The mirror should be a camera with a display system. What the fuck do we have mirrors in 2012 for? Why do you have scales in the bathroom? The floor should weigh you."
"Have you ever thought about the bathroom?"
Moderated by Jeff Jordan, a partner at the high-profile Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, the discussion wandered from the mobile revolution to walled gardens to whether or not now is the best time ever to be an entrepreneur. The participants included David Lieb, CEO of Bump Technologies, Cyrus Massoumi, CEO of ZocDoc, and Eric Vishria, CEO of RockMelt. Will.i.am, however, was by far the highlight of the panel.
The celebrity also talked about his expectations for smart devices in the home and wearable computing. In the future, will.i.am says, a doctor's appointment will consist of handing your phone over to your physician, who will disappear for 20 minutes and return with a diagnosis: "You're probably sick because your chef's daughter was sick, and then you worked out outside without a jacket. That's why you got a fever. I know because I saw your tweets."
Will.i.am also offered a prediction for enhanced car technology, one of the trendy themes coming out of this year's CES. "Your car doesn't talk to your refrigerator. It should. As you pass by your house it should say, 'you know you don't have no milk right now!' And the road should be talking to the wheels to let you know there's a pothole. The car's not talking to the road that's not talking to the wheels, the car's not talking to the house." He shook his head at the tragedy.
Will.i.am has rebranded himself as an early adopter, celebrity app advocate, Martian explorer, and hardware entrepreneur with his line of iPhone camera accessories. Intel Corporation named him "Director of Creative Innovation" in 2011. After this morning's panel, the singer disappeared immediately to tape an interview with the BBC as a technology pundit. As will.i.am shows up in various corners of the tech industry, it's tough to pin down exactly how to label him. But after today's performance, it seems "futurist" is his most fitting title.