The Consumer Electronics Show is over for another year – was it a boom or bust year?
If you read Marvin the dour, pessimistic robot, or GPP (Genuine People Personality) view on CES 2018 https://gadgetguy.com.au/ces-2018-exciting-tech/ you would expect evolution, not revolution. To a large degree he was right and many analysts agree.
Some 184,000 visitors and nearly 4,000 exhibitors attended. Here is a wrap- up of some of the revolutionary gems in the rough.
TV – bigger is better
Samsung’s “The Wall” – a 146” modular (you can build it to almost any size), MicroLED, TV has to take poll pole position for two reasons. First, its real technology and will be available for sale this year – not in the distant future. Second, it appears to be a future OLED challenger as, like OLED, MircoLED’s are a self-emitting light source.
GadgetGuy’s take: Revolution but let’s not write off OLED yet.
LG is on a roll – rollable 65” OLED TV is spectacular
Although I cannot see a lot of practical reasons to have a roll up/down 65” TV LG’s flexible OLED display makes that possible. I guess a big TV can interfere with lounge room décor but then the large rectangular case it retracts into is not all that stylish either.
What it does show is that flexible OLED could be useful in so many ways especially in signage, corporate use etc.
Robots are coming
LG’s CLOi has a lot of potential – a cute, short, white robot with a black circular face and blinking blue eyes was hyped as LG’s to make homes smarter in 2018 — allowing you to talk to the robot to control other devices in the home. But CLOi also has commercial uses such as becoming a shopping companion, butler, bag carrier and more.
Sony’s AIBO is perhaps the cutest robot and a reboot of its concept first rolled out in 1999 which sold out the initial batch of 3,000 units in 20 minutes. The new robotic pet will set you back over US$3,000 but savings in dog food and litter bags soon make it a bargain. It leans by adopting a “character” suited to those it interacts with – it is friendly towards those who are kind to it. It can also take photos and has AI so it can ultimately do much more.
Honda showed its 3E (Empower, Experience, Empathy) Robotics Concept, “Demonstrating Honda’s vision of a society where robotics and AI can assist people in a multitude of situations, from disaster recovery and recreation to learning from human interaction to become more helpful and empathetic.”
While useful in certain circumstances all the robots are really more about Anthropomorphising – ascribing human attributes to material objects.
Not another Bluetooth Speaker
I don’t care if they now support Alexa, Siri, Bixby, Cortana etc – all 2018 models using Qualcomm chips inside will do that.
The US$980 FoldiMate seems god’s answer if you can wait until late 2019. Yes, it is the size of a dryer but that is a small price to pay. At this stage it can handle shirts, towels and will have its programming expanded to cover more types of clothing. Its interesting as commercial folders cost US$16000 or more.
There were smart appliances everywhere
Courtesy of Qualcomm, Intel and others, embedded IoT system on a chip, anything can be smart now. Not sure if we are ready for a smart toothbrush or toilet. Pretty soon you won’t be able to buy a dumb anything. I think this will become the province of Whirlpoool, Samsung and LG.
You have VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality)
The majority of VR announcements were related to approved third-party Google Daydream sets. But some of these are including the innovative Tobii Eye-tracking technology and that makes a difference. For the present VR remains a strong focus of gaming and music.
ASUS, Acer, Lenovo, HP and Vuzix Blade have or will all release AR headsets this year and these seem to be far more useful. AR seems to be the focus of commercial use.
Networking – it is all about mesh
Linksys Velop, D-Link Covr, NETGEAR Orbi, Huawei Q2, ASUS Lyra Trio, Google Wi-Fi, and many more. The concept is for smaller, AC routers to mesh back to the base and offer whole of home coverage.
The concept is that each node serves as a base for other nodes in the system. This helps the nodes furthest away from the router to deliver a strong Wi-Fi signal as they are talking to other nodes and not relying on one-to-one communications with the router.
Many of these will also become a smart hub for home automation (e.g. Samsung Smart Home Connect).
Lots of 5G (after 4G) networks claiming 50x speed increases. Expect to see 5G emerge for consumer use in 2020 or later. For now, it will be focused on smart cities and cars.
Autonomous cars are driven (pun) by technology and Intel, Qualcomm and Nvidia are at the forefront. But almost every major electronics maker as well as Apple and Google have fingers in the pie with hardware and software. Still some years away from commercialisation.
Digital healthcare had a good presence with everything from gene sequencing to make personal medicines to telemedicine and dedicated digital assistants. The term ‘living in a digital time’ was widely used.
Wearables: No great leaps forward. Soon they will all be waterproof, play music and have their own 4G sim. One area of interest is in athlete training and management leading to sports injury reduction.
3D Printers: There were 47 exhibitors – most of the evolution was in the materials used to print – stronger, lighter, more flexible etc., allowing for the additive printing of useful replacement parts etc. The main impact has been to allow a better design that was capable with injection moulding or mechanical milling.
Start-ups: There were 18 exhibitors at the aptly named ‘Eureka Park” pavilion but almost 1000 other exhibitors that could be classed as in the start-up phase. The majority of these had software-based products have hit on an idea for an app – the next frontier. The focus seemed to be on gaining sufficient risk capital to take the next step.
After all it is all about ideas – there are few products you will ever buy.
Regrettably GadgetGuy’s commitments elsewhere precluded spending time here.
2018 is all about the voice interface to get the most out of a machine. At present that seems to be a fight between Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant (my money is on the latter as it is more universal). What is clear is that establishing a voice-based digital assistant is hard and even the mighty Microsoft/Cortana (on every Windows 10 machine) and Samsung/Bixby (on every Galaxy device and Smart appliance) are struggling to gain market acceptance.