From LG’s roll-up TV display (yes, this is real and coming out soon) to voice-controlled kitchen appliances to electric motorcycles, CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show) rarely disappoints. This year’s event that brought together over 180,000 people across more than 2.9 million net square feet of exhibit space in Las Vegas took place Jan. 8th – Jan. 11th. While the robots and voice-controlled connected devices were the headline grabbers once again this year, there were emerging trends across the tech industry that will impact how you work and live in the coming years.
In the beginning, there was 1G technology which had the capability of transmitting voice services at 14.4 Kbps, and that was amazing at the time. The evolution to 4G has been slow and evolutionary, with wireless technology evolving to increase speed, upgrade networks and allow for mobile video streaming and worldwide roaming. Fast forward to CES 2019 where the talk of the show was how the impending deployment of 5G technology would be revolutionary. “5G will change everything – 5G is the promise of so much more than what we have seen from wireless technology,” said Hans Vestberg, CEO, Verizon, during his keynote. 5G is poised to bring ultra-fast internet speeds and multimedia experiences to consumers, while becoming the backbone for transportation, virtual reality, sports technology and digital health, among other technologies. Self-driving cars, the devices in your smart home, your mobile device, all technologies that rely on wireless connectivity, will be supercharged by 5G with its increased speed and the ability to handle more data.
Wireless carriers as well as chip manufacturers all showed off how they intend to use the infrastructure to bring broadband to rural areas, as well as develop consumer devices such as 5G smartphones. The rollout of this next-gen cellular network has been slow and there’s no word on how expensive upgrading to 5G will be for consumers but judging from the buzz at CES, it will be a welcome upgrade.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE/VOICE ASSISTANTS
You couldn’t go very far at CES without seeing “Hey Google” or “Works With Alexa” displayed all over a booth. In fact, the show floor was flush with companies showing AI-based Alexa-enabled toilets and smart mirrors and showers. Voice control smart speakers -- like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Apple HomePod -- are expected to grow 44% in unit sales since 2017, according to CTA research. With consumers using their voices to control smart devices in their homes and their cars, with AI, that ability will continue to improve. Harman showed off HARMAN Ignite 3.0 an automotive digital ecosystem for the car. Think of IRA (Intelligent Reasoning Agent) as your auto-based personal virtual assistant. Using AI and communicating with a variety of cloud content and services, it knows whether your request should be handled by Google (perhaps for navigation questions) or Alexa, for connecting with smart home devices or purchasing something on the go.
AI will be fueled by data, according to IBM Chairman, President and CEO Ginni Rometty. In her opening keynote she said AI will prove data is the “world’s greatest natural resource,” enabling revolutions from smart cities to health care, transportation to robotics.
We see that even now. AI built into the latest TV sets will gather data on the lighting conditions in a room and adjust picture settings accordingly, while AI-enabled wearables and sensors can track health issues and alert users to potential issues.
SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES AND THE FUTURE OF TRANSPORTATION
There are no flying cars yet but that’s not to say they’re not working on it.
Bell Nexus showed off a concept design for a hybrid electric air taxi. It didn’t fly but they’re certainly working towards that. Segway, in partnership with Lyft, announced more durable electric scooters with swappable batteries. Expect to see them in the coming months. Speaking of Lyft, the screenshot below is what you saw when using the Lyft app to hail a ride in Las Vegas. Yes, self-driving vehicles but note the fine print – safety drivers accompany the ride.
Car companies are working on plans to de-clog city streets with a combination of smart infrastructure and self-driving vehicles. Mercedes-Benz showed the Vision Urbanetic autonomous vehicle designed to transport large amounts of cargo or up to 12 people across town.
Bosch, which makes many of the sensors that go into self-driving cars, created a concept driverless electric shuttle complete with Wi-Fi and an infotainment system. Riders enter their destination into an app and an algorithm connects them with a shuttle headed in that direction. Since there’s no driver, passengers use the smartphone app to gain entry into the vehicle and reserve a specific seat. And if they leave their backpack behind, a camera-based sensor finds it and alerts you.
VIRTUAL REALITY/AUGMENTED REALITY
Not a new technology but VR and AR is a still-growing space that’s becoming consumer focused, with more use cases and hardware options. Vuzix, which is already in the enterprise field, demo’d Blade, their lightweight AR smart glasses for consumers. There were lots of gaming applications and plenty of Smart mirrors for retail make-up and shopping experiences. You could virtually try on a dress and then ask the mirror to switch the dress color to green and see how that looks on you.
“The hardware solution has not necessarily been settled upon yet," said Ben Arnold, Senior Director of Innovation & Trends at CTA, the company that produces CES. "There are a lot of options for consumers to get a VR experience, [but] Virtual Reality is a category that is going to be defined by applications." It’s the applications that create a VR or AR experience "that are going to drive the consumers into the market,” he predicted.
One such experience is the partnership between Audi and Disney which showcased an in-car entertainment system called Holoride. Put on a VR headset which receives telematic info from the vehicle and see the environment change as it reacts to the movements of the car.
If that’s too much for you, or your sensitive stomach, stick to the augmented reality windshields that show your map, distance and speed right below your field of vision.
TVs OF THE FUTURE
The rollable TV exists and we saw it first-hand. The LG Signature OLED TV R looks like a piece of modern furniture with a metal base. Use your voice (it has Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant built in) to bring it to Full View and the OLED display rises from the base, giving you the 65-inch large-screen viewing experience. Done watching? You can lower it to Zero view which tucks it back away, completely out of sight, or leave it on Line View which is partially raised. You can choose to display the time or pictures, change background mood or listen to music from the front-firing speakers.
LG also showed off its 88-inch 8K TV which was stunning in its detail, and Samsung, Sony and TCL had 8K models as well. Sure, there’s not much 8K content around for you to watch and there are issues of storage and bandwidth for all those pixels, but big, bold and beautiful 8K, seems to be the trend.