What CES told us about the world of tomorrow
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is basically Geek Christmas with new gadgets, toys, and items shown off in all their splendor – here’s what caught my eye.
While there were the usual suspects at this year’s show including a focus on bigger TVs, faster phones, AI this and AR that, nothing truly blew me away.
Nothing I saw this year made me sit up in amazement and gave me an “Oh Wow!” moment (aside from Samsung’s rumored foldable phone that was shown in private meetings only).
But, CES is always a glimpse into the near future – a look at what our homes and businesses may look like tomorrow.
So, what’s the big new trend? If this year is anything to go by, then voice is the way people are going to interact with objects around them.
You’re the voice, try and understand it…
Voice control has been on the cards for quite a while now (if the dozens of ads for Google Home are anything to go by), but this is the year things went to the next level.
Google had their first real presence at CES this year and it was 100 percent focused on “Hey Google” their voice assistant. Almost everything had some sort of voice assistant built into it.
We’ve had voice assistants for years, but it finally feels like they’re working solidly rather than being a dicey proposition.
I’ve had both the Google Home and Amazon Alexa at home now for over six months, and it’s amazing how quickly they become a part of life, especially for the kids.
So why is voice so critical to consumer electronics in 2018? It’s all about connectivity and efficiency.
A button is super-efficient for “on” or “off” – but voice is about information where you are when you need it.
“Alexa, how many grams in a pound” when you are elbows deep in flour is a life saver (and yes I’m a terrible cook).
Or in the workplace “Alexa, do I have any appointments at 10am tomorrow?” while going through some paperwork.
These interfaces will give us quicker access to key information, they will simplify actions (like setting appointments, performing basic tasks) and they will bring fun to technology.
For example, “Alexa, Sing” or “Alexa play the colour game” or as my 5year old loves “Alexa, Fart”.
While Engadget has crowned Google Assistant as the CES winner, I disagree.
If the buzz from the various media outlets is anything to go by, Amazon Alexa well and truly won the race this year (which, as a fan already suits me down to a tee).
Players such as Kohler, Toyota, Ford and Hyundai are betting big on Alexa, and even Windows laptop makers are dropping Microsoft’s own Cortana in favour of Alexa.
What about the home?
If the battle for voice control is playing out anywhere, it’s playing out in your home.
Kohler – the giant of bathroom and kitchen gear, put Alexa into almost everything and this example of the Kohler Mirror allows you to control the full bathroom.
“Alexa, turn up the lights to 100 percent” or “Alexa, turn the shower on” and yes, you can even “Alexa, flush the toilet”.
From mirrors to fridges, it seems Alexa has become the defacto connected home assistant.
It’s also made a big push into lighting – as evidenced by the release of NanoLeaf’s new lighting panels.
The new Panels from Nanoleaf now have touch ability and they’ve boosted the number you can connect from 30 to over 1,000. Now you can truly create amazing lighting for your house or office…and yes, “Alexa, set the Nano Leaf lights to my favourite pattern” works.
So, what else caught my eye? Glad you asked.
There was a big push into robotics this year, specifically two areas; companionship and home help.
Ubtech Walker got loads of attention, a self-standing, autonomous security robot that can walk around and patrol properties. It’s basically a security camera with legs which can also connect to your online life and give you email, calendar, and other updates while it patrols your house.
Sony Aibos were all the rage five years ago and now they’re back (and arguably even more adorable). Focusing on companionship the Aibo is a robotic dog that brings a little ‘life’ to your home. Did I mention they are super cute!?
CES is known for displays and it seems we are still in a “bigger is better” race.
LG created a rollable TV. Yes, the 65” monster can roll up and down like a cheap window blind.
The big novelty here is that it doesn’t have to be fully unrolled to work – you can stop it one third of the way up and have a notifications display, weather, social updates etc, without the huge 65” screen being out all the time
It’s no secret I’m a car nut, I love the automotive space and there was a lot of this at CES from new software, cool dashboards and alternative fuel sources.
Faraday had its FF91 at CES and were talking about customers receiving them later this year. Hot on the heels of Tesla, Faraday was the most discussed fully electric car startup last year.
It had some issues in 2017 but it’s great to see actual production cars at CES, and I look forward to seeing what they bring to the car space.
Toyota bought along its new e-Palette which is best summarised as a “shipping container” on wheels. But it’s more than that. It’s autonomous, it’s smart, it’s reconfigurable and from what I understand it’s got e-displays for dynamic signage around it.
Think fully connected and autonomous delivery of goods – and with Amazon, Pizza Hut and Mazda looking at it – you might see full ‘shops’ driving around very soon.
Just don’t worry about that recent Black Mirror episode…