Want to hear a joke? What’s the one thing you need at an electronics show? Electricity. And the joke is that’s exactly what they didn’t have for almost three hours at CES as the event was plunged into darkness following a power outage.
I was wandering through the impressive dedicated Samsung area admiring their 8k behemoth TV called The Wall when someone pulled the plug and the whole of CES was brought to a juddering halt for the first time in its 51-year history. It was actually quite eerie stumbling through the darkened auditorium with all the shiny new electronic kit now dormant and people using the lights from their smartphones to guide them to the nearest exit.
The heaviest January downpour in the desert City, since records began, washed out the event’s main auditorium and also resulted in Google’s flagship exhibition site to be temporarily closed. Twitter had a field day…
All this got me thinking that the gloom of the conference center following the failure of Nevada Power to get the power back on was kind of an allegory for this year’s show. Compared to recent years where we have seen the introduction of ground-breaking technology such as autonomous vehicles, virtual reality glasses, drones and the connected home, the 2018 event didn’t witness anything truly revolutionary. Yes, we did see much more connectivity than ever before and voice activation took a huge leap forward but there wasn’t any startling new tech to get the geeks salivating. In essence, much more a year of evolution than revolution.
That isn’t to say that there wasn’t anything to admire, so I have provided a run-down of the most interesting stuff that was on offer this year:
Another year dominated by the car manufacturers with around 25% of the 3.2 million square feet of CES taken up by the auto giants. Many more examples of autonomous vehicles including a new bus called Olli presented by IBM Watson and a very similar looking product with added retail e-commerce opportunities showcased by Toyota’s e-Palette offering. But by far the most interesting concept was offered by Nissan who demonstrated their ‘Brain To Vehicle’ (B2V) technology which essentially allows your car to read your mind so improve your driving experience.
Over at the Sands convention center (kind of an off-Broadway tech experience of smaller players and start-ups) was a fascinating kick starter idea out of Italy which introduced the notion of ‘carbitrage’ for electric vehicle owners. The Charge Me concept is simple: if you have an EV with a full charge and another EV driver is nearby who is running low on energy, you can sell some of your ‘juice’ to them by connecting them via a dedicated cable.
The whole area of AR and VR was massive again this year at CES with Google in particular pushing their new Daydream product at every opportunity. Their presence at CES and on the Las Vegas strip was impossible to avoid which is interesting given their relative anonymity over the past decade.
But the most fascinating VR launch was from none other than iconic boxing legend Floyd Mayweather who held a press conference to announce the arrival of his new ‘bricks and mortar’ Mayweather boxing oriented gyms and virtual reality app. Ever wondered what it’s like to fight against the best pound-for-pound boxer who has ever lived? Well with the new VR app you can pit your wits, brawn and dexterity with the (virtual) man himself. Mayweather demonstrated the app himself and despite some nifty footwork and punishing blows from the man himself, the virtual version took the bout.
Alexa, Cortana, Siri, Assistant, Bixby etc. were all to be found controlling anything from your car to your washing machine. The battle for dominance clearly seems to be between Amazon and Google as they try to establish their voice activation variants as the dominant player.
ForwardX Robotics rolled out a four-wheeled travel bag that will follow its owner around the airport without the need to drag it. The ‘smart bag’ has several onboard cameras to detect its user and also uses AI to avoid banging into other people and their carry-on luggage. It also has the capability to send a message to its owner if they stray too far from it in Duty Free or when the battery pack is getting low.
And finally my favourite gadget of the event has to be the super cute Sony Aibo puppy. This robot dog was the star of the show with its AI controlled actions and ability to react to commands.
Want more round-ups from CES? Click here for Tech East and West round-ups by OMD’s Chrissie Hanson.