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The tech at CES 2018: The good, the bad, the mildly confusing

Tech and Innovation

Posted on January 16, 2018

5 min read

Fresh off the plane back from Las Vegas, our Chief Technology Officer Hakan Eriksson reflects on what he saw and heard at CES, the world’s largest consumer electronics show.

With Telstra working at the forefront of many different technologies, CES was a timely reminder for us to constantly think about how we can bring innovation into our customers’ lives. 2018 promises to be a big year, with 5G on the near horizon and our advancing work in areas such as IoT, big data and new technologies making great progress.

Home

The smart home is becoming smarter, and maturing from only being a network of independent smart devices to becoming a complete ecosystem – including artificial intelligence (AI) to help make your interactions with your smart home more effective.

At the same time, this means that many players that earlier had their niche in the home are now in competition, with all devices containing a microphone and a speaker, and becoming part of a meshed network.

Some companies are even starting to think about how their smart home solutions can deliver indoor coverage for 5G mobile networks.

5G

Predictably, there were still a lot of discussions around the use cases for 5G, with most ideas gravitating towards applications with short latency, and the follow-on opportunities presented by the distributed cloud and the potential for edge compute.

All across CES there were many references to 5G, with some major players making 5G the key theme of their show – and that’s not only the usual suspects like Ericsson and Qualcomm, but also companies like Intel. 4G is still going strong, with Qualcomm showing a Gigabit LTE Maserati at their stand.

Cars

Connected, driverless and electric cars have now made CES their home – separate to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which is the place for traditional vehicles with big muscle cars as the main attraction.

This year at CES, the latest concept cars from the big players like Toyota were shown, but also electrical and driverless “F1” cars that will take the battle of car-controlling software to the next level.

Drones and robots

Drones and robots were more impressive than ever at CES this year, coming in all shapes and sizes from palm-sized selfie stick competitors to helicopters. Drones are now also going underwater and can even catch fish for you. There was also a table tennis-playing robot that adjusted its skill level to its human opponent to make the game more interesting.

AR and VR

AR/VR and mixed reality was a bit of a disappointment. VR headsets are still big and heavy, and the resolution is still not really where it needs to be. It’s a very immersive feeling, but after a few minutes you still want to get out of the headset.

As for AR, the interaction with the applications was still quite clumsy – the best sign around the show floor that there was an AR demo going on was seeing someone trying to pinch the air in front of them in a desperate attempt to get the just-rebooted app to work.

Sight and Eye Control

A relatively new area, at least for consumer applications, is technology that can detect where you are looking. With more and more devices having integrated microphones, the devices now know when you are talking to them – but still don’t know when you are looking at them.

This technology has evolved from helping people with a disability to type by looking at the keys on the keyboard, and can now be used for better understanding how we read a web page including its ads, as well as assessing how alert a driver is.

The next step could very well be our devices at home – we will soon get tired of saying “OK Google, turn down the TV volume”, when it would feel more natural to just look at the TV and say “could you please be quiet”.

Health

The health sector was basically two segments – one focusing on all kinds of devices to monitor your health at home, mainly for those who already have an existing medical need, as well as various ways to make you sleep better.

One of the more odd devices at CES was an inflatable pillow combined with a microphone. It detected when you were snoring, then changed the shape of the pillow – with the assumption that you would stop snoring in the new position.

The other sector focused on a healthy lifestyle, mostly using different kinds of wearable devices and clothes with integrated sensors. An example was a smart helmet with built-in lights, microphone, and speakers – but also a G-force sensor that detected if you had fallen off your bike, and then called an emergency contact. There was also some connected sports underwear, which I still don’t understand.

And, of course, CES would not have been complete without the gyro-stabilised selfie stick…