CES 2018: What’s New and What’s Missing

Every January, vendors at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) unveil the latest and greatest tech innovations.  Historically, CES has been the place for consumers and industry professionals to preview cutting edge products, many of which have been adopted as a part of everyday life.  These types of products have included the camcorder, the CD-ROM, Blu-Ray Technology, a whole slew of TV technology such as 4K TVs, and the technology behind just about any “smart”  device you can think of.

With more than 3,900 exhibitors, including big names like Sony, Panasonic, and Google, this year’s CES is shaping up to show us what the tech industry has to offer for 2018.  Here are just a few tech trends at CES that will define this year’s newest and coolest gadgets.

Voice Assistants and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
You’re probably familiar with Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and even Google Assistant.  This type of voice assist/AI technology has been available in smartphones, tablets, and speakers for more than a year now, so it was only a matter of time until it began spreading into other products.  Voice Assistants are moving on from smart speakers and showing up in products like cars, microwaves, home security systems, washing machines, and even trash cans.

This marks an interesting turn as companies who own this voice assist technology such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google seem to be moving away from promoting their own voice-assist devices (such as the Amazon Echo) and leaning more towards partnering their technology with 3rd parties.

(Sort Of) Useful Robots
Robots have been part of science fiction for years (R2D2, 3CPO, Number 5-A, and HAL-9000 are just a few popular examples).  We’ve created robots for specialized tasks in manufacturing and healthcare, but robots acting as tools in our everyday lives is yet to become a reality.  Robotics has come a long way but robots still continue to be more of a novelty than a real product.

This year, service robots that handle simple tasks are on the rise.  Robots purpose-built to handle deliveries, fold laundry, or act as your own personal autonomous videographer are just some of the options being previewed this year.  There’s even a robotic dog for people who can’t have pets in their homes or apartments (talk about something to wag at).

Even though we’ve accepted robot vacuums (the Roomba) as a normal household tool, there still seems to be a gap between the purpose-built robot and the all-in-one robot helper found in fiction. As AI and machine learning continue to grow, we could see a rise of companion robots capable of performing multiple complex tasks within a few years.

Self-Driving Cars
Self-driving cars are one of the biggest trends at CES this year.  It seems that every company wants their piece of the pie, which is arguably good for consumers because as competition increases, the underlying technology will improve more rapidly.  That being said, self-driving cars are still far off from being mainstream and even vehicles that currently offer self-driving technology like the Tesla aren’t fully autonomous or foolproof.

Virtual Reality (VR)

360-degree cameras, wireless gaming headsets, reactive VR bodysuits, and VR headsets are just a few examples of the products on display this year.  Most VR gadgets are geared towards media consumption and gaming, so it’s hard to say if consumers will accept VR as their preferred way of watching TV and movies.  After all, having to strap a headset to your face just to binge watch your favorite show on Netflix is sort of a hard sell.

Data breaches and identity theft are an unfortunate reality of our time.  With millions of people affected by the Equifax or Yahoo data breaches last year, and social media platforms retooling their systems to reign in potentially disastrous algorithms, consumers seem to be more aware that their personal data and information needs to be secure.

Wireless routers with built in security measures and security software solutions were among some of the security-focused products, but they seem to be at odds with the life-invading AI creeping into almost every product.  With every aspect of your life seemingly interconnected and all of your devices listening in, it’ll be interesting to see how data security and AI will develop in parallel over the next year.

What’s Missing?
Every year, the products at CES prove to be innovative, interesting, and downright awe-inspiring.  That being said, any device that doesn’t have a direct power source is typically powered by a battery.  Tablets, robots, self-driving cars, wearable technology, drones, and even your smart trash can all need some sort of battery- yet a new, innovative battery seems to be absent from this year’s CES.

Battery development understandably takes time, but with newer, more powerful tech gadgets becoming available to consumers each year and each consumer owning more tech products than ever before, the batteries that power them need their own innovation. Until battery technology is updated and smart phones last for days on a single charge, consumers will continue to seek out charging options wherever and whenever they can.

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