LIVE FROM LAS VEGAS!! CES 2018 – what to look for

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Eric De Grasse
Chief Technology Officer
The Project Counsel Group


7 January 2018 (Las Vegas, Nevada) – Once a year, I take a deep breath, open the overflowing CES folder in my inbox, and sort through hundreds of emails to see what’s cooking at the largest gadget show in the world. Sure, we spend all year studying the tech world and attend 35 tech conferences looking for the next “new new” thing but it’s often the hundreds of products unveiled or announced at CES that really set the agenda for the year ahead in tech.

As I wrote last year, it was the boom in truly wireless headphones and the “we-must-make-things-secure!!” frenzy (makes last week’s chip fiasco kinda sad). And there is always interesting stuff to watch and envelopes to be on the edge of at CES, from the Halo “5D printer” by Ethereal Machines to Sniffy, a French company selling a screen that somehow conveys smell and taste.

Our media team arrived yesterday and we just finished the first batch of press conferences (today is restricted to those with media passes; the full event starts to roll out tomorrow, going fully public on Tuesday) so herein a few opening thoughts:

Alexa (and “touchless computing”) explode

The big story in 2017 was the rise of the smart assistant, with Alexa embedded in everything  from speakers and lights to cars and even furniture. This year promises even more pervasive adoption of voice computing, but the ubiquity of “touchless” interfaces should make voice assistants far more versatile in the year ahead.

Early this year I noted the analysis of the MIT Media Lab:

Imagine picking up your empty bottle of juice and saying ‘Alexa, order this’ and it being ordered for you, without you, since Alexa understands what you’re looking at or holding.

This will require cameras and detailed geolocation abilities like that being shown off at CES by, which uses computer vision sensors to recognize who’s where in your house. And that sounds far more useful than mere weather reports.

Voice assistants will sell you on smart homes

The widespread acceptance of voice assistants will be a huge driver for the smart home in the year ahead, and I expect will be the primary driver of smart home products. You bought a speaker, so why not get lights and locks and thermostats to work with it? So sure, expect to hear about dozens of new smart speakers, including LG’s newly unveiled ThinQ, but look beyond that and you’ll see the real promise of the Internet of Things taking shape: a smart button for pervasive connectivity. A smart fertility monitor from a new company called Mira. A smart deadbolt you can unlock from your phone. And technology like Qualcomm’s Smart Audio Platform to bring voice control and connectivity to everything that isn’t yet connected.

Chinese companies you’ve never heard of take over

A funny thing happened at CES last year: China quietly took over. From car companies like Faraday Future and LeEco to TV makers like TCL and Hisense (which calls itself “the biggest company you’ve never heard of”), Chinese companies exploded at the 2017 show.

And their presentations today were simply incredible. So expect even more of a presence from China, as the country moves to rival Asian powerhouses like South Korea and Japan for U.S. dollars.
We expect an enormous showing from Huawei (which has a strategically placed keynote address later this week) and a massive push into U.S. markets in 2018. The company recently ran a series of ads describing one of its products as “the best phone you’ve never heard of” – get the theme here? – and plans to make sure that in 2018, you hear of them.
Wireless power is here at last

My boss, the founder of The Project Counsel Group, has been writing about this for awhile. Two years ago he wrote we’d soon see wireless power from Apple – and we did last year. And that Disney was working on a “wireless room” – which he talked about at his TEDx presentation last June.

Now … EVERYBODY is into the act.  Last year I wrote about “The Forever Battery – a wirelessly charged alternative to AA batteries, and it won a CES 2017 Innovation Award. Meanwhile, this year, a company called WiBa will show off a power bank that charges itself wirelessly while simultaneously charging your phones and other gadgets wirelessly. The death of wires is imminent!

The death of cable TV

Ok, I am going out on a limb here … but what the hell. Any consumer worth their salt knows 4K is the big buzzword in TVs. Shopping for a new flatscreen? You obviously want a 4K TV. And this year at CES, LG plans to show off an 8K TV, which is sure to make you the envy of the neighbors and set off a new round of keeping up with the Jonses. LG’s latest is a huge 88-inch 8K OLED TV that will be the largest OLED display on the planet. The TV’s resolution will be 7,680 x 4,320, which is 16 times more pixels than 1080p and four times that of today’s 4K TVs.

But here’s the thing: TV simply hasn’t kept pace. And consumers know this. Buy a new TV and they don’t turn on CBS, they head straight to Netflix, both for the superior quality of content and for the higher resolutions. As more 4K and ultimately 8K sets are released, and visual quality from Comcast, Charter, Time Warner, Cox, and even FiOS and AT&T continue to lag, the pace of cord cutting is sure to improve. Just watch out.

A use for AR/VR?

I’m not a believer in virtual reality’s power to transform the world. I don’t want to sit on the couch next to my friends and family encased in a headset and in my own world, I want to watch a movie and laugh and cry along with everyone else. But it’s hard to discount the slew of AR announcements we’re seeing today.

For example, Lumus makes transparent displays that enable AR headsets, and in December, the company announced a major deal with Quanta, a giant manufacturer with designs on the space. Will we see dozens of new iterations on Google Glass? Meanwhile, Epson is unveiling a new version of its Moverio AR glasses, a company called ThirdEye will show off the X1 glasses … heck, there’s a whole Augmented Reality marketplace in the South Hall of CES.

Ok, that’s it.  I will not jam up your Inbox this week.  I will have a “wrap” after the event.
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