This year, CES was the showcase of what we have expected consumer electronics to evolve into, based on the expectations shown in our love for sci-fi. Standalone computers are the size of your palm, televisions are getting less cumbersome and we are finally seeing the advent of AI and robotics becoming as commonplace as our mobile devices. Though the ubiquity of these technological evolutions is some years off, it is exciting to see these devices beyond the concept stage and on their way to the market. Though the showroom floor seemed endless, here are some examples of what really stole the show and enchanted our minds at CES 2016.
While the world of mobile devices is buzzing along at its rapid pace, lets not forget about it’s forerunner: mobile computing. Having evolved into the modern tablet by way of the laptop and ill-fated netbook, it is now an easy feat to take a Windows-enabled device with you that can fit in your pocket. Not just something a modified version of the OS developed for these devices, but a full-fledged PC experience that’s perfect for simple tasks. Though easily outdone by the modern laptop and its mobile offspring, this is a pocket-sized version that already earns high marks for literal pocket-PC.
At CES, InFocus was showcasing it’s latest foray into the market, the Kangaroo, a PC the size of a small external HDD that fits easily into your pocket. For those who need a quick solution to play media, type documents or do some low-demand work, the Kangaroo’s Intel Atom chip will suffice along with the basic Windows 10 suite. Paired with 2GB RAM and 32GB of storage, it is a small but versatile PC that can plug into any monitor or HDTV. Sporting an HDMI output, 2 USB ports and a 4-hour battery, the Kangaroo will give you a great deal for the price of $99.
Poised to make its third and most advanced comeback to date, virtual reality is now tugging at the ever growing gaming industry for a spot on the fame train. Though earlier attempts to utilize this technology in the 80s and 90s were valiant, they were hindered by a lack of funding, the limits of the technology at the time, projects often being too far ahead of their time or products not providing the advertised experience. Thankfully in 2016 the requirements to make a viable VR experience are far less steep, much more affordable and far more accessible. Enter the ever popular Oculus Rift, which got the star treatment at CES. Though not quite the full-sensory immersion we hope to achieve, this is a huge new step towards creating that technology.
Set for a release in March with a price tag of $599, the Rift will come packaged with cables, a Microsoft Xbox One controller, the Oculus’ own proprietary remote, as well as two free games. Eve Valkyrie is an amazing space-combat simulator, which seems like the perfect game genre to take advantage of when showing adopters the capabilities of the device. The other game, Lucky’s Tale is an excellent platformer game that will tease the visual senses in the VR environment the Rift provides. Though the technology is now more accessible ever, it still has some requirements that may alienate potential buyers. The Rift requires the user to have a fairly powerful PC (a GTX 970 is a minimum requirement), which bars anyone that is not a serious PC gamer, given that casual gamers would be less likely to invest in the type of system one would need . Despite this, Oculus expects to sell 1 million units in 2016.
Robotics & AI
Toyota seemed to be the key innovator when it came to home robotics, self-driving cars and other useful forms of AI at the show. The company has formed the Toyota Research Institute, a project to develop concepts and eventually create self-driving cars that run on AI-enabled robotics. The goal is not to just develop a self-driving car, but to see how AI and robotics can assist with our mobility problems, both inside and outside of our homes and businesses. The key goals of this project are to:
- Build cars that cannot crash, regardless of the drives skill level
- Allow non-drivers to have access to vehicles
- Create products that enhance mobility indoors
- Building home robots
- Develop materials to lower the cost and weight of card, and improve efficiency
Though this seems like a huge direction-change from one of the worlds largest and most successful automakers, it is a sensible one. Though Google’s efforts at a self-driving car have been valiant and successful, having a highly-funded ($1 billion in backing from Toyota) think tank backed by an established automaker can only mean good results from such a powerful combination. We’re very excited to see what TRI can conceive and implement.
Health & Fitness
We may finally see the digital revolution finally hit our fitness routines. What has been considered to be eternally analog (nothing more analog than using your own body to produce results), HTC is beginning to edge it’s way towards making our digital lives ubiquitous with our physical ones, along with some help from UnderArmour. With the rising popularity and growing market for fitness trackers, pedometers and bracelets that track everything from footsteps to calorie burning, it seems sensible that eventually the nutritionist and personal trainer become digitized.
HTC showcased the UA HealthBox at CES, the all-in-one fitness solution for this generations techies. For $400, users will receive a fitness tracker, scale, heart-rate monitor, all of which send data to a smartphone app. This is all to give the user a better understanding of their health, enabling them to perform a sort of a “personal physical” on themselves without having to see their physician. The fitness tracked (the “UA Band”) can track workout habits, steps taken and is meant to be worn 24/7. The UA Heart Rate straps to your chest to track your pulse accurately, and the UA Scale measures your weight and BMI. While it won’t keep you away from your usual physical entirely, this is a fantastic way to get a good readout on your body’s performance and overall health, allowing you to manage your workouts accordingly.
The next step for television does not seem to be another leap forward in image quality, but improving upon the design of the television itself. Though the shift to flat panel sets from rear-projection ones was a great innovation that improved the accessibility of larger TVs to those with small spaces, the design of the TV itself has found another milestone to reach. Imagine being able to do a presentation not with a projector or PC connection, but directly from an HDTV you unroll from a cylinder you carried into the meeting room and hung on the wall as if it were a framed picture that people on both sides of the table can view. LG has made that a reality, and it looks absolutely brilliant.
LG has debuted with a flexible, paper-like OLED panel TV. It is a dual screen, with two matching panels sandwiched together, leaving it at only 4.9mm thick. Aside from the practical uses for the average consumer, think of the commercial applications. Aside from complimenting your home décor, Places such as airports, train stations, museums and media centers can benefit from this display technology, removing the costs of buying, securing and installing large televisions in bulk.