For decades, the acronym CES stood for Consumer Electronics Show. A few years ago, in recognition of its expanded scope, the show organizers changed it from an acronym to simply a word, CES. The meaning of CES continues to evolve and some of the descriptors that might be used to describe CES in 2018 include human, experience and magic.
Whether health, mobility, communications, gaming, industrial, smart cities, intelligent homes, a human-first approach that emphasized experience was common across market verticals.
Improving customer experience begins with awareness, and that means providing hearing, sight, touch voice and, even, smell as a way of communicating between humans and machines. Thanks to the Moore’s Law effect, it is possible to embed sensors in low cost and “dumb” devices. It is connectivity and application of artificial intelligence that make these sensors useful. One large appliance vendor correctly identified where things are going by describing the smart domicile of the future as the conscious home.
Popular natural language interfaces from Amazon and Google were everywhere. This is still an emerging space, however, as competitors like Baidu, Samsung and upstarts like SapientX demonstrated their solutions to giving ears and voice to devices of all kinds.
Simply breathing into a personal device from FoodMarble promises to help people identify, on an objective basis, how their bodies react to various foods; promising a faster way of improving digestive health.
Meanwhile, Global Network Solutions debuted a four-factor authentication process that integrates fingerprint identification, GPS and the LoRA unlicensed wireless standard to improve access security in business, industrial and government settings.
Words can’t describe the realism of a virtual touch created through the haptics demonstration by French research firm CEA Tech List. It felt like the virtual needle was penetrating the skin and it was easy to see how this technology could be a great training tool for jobs requiring hand dexterity.
Meanwhile, List’s sister company, Leti, added inexpensive, commodity lasers and their autonomous car algorithms to the micro-controller of a low-cost, consumer-grade drone, demonstrating obstacle avoidance.
Of course, cameras were everywhere, giving sight to everything from tractor-trailers to take and go grocery stores to industrial plants to accessible transit. Again, it is the artificial intelligence component, such as IBM’s Watson embedded in Accessible Ollie, that adds value to these video streams and allows interactions such as sign-language communication. Accessible Ollie is the ultimate human-machine interface, as this open source project aims to give mobility to people of all abilities.
The eyes as a portal to the soul or at least intent was seen in demonstrations of eye tracking technology at the consumer level through virtual and augmented reality games. But, it goes beyond direct consumer application, as at least one company, RightEye uses eye-tracking technology, combined with its Deep Learning Algorithms, to create a relatively low-cost method of identifying learning disabilities, concussions and age-related diseases.
While Nissan made a splash with the idea of brain wave technologies to help understand driver awareness. On the other side of the show floor, a Russian entity showed how it is beginning to open the minds of those who can’t communicate by translating brainwaves to words and, soon, they will be demonstrating a real-time virtual conversation between two such people located Russia and the United States.
It is apparent that we are on the brink of the future of yesterday, as robots of various shapes and sizes were found everywhere. Industrial robot maker Omron displayed their prowess with a ping-pong trainer that plays to the level of its opponent. Not intended as real product, it is a great demonstration of the vision, artificial intelligence and mechanics necessary for robots to work with humans; so-called cobots.
And hearkening back to the 60s and the TV show, the Jetsons, Aelous Robotics‘ robot performed tasks, such as vacuuming and even serving a drink to its human. Meanwhile, Emoshape is trying to give emotion to machines, creating personal assistants that perceive and feel. They seem to be on that path as their Virtual Reality game demonstration felt like a dream.
It’s not a stretch to see the ethical, moral and existential questions arising from the blurring of human and machine. And whether intentional or not, the fake protest outside the convention center, along with the real tradeshow booth promoting Netflix’s upcoming science fiction show Altered Carbon, should be a wake-up call that a robust discussion of these questions is necessary.
Aflac and its foundation debuted the robotic My Special Aflac Duck which intends to further its goal of improving the quality of life for children with cancer. Brave Potions, an Italian company making its CES debut has a similar goal, but uses augmented reality and printed materials to give children the feeling of superpowers in the face of illness.
This sort of magical experience, where humans and machine begin to meld, could also describe the direction of the technology evolution seen at CES2018.
A big thank you to Calix for its support of Viodi coverage of CES2018.