CES 2018: Smart City, Smart Home, VR&AR and More

5G is coming!

4G has been widely applied to our mobile devices, and 5G is coming to take over.
Intel’s massive booth showing its focus on AI and 5G
Intel and Qualcomm’s 5G and VR Experience Booth

The future of City Transportation: Hyperloops, Flying Taxis, Smart City enabled by V2X system

At the central plaza in LVCC, the most eye-catching vehicle was the Hyperloop One from Virgin. It is the first time a fully-functioning hyperloop that was revealed in public. This full-scale hyperloop pod one was one of the XP-1 testing pods at Virgin’s testing facility in Northern Nevada, which reached 310 km/h. It is displayed at mapping company Here, not only to demonstrate the future vehicle of transportation, but also the ultimate method of point of point transportation (combined with other transportation systems such as Lyft for the last miles, demoed in a mobile app). The future of inter-city transportations is very exciting as the pods will probably start running as early as 2021.

Virgin’s Hyper Loop One XP-1
The German Volocopter that took off at Intel’s keynote and Surefly, a two-passenger drone that is aiming towards autonomous flying

Autonomous Driving

The autonomous driving space is as competitive as it always had been. All major semiconductor companies such as Intel, Qualcomm, Nvidia and autonomous driving startups such as AutonomouStuff and Horizons Robotics all showcase their newest self-driving solutions such as their testing vehicles and chips. There are even autonomous BWMs powered by Aptiv and Lyft picking up passengers in Las Vegas!

Autonomous vehicle testing platforms by AutonomouStuff and intel; intelligent camera processor developed by Chinese startup Horizons Robotics.

Smart City enabled by Connected Vehicles

At Ford’s CES keynote, Ford’s CEO Jim Hackett envisioned a mobility smart city solution
Qualcomms’s Cellular CV2X system and Toyota’s e-Palette
Samsung and Sony’s concept for interior control system of self-driving cars

The Smart Home Battle Ground

One of the most common themes of CES 2018 is smart home. Ranging from traditional consumer electronic giants such as Samsung, LG, Sony, Haier to startups, almost every single company has its own unique smart home solution. It is a fierce battleground with competitive players who are trying their system’s dominance by allocating as many smart home appliance manufacturers as possible.

Samsung’s booth “Samsung city” and its SmartThings Cloud hardware network
Samsung’s Smart Fridge
LG’s ThinQ SmartHome Solution
A number of full smart home solutions demoed by different companies (LG, Huawei, SimpliSafe)
Sony’s new Aibo robot dog and iPal child and elder care robot
Some other robots designed for more active role in family life, for example reading kids story books
The Laundroid Closet
The Nokia Sleep Mattress Pad

Google Assistant vs Amazon Alexa vs Other Voice Services

One of the most common hardware were voice-assistance enabled smart devices. Every smart device booth features either Alexa or Google Assistant enabled devices. It was really interesting to see how Alexa and Google Assistant are dividing the market and get different hardware companies to side with them.

Almost every hardware manufacture are making their products compatible for Alexa, Google Assistant, Nest, and Apple Homekit.
Google’s advertisement “Hey Google” on Las Vegas’ Monorail and its massive outdoor booth
Amazon Alexa’s roadshow demoing a variety of Alexa enabled device
LG 4K Smart TV featuring Google Assistance and Nokia’s Health App on Alexa
Anker’s ROAV VIVA and Electron’s Google Assistance enabled electric bike wheel
Samsung’s Bixby in demo, Baidu’s DUEROS enabled device

Virtual Reality Hardware

Playstation VR at Sony’s booth
Galaxy VR Experience Zone, with VR cinema, VR skiing, and VR roller coaster
Huawei’s VR 2 with an exercise bike to control a tank shooting game. DJI’s VR flying experience set up for virtual drone racing.
Manus VR gloves that tracks hand and gesture movement. Taclim shoes enable haptic feedback by simulating textures of different ground.
Interaxon’s EEG and EOG signal add-on for VR headsets.
Sony’s tiny RXO cameras in different formations

Augmented Reality Hardware

SSurprisingly there are many AR glasses and headsets at CES, especially by startups. Learned from Google glass’s failure, the newer glasses are trying to integrate or project content onto the glasses themselves and making them more like a pair of typical glasses. I found two of them particularly interesting: LingXi’s AR glasses enable content to be projected on glasses directly while looking really similar to normal glasses; Seengene’s AR headset is surprisingly lightweight and with high resolution. However, not many applications, especially applications utilizing the AR feature, are developed on either headset — in fact, most of the new AR headsets at CES.

LingXi’s AR glasses and Seengene’s AR headset
Panasonic AR Sports Experience Concept
HYPERVSN Display

Display Technologies

Traditional television manufacturers such as LG, Sony, Samsung all demonstrated their latest technologies in displays: OLED, intelligent processor, laser projection, and 8K.

LG OLED Canyon, Assembled with 246 OLED TVs
Sony and LG’s intelligent processor
LG’s thin 4K display and LG’s HU80KA 4K projector
4G seems to reach its limit, and 8K is coming

8K

While 4K is still becoming adapted to most homes, LG, Samsung, Sony and Huawei are already pushing the 8K products, with four times resolution of 4K. From direct comparison with 4K displays, the 8K prototypes look much crisper, brighter, and much more realistic. Although there are not many 8K media available, Samsung is trying to use AI to convert the lower resolution contents to 8K standards.

Startups

Aside from the tech giants, Eureka Park featured plenty of startups from all over the world. I didn’t have the chance to spend too much time walking around, but the overall impression was that it was a crowded but creative area. Startup booths are organized in their accelerators or crowdfunding platforms (Indiegogo, Kickstarter, French Tech, TechStars, Hax, etc.). However, the area is very noisy and crowded, and there is very little space for each startup to showcase their product, and sometimes I could not recognize the product when I walked past the booth.

The massive Eureka Park Startup Area
TechStar’s Pitch competition and Kickstarter’s product gallery
Embr Lab’s Embr Wave in action, Hyper’s Macbook USB-C adaptor hub, FowardX’s self-following Suitcase

Other Cool Things

Intel Drone Shows

Intel’s indoor drone used in the Keynote and the Guinness certificate
Intel Drone Show over the Bellagio Fountains
IBM Q’s 50 cubits quantum computer
Furrion’s 4m tall Prosthesis exoskeleton
ZTE’s Axon M in Multi-tasks mode
Kodak’s booth and its Kashminer Bitcoin mining machine
Omron’s Ping Pong robot in action
Segway Loomo in action
Zhiyun’s stabilizer vs DJI’s new Ronin S revealed at CES
BecDot in action, assembling the braille of the word “horse”

Key Takeaways

  1. Concepts rather than Products. One of the original assumptions before about CES was it showcased only the latest tech products. What surprised me was the number of concepts presented by tech giants. The show not only demonstrated the latest technology, but also revealed the impact of those technologies and the future.
  2. The 5G era is coming. All major telecom and semiconductor companies announced plans for deploying 5G recently and the adoption of 5G will probably come very soon. With its exponential speed, it will blur the difference between WiFi and cellular data, and lay the backbone of future connected devices and smart cities, as well as empower VR and AR to stream video instantly.
  3. Smart City enabled with 5G, IoT, and Autonomous Vehicles. With the more and more mature autonomous driving technologies, the focus at CES has been shifted to what roles those vehicles can play in our society and how they will enable a new form of city life. Autonomous vehicles (self-driving cars, flying taxis, and hyperloop) not only print the future picture of transportation, but also unlock the possibility of new business models on how people and goods will be connected.
  4. Increasing Role of AI even in the hardware sector. AI not only exists in cool Ping-pong playing robot and self-driving cars, but also will be in our everyday device; Intelligent processors for better TV colour, AI-enabled IoT healthcare devices to track wellness, and smarter and more human-friendly smart home devices (robotics dogs). AI will be deployed in our everyday consumer electronics and will continue to shape our interactions with smart devices.
  5. Voice Assistant War. One of the most popular topic at CES was voice assistance, as Amazon Alexa and Google assistant trying their best to allocate smart home device manufacturers to join their sides. It enabled many smart home and IoT devices to be activated in a more consumer-friendly way, and connected under one big software system. Almost everything is built in with voice assistant and it will be interesting to see the two tech giants fighting for dominance in this space.
  6. Virtual Reality hardware. There aren’t so many surprises for VR headsets, except for the final arrival of standalone Daydream VR. More and more innovations are concentrated on creating seamless interaction methods using gesture control, haptic feedback, and even brainwave data.
  7. First World Problem? Although CES 2018 has lots of “Whoas,” sometimes I also have lots of “Hmms.” The countless and repetitive Alexa and Google assistant device covered almost every single appliances you can think of. A lot of products were very niche and just “nice to have.”
  8. Tech Giants vs Startups. Tech giants are dominating and splitting the market of new technologies, such as voice assistance and self-driving cars. Traditional companies such as Ford and Kodak are also shifting focus to catch up with the trend. With increasing requirement for technical components, it seems hardware startups will have a harder time competing against the big ones in the new fields. Many hardware startups chose to partner up with them (Volocopter and Intel) or join their IoT eco-systems.

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Simon Zirui Guo

Simon Zirui Guo

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Accelerating Deep Tech | Robotics, Blockchain, Neurotech | EECS @UCBerkeley | Teaching @CalBlockchain, Director @BB_Xcelerator | prev @hax_co, @SOSV, @Interaxon