With over 175 thousand attendees and more than 4.5 thousand exhibiting companies at CES 2019, I couldn’t wait to see what this year’s edition would bring to the table! For those of you who are not up to speed with what CES is, it’s an annual show hosted in Las Vegas that’s been home for innovative and revolutionary technologies for over 50 years.
It’s no different this year. The biggest brands across consumer electronics took to the stages with their latest gadgets. I picked some of the most exciting inventions that the people attending the conference from January 6-10 could witness with their own eyes!
Gary Shapiro, the CEO of Consumer Technology Association, the producer of the event, said in his welcome keynote that "We can't settle for today because tomorrow holds such promise” – the best possible tagline for CES one could come up with.
Dream big and defy barriers with Samsung
Even though the official date for the show is January 7-10, 2020, it actually started on Monday, January 6, with a number of Media Days News Conferences from companies like LG and Bosch, and a number of different sessions on different conference tracks.
It was not until HS Kim, the President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Division at Samsung, appeared on stage in the late afternoon that the real fun began. After a brief introduction to what they understand as the Age of Experience, the executives that followed focused on explaining some novelties in areas such as:
- Samsung Health and its collaboration with Kaiser Permanente that involves cardiac rehab programs
- Smart homes
- GEMS (Gait Enhancing and Motivating System)
I am a little skeptical of the GEMS exoskeleton which, combined with AR glasses, stands in for a fitness coach. It’s not because I don’t like working out, but it’s this Black Mirroresque vibe that makes me feel uneasy.
Anyway, it was Ballie that stole the show! The little spherical robot that is meant to understand and support your needs serves as the host of your smart home. It can open your curtains, as long as you have smart curtains, play with your dog, or turn on your vacuum cleaner.
Meet #Ballie, Samsung’s human-centric vision of robots that takes personalized care to the next level. The small rolling robot, “understands you, supports you, and reacts to your needs.” #CES2020 #SamsungCES2020 pic.twitter.com/YzwgZN1Lgw— Samsung US Newsroom (@SamsungNewsUS) January 7, 2020
I just hope all pets will be as friendly to Ballies around the world as the dog in the video is!
Mercedes travels to Pandora (and I am not talking jewellery)
Following the South Korean giants, Mercedes took the stage for the final keynote of the day. Ola Källenius, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, gave their presentation.
Remember the 2009 blockbuster hit Avatar? Well, it’s exactly what inspired the design of the Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR. James Cameron even actively took part in the design process.
It’s not just another autonomous electric vehicle. It drives forward just as any car, but it can also move sideways like a crab. What’s the most fascinating about this vehicle, though, is the idea of sustainability and moving the car closer to nature and humans.
Besides the electric power, these are the clear doors that make you feel closer to nature while driving. Human connection, on the other hand, is about becoming one with a car. As weird as it sounds, you get to navigate the car with biometric sensors and and the car’s interface displaying on your body.
Even though it’s just a concept car that is unlikely to ever be available for the consumers, I think its unique design makes it one of the prettiest gadgets presented at CES.
The city of tomorrow
Let me stick to the automotive industry and unexpected ideas for a little while. Akio Toyoda, the president of Toyota Motor Corporation, announced during his keynote that the company is planning to build a city of the future.
It would be situated at the foot of Mt. Fuji, at the site of a former factory. It’s called Woven City and, according to Toyota Newsroom, it “will serve as a home to full-time residents and researchers who will be able to test and develop technologies such as autonomy, robotics, personal mobility, smart homes and artificial intelligence in a real-world environment”.
Still, the design from Bjarke Ingels Group, who are also responsible for Google’s London headquarters and Two World Trade Center in New York, makes me believe this thing is going to work sooner or later.
Most of the buildings will be made of wood, with the use of traditional Japanese wood joinery, supported by robotic works, of course. On top of that, roofs will be covered with photovoltaic panels that will support the power generated by hydrogen fuel cells.
Bjarke Ingels says “With the breadth of technologies and industries that we have been able to access and collaborate with from the Toyota ecosystem of companies, we believe we have a unique opportunity to explore new forms of urbanity with the Woven City that could pave new paths for other cities to explore.”
I haven’t seen anything remotely similar to this idea and am thrilled to see how it pans out. I am sure there’s enough technology behind it to make it work, and I hope similar solutions could be implemented worldwide sometime soon, even if the scale of early projects is limited.
When you’re waiting for PlayStation 5 and instead get… a car
Perhaps the most unexpected automotive unveiling came from Sony. Yes, you read that right. I was in the majority of the people waiting for the big reveal of PS5. Well, to my and everybody else’s surprise, the Japanese giants took us aback with their Vision S car.
When it comes to the design, Vision S looks much more like a car of today than the aforementioned AVTR from Mercedes. It has hints of a Tesla, but at the same time, it has its own style. The interior is packed with all the tech you would expect from Sony, including a 360 sound system and a wide screen control panel spreading across the dashboard.
I was going to say it’s a concept car but it’s more than that. It’s a prototype that could be realistically driven on the roads today. Sadly, the company is not planning on mass production or even putting out a limited series.
You can be an Iron Man too
Delta had the honor of opening the first official day of CES 2020 on January 7. They revealed a bunch of cool stuff related to the air travel experience, most notably Parallel Reality. Ever felt lost in an airport, walking through the terminal looking for information about your gate and departure time? Now, imagine there’s a group of people walking alongside you, looking for the same information. What if I told you each of you could see information specific to your flights, in your preferred language? That’s what Parallel Reality from Delta does.
As interesting as that sounds, it was Sarcos’ Guardian XO exoskeleton that stole the show. The suit looks like it was taken out of the Avengers. It was reported to be as lightweight as the average backpack. Despite that, it can lift up to 200lbs. This pretty much means that wearing the Guardian XO, you could carry objects that you’d normally need a few people to even lift from the ground.
CES participants witnessed, during the product demo, a man named Ben lifting an airplane tire and putting it on an axle as if it was your regular car tire. Check out the video of Guardian XO in action.
You’ll never mix up your streaming services and favorite shows again
Moving a little bit away from futuristic and robotic novelties, meet Dabby. Dabby’s a tablet-like device that helps you manage your consumption of streaming services in one place. Switching between all the different apps can be a tad annoying and Dabby is here to help.
Quoting the information from the product’s homepage, “Dabby is designed to play any online content on your TVs without forcing you to download apps or load 3rd party software.” This means you can watch any content online as long as you’re subscribed to a given streaming service, or watch free videos posted on YouTube or any other social media.
Among Dabby’s most valuable features is its intelligent subscription manager. It suggests which streaming services you should cancel, and can even cancel them itself (if you set the preferences to allow it to do so). Who would say no to saving a few dollars instead of paying for something you’re not using anyway?
The idea of having all those subscriptions in one place is tempting. Add audio content into it and I’d be pretty much sold if it wasn’t for the $399 price tag.
Too much amazing stuff to mention it all
I could go on and on with the list of companies and their exceptional new devices and technologies, but it would have probably taken a series of blog posts dedicated to each day of CES 2020!
Plant-based pork from Impossible Foods? I am a meat-eater myself but I’d happily give it a go if I ever have the chance. If I take their word for it, it tastes as convincing as their beef alternative from last year's CES.
And then there’s Neon with their artificial humans that are meant to be conversation partners rather than just personal assistants. The company is still in the early stages of the project but it already gives you an idea of what the end product is going to look like.
Despite all the reasons to worry in 2020, CES also gave us reasons to be optimistic and excited about the future. That said, it’s natural to feel a little scared at the same time. I like to think that even the fancy robots and artificial humans at CES would tell me the same thing, if I’d had a chance to discuss the matter with them.