Some 180,000 people showed up at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to witness the latest tech innovation demonstrated by more than 4,500 exhibitors. From global brands to visionary startups, participating companies all had something to offer by way of customer experience and in showcasing the types of technologies that will shape our future.
Here are seven key takeaways from the event:
1. Voice recognition continues to rule
Voice-activated digital assistants were one of the star attractions at this year’s CES, which is no surprise given the vast amount of products now compatible with Google Assistant and/or Amazon Alexa. In terms of the major players operating in this space, Google is leading the field with estimates that Google Assistant will reach 1 billion devices by the end of January 2019. That’s in contrast to Amazon Alexa’s current 100 million product base, which is primarily focused on smart speakers for the home. Microsoft Cortana and Samsung’s Bixby digital assistant are a bit further behind but they have plans to grab a larger slice of the pie in the months ahead.
2. Low-tech technology is on the rise
One product featured at CES this year that managed to pick up quite a bit of media attention is the Mui Smart Display, a smart plank of wood that resembles…well, a plank of wood. First launched as a Kickstarter campaign by Japanese startup Mui Lab, the plank contains a touch-sensitive, LED display that allows you to interact with other smart devices in your home such as your lighting and thermostat. The release of the Mui smart speaker is part of a growing trend of companies offering more design-led products that seamlessly blend into your surroundings and don’t involve screens, keypads or remote controls. With so much talk these days about our addiction to technology and the health risks associated with too much screen time, we’re likely to see more low-tech tech products come to market in the future.
3. VR is back in vogue
Virtual reality hasn’t quite built on the initial momentum of its launch a number of years ago. Despite this, VR technology continues to get much better and much more affordable – something that was on display at CES 2019. Among the leading VR products being demoed were the Oculus Quest headset, which provides a full and powerful VR gaming experience wirelessly; the Pico G2, the latest headset from the Chinese VR headset manufacturer, which aims to bring 4K resolution to virtual reality; and the HTC Vive Pro Eye, which through its eye-tracking feature allows users to control in-game experiences using eye movements. Such innovation generates belief that VR might just live up to its hype and have its moment soon.
4. Foldables might be more than a fad
Love them or loathe them, the idea of foldable screens hasn’t gone away. At CES, Chinese phone maker Royole showed off its new FlexPai smartphone, a handset that unfolds into a 7.8-inch tablet and is developed to withstand over 200,000 bends. It will be rivaled by Samsung’s foldable smartphone offering, which is expected to be unveiled at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in late February. LG got in on the act too, and kicked off its CES appearance with the unveiling of its new rollable OLED TV, a screen that appears and disappears from a base unit with the click of a button. Such products might just change the way our living spaces are designed, but only if the technology goes mainstream and proves to be more than a fad.
5. 5G is the future
While there doesn’t seem to be any clear indication of when 5G will be readily available to consumers, there was plenty of fanfare about it at CES 2019. It is expected to be a much more phased rollout compared with 4G, however, the likes of Qualcomm, Samsung and Intel have been busy testing the water with network providers such as Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T in the US. At CES, there were a number of key announcements and demonstrations, which included Samsung’s unveiling of its display 5G smartphone prototype; Intel demoing a live Skype call over T-Mobile’s 600 MHz 5G network; and Australian telco Telstra announcing plans to offer commercial 5G smartphones on its mobile network in the first half of 2019. In his keynote speech, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg described 5G as “a quantum leap compared to 4G”. Consumers wait in anticipation.
6. Apple makes its presence felt
“What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.” Well, that’s what Apple claims and it displayed the message in massive white letters on a multi-story building in Las Vegas to coincide with this year’s event. With controversial data mining practices among various tech companies coming to light in recent years, Apple likes to distance itself from its peers in the hope that it is not tarnished with the same brush. The company is renowned for staying away from CES but, in what has been seen as a potshot at Facebook and Google, this was its way of making its presence felt.
7. Data privacy is no longer an afterthought
Speaking of trust, concerns over data privacy was a major talking point at CES and with the year that we had in 2018, that’s no surprise. Along with having a strong presence of companies offering privacy solutions such as routers that aim to protect users’ connections, the event had major firms openly addressing trust and safety (TNS); an issue that was once an afterthought among consumers, but one that is now very much front of mind. Among the big announcements in the area of TNS was Google’s partnership with security company McAfee to support voice commands for the latter’s smart home security system. With recent research from Voxpro – powered by TELUS International finding that just 21 percent of consumers trust brands with their personal information, it’s about time the big tech companies of the world took notice.