CES 2019: Technology is Finding its Niche, Mostly
This year I was lucky enough to represent Josh.ai at my first CES, after following the show for some time. I was generally curious about various exhibits, but particularly interested in the state of consumer-level technology in the home automation and AI space. Buzzwords were everywhere, and it was my job to sift through them.
I am passionate about consumer technology, and enjoy seeing it evolve over the years. With that said, here are some of my main impressions from the show this year:
Home Cinema is Still Huge
It’s difficult to attend a CES and not discuss the newest “K”, and this year it’s up to 8. Last year at CES we saw 8K prototypes, and with them the promise of ever-higher image quality. This round, manufacturers presented TVs that will actually be on sale this year, and they looked phenomenal. The problem? There is still very little true 8K content, and that won’t change for some time.
While adding more “K”s looks good on paper, the important takeaway from this show is the ancillary technology developed to make 8K relevant in these early years. Improved upscaling and image quality will make a difference in just about everything gracing these high-res screens, and AI is enabling your existing content to look and sound even better than you remember it.
AI is No Longer Strictly a Buzzword
We have been hearing about the prospects of “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning” for years, but this time it has finally found real-world, noticeable applications. Many home cinema manufacturers are using AI techniques to improve image and sound quality, allowing devices to automatically fine-tune themselves for the room they occupy.
Why should you care? This allows AV equipment to transform a low quality image into an artifact-free, sharp portrayal. It brings audio from “meh” to dynamic, without hours of tweaking. It can even tighten up colors and textures on that old movie that you love so much.
AI is bolstering a wide array of existing technologies, from improving compression (this effectively speeds up your internet connection), to enabling home-health technologies and automating the boring parts of your life.
Robots Find a Purpose
CES 2018 brought forward many interesting robot concepts, but now there is so much more refinement. Mainstream robotics are coming, and they will do much more than just entertain your kid. From Bosch’s new S+ voice-controlled autonomous lawn mower, to the Foldimate laundry-folding robot, CES 2019 helps me envision a future without chores.
Robotics enable us to do our jobs faster and easier. John Deere has been selling self-driving farm equipment for years and is now using machine learning to improve food harvesting efficiency (their booth was huge!), and Mercedes is developing self-driving Semis to improve transportation safety and efficiency.
All of this builds toward the common theme of allowing us to accomplish more, with less. In other words — this tech aspires to gift us extra time for our passions.
AR/VR Are Still Looking for a Home
Many companies are pushing hard for an AR/VR future, and that dream certainly is coming, just not yet. These technologies can allow us to connect more naturally to loved ones, remotely pilot vehicles, and perform emergency medical operations when a hospital is not in range. Unfortunately, that is a future promise, but today there is no “killer app.”
Much of the South Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center was filled with hopeful AR/VR companies, each showing off an impressive niche application. I was expecting to be wowed, but this was not what I found to be exciting most about CES this year.
CES was hectic! I averaged more than 10 miles per day on foot, and I connected with a number of our key partners. Las Vegas showed me what consumers are generally excited about, and what doesn’t quite live up to the hype. I hope to be back for CES 2020, but until then I’m off to build cool Josh things in preparation for CEDIA in Denver!
Stephen focuses on backend infrastructure, device drivers, and aspects of the intelligence layer behind Josh.ai. He has a masters degree in Electrical Engineering from UC San Diego and previously worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He enjoys being active.