CES Day One: AI Is Everywhere

The world’s largest and most exciting technology show, CES officially kicks off this morning in Las Vegas, USA. With an abundance of products to present, tech giants such as Nvidia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Intel started revving up their engines two days ago, hosting press conferences to showcase their “New Year’s Resolutions.”

Also on Sunday, the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) hosted a preview of “impactful trends, next big things and disruptive innovations that will redefine industry in 2019,” which sketched a picture of what we can expect to see on the show’s floors this year. As expected, cutting-edge AI and smart home technologies were front and centre in both the press conferences and the preview.

Home

Smart home appliances were still a relatively new sector at CES last year, where their integration with virtual assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant was the major selling point. After a year of unprecedented development in machine learning and AI, smart home appliances are now much more than talking refrigerators, and CES provides a peek into the possibilities beyond voice interaction. “Few tech categories are as dynamic as the smart home,” notes conference organizer the Consumer Technology Association.

One of the unexpected surprises on Sunday was the first-ever appearance at the show for 182-year-old Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest household products maker. P&G rolled out a set of smart home products including the Oral-B Genius X Toothbrush, which recognizes users’ brushing behavior and provides feedback to improve oral health; GilletteLabs’ Heated Razor, which heats up in less than one second; the Opté Precision Skincare System which leverages camera optics and proprietary algorithms to scan skin, detect hyper-pigmentation and apply corrective serums; and AIRIA, an ambience-enhancing smart home fragrance system.

The Consumer Technology Association says that with the expansion of lines of products and services, the smart home is “becoming more intelligent and open to a changing device landscape, consumers may evaluate these products on how seamlessly they can integrate into the household.” Samsung’s line of SmartThings products are one example of how a seamless smart home could one day function.

Samsung home appliances including refrigerators, oven, and washers are now connected to the company’s virtual assistant Bixby. Users can for example speak to Samsung’s new front load washer and ask it to recommend the best wash cycle for a load, schedule a cycle for later, launch or forgo the dryer cycle when the washer is done, and so on. Over in the smart kitchen, users can post photographs to the refrigerator’s Family Hub display while Bixby narrates a step-by-step eggplant parmesan recipe. If the instructions call for preheating the oven, Bixby will do that at the appropriate time.

Samsung’s Smart TVs are also packed with AI capabilities. After learning your preferences and TV viewing habits, the TVs will find your favorite shows and recommend new content, all through voice interface with Bixby, Amazon Echo or Google Home. Samsung Senior Vice President Yoon Lee also introduced his company’s new AI companions, Samsung Bot Care and Samsung Bot Air.

Samsung’s South Korean rival LG delved even deeper into the ambitious automatic life, unveiling HomeBrew, a capsule-based craft beer system which automates everything from fermentation, carbonation and aging to serving and cleaning. The company also introduced a futuristic armoire that can freshen your clothes. The LG Styler is a freestanding wardrobe with a built-in steamer and hangers that wiggle to de-wrinkle your clothes.

Automotive

The concept of AI-powered in-vehicle infotainment has been gaining traction over the last two years. Thanks to improvements in AI’s conversational and cognitive capabilities and the refinement of human-machine interfaces, car drivers and passengers can now request music and other entertainment content simply by asking out loud.

Qualcomm is advancing in-vehicle infotainment with cutting-edge computing engines. The third generation Qualcomm Snapdragon Automotive Cockpit Platforms were announced at the company’s CES press conference. Qualcomm bills these as “the automotive industry’s first-announced scalable AI-based platforms” which can enable a number of AI features, including:

  • driver and passenger personalization;
  • in-car virtual assistance;
  • natural voice control and language understanding;
  • adaptive human-machine interfaces;

Qualcomm also announced that Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa will be integrated into these platforms for voice-controlled interactions.

Samsung meanwhile presented its in-vehicle future vision in which an in-car camera recognizes passengers and adjusts the cars’ seats, display preferences, lighting, etc. to reflect that passengers’ personal preferences. It will even push their favourite playlists. Drivers meanwhile can remotely check how much gas is left in the car, or adjust the interior temperature in preparation for a trip. These features are integrated with virtual assistant Bixby in a new Samsung Digital Cockpit system.

Chinese electric car maker Byton made a stunning debut last year at CES with its concept car M-Byte, which features a 40-inch long display that stretches across the entire dashboard. This year, Byton built on the promise with its new electric SUV production model. The gigantic display is still a central selling point, along with a 7-inch driver tablet in the steering wheel and a rich interactive experience that includes voice control, touch control, physical buttons, and gesture control.

Gaming

NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang makes a point of closing the first CES media day by announcing innovative products and technologies in gaming, artificial intelligence, robotics, or self-driving vehicles. This year was no exception.

NVIDIA’s big announcement Sunday night was the Geforce RTX 2060, a long-awaited consumer-grade graphics card for gaming. Powered by Turing architecture, NVIDIA’s latest GPU architecture introduces ray tracing and AI capability to real-time graphics. The RTX 2060 features 1920 CUDA cores and runs ray tracing up to 5 Giga Rays/per second, with 14 Gbps memory speed, 37T RTX-operations, and 6 GB GDDR6. The graphic card is listed at US$349 at NVIDIA website in a bundle sell: It comes with either the video game Anthem or Battlefield V.

NVIDIA also showcased the performance of its homegrown AI technology, which can render input images into high-resolution outputs. Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) is a deep learning model trained on a mix of final rendered frames and intermediate buffers. It learns how to sharpen details and surfaces, reduce alias, and eliminate dithering. DLSS is available on all RTX GPUs.

Also announced at the NVIDIA press conference were a lineup of GeForce RTX laptops. More than 40 laptop models from leading brands including Acer, Alienware, ASUS, Dell, Gigabyte, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Razer, and Samsung will benefit from real-time ray tracing and AI-enhanced graphics enabled by RTX GPUs.

NVIDIA had a rough 2018, in large part due the cryptocurrency plunge. Its market value has tumbled by 50 percent since September, prompting NVIDIA to put its focus back on its major business sector, gaming. NVIDIA’s stock price edged up 5.29 percent after its CES press conference.

Behind-the-scenes AI advancement

Behind the wide adoption of AI techniques that are increasingly part of our everyday lives lies a complicated tech progression that includes everything from data collection to training to inferencing. That is where Intel plays a key role.

The US chip giant yesterday announced the new Nervana Neural Network Processor for Inference (NNP-I), a joint development effort with Facebook. Inference is a step wherein a trained AI model is applied to new data, and the NNP-I is designed to accelerate this process by 10 times compared to regular graphic cards. Intel also plans to release its Nervana chips for training — code-named “Spring Crest” — later this year.

Intel’s acquisition of chip startup Nervana for more than US$350 million was one of the biggest AI headlines of 2016, but the return on the investment had remained under question given the lack of public product releases following the deal. The NNP-I announcement could help Intel regain its edge in the lucrative AI market.

Every January the CES signals consumer electronic trends for the upcoming year and beyond; and the rise of AI-enabled consumer products is a trend second-to-none. As Intel Senior Vice President Gregory M. Bryant puts it: “AI Is Now Everywhere.”

The CES runs January 8–11 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Synced will be reporting from the show throughout the week.


Journalist: Tony Peng, Fangyu Cai | Editor: Michael Sarazen


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