We attend every year to get a sense of trends in the tech world that ultimately will impact the way we will work, play and live in the near future. So here is what we observed from CES 2017.
DOMO ARIGATO, MR. ROBOTO
Not surprisingly, we saw many robots at CES 2017, as we are poised to plunge headlong into the intelligent machine age. There were robots that can interact with you, clean your house, take your order, assist you in a retail environment, mow your lawn, fold your laundry — the list goes on.
Last year we introduced many of our readers and presentation attendees to Amazon’s incredibly popular and engaging Echo (Alexa). Alexa is just the tip of the iceberg in the emerging procession of digital assistant devices. We saw robots that could move throughout your home and respond to voice commands just as Alexa does, but could actually perform manual tasks at your command as well.
LET’S GET PHYSICAL
Business leaders have learned that a healthy and motivated workforce is a productive workforce. So there were many exhibitors at CES with technology to help consumers stay active, track health metrics, and work in a more ergonomically friendly environment.
Fitness trackers have become very popular, so gadget makers are seeking even more clever ways to get these sensors on our bodies. One of the newest wearables that caught our attention was a fitness ring called Motiv. We also saw a demo of Intel’s new sensory feedback sunglasses that can track your vital stats while exercising and provide personalized coaching feedback at the same time. There were even smart bike helmets, smart scooters and smart chairs. A new movable chair concept from Honda was one of our favorites.
At a more mundane level, sit-stand desks seem to be the default option for new office furniture, and, of course, you can supplement these units with treadmill bases or even stationary bikes, along with monitor arms that can levitate multiple computer monitors without taking up more desk space.
Eye tracking software has been around for a while, but has improved considerably since we first saw demos a few years ago. This software, along with vastly improved voice recognition systems, promises to expand computing options to users with disabilities.
A WHOLE NEW WORLD?
We went to this year’s show expecting to see a raft of new virtual reality (VR) applications, but after touring the incredibly crowded VR section of the exhibit hall, we were a little disappointed.
Everyone has probably seen the television ads for VR goggles from companies such as Samsung and Google, and many, like us, have purchased one or two (or more) of these VR contraptions to try out. Yes, we enjoy/endure the virtual ride on a roller coaster or watching a movie in VR, and many gamers (not us) really are into the many VR gaming applications. But outside these niche applications, we did not see a lot of new uses for virtual or augmented reality, much to our disappointment.
This technology is still new, and we do expect to see applications of this technology in the workplace, but it still may be a few years out.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
The automotive industry is investing heavily in exciting new technologies that promise to fundamentally change the way we think about travel. Yes, self-driving cars are coming, but we could not find any exhibit where we could actually get a test ride. We saw plenty of concept cars: electric-powered, self-driving and even interactive. And we saw plenty of video demos of how these new automobiles will work. But we do believe the appearance of these new-age vehicles en masse on our city streets is probably being delayed by considerations of security, safety and liability.
Nonetheless, we really can’t wait for the day when our car notices that we are beginning to get tired behind the wheel on a long trip (as we saw in the Toyota demo) and proactively tells us that it is taking over driving for us. Prius, take the wheel.
Finally, one of our favorite “gadgets” this year was the EHANG184, an Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV). This vehicle is essentially a drone capable of carrying a person, sort of like an aerial taxi.
The vision for this device is to taxi people over short distances through the air without a pilot. So when you need to be in federal court in 30 minutes and the downtown corridor is gridlocked, you would simply call for the EHANG drone to pick you up and fly you through the air, land and then deliver you to the courthouse.
Oh man, we can’t wait for this one to become mainstream. Bring on the future. Bring on the tech.