Samsung envisions even more personal consumer tech at CES 2020 -- including a cute, rolling robot

The "Age of Experience" includes companion robots, AI-powered homes and smart cities powered by 5G, co-CEO H.S. Kim touted during a keynote.

Shara Tibken
Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
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Samsung co-CEO H.S. Kim talks up the company's vision for the next era of tech during a keynote Monday at CES in Las Vegas.


Tech is about to get even more personal, Samsung said at CES 2020. And it will include small, cute, rolling robots

Co-CEO H.S. Kim, speaking at a CES 2020 keynote on Monday evening in Las Vegas, touted a new "Age of Experience" where our technology makes "life more convenient, more enjoyable and more meaningful."

"2020 will start a new era in tech," he said during his presentation. It's something Kim first discussed in a blog post last week ahead of CES. The key for this new era, he said, is giving users "personalized technology."

Kim's first "guest" during his keynote was Ballie, a small, bright yellow, rolling robot that followed Kim around the stage and responded to his commands. He believes robots can be "life companions." Ballie "understands you, supports you and reacts to your needs to be actively helpful around the house," Samsung said in its press release. 

Samsung is among the tech giants pushing to make our devices smarter. The so-called internet of things, or IoT, embraces the notion that everything around us should communicate and work together. The aim is to make life easier, letting us do things like close our garage doors while we're away or get an alert from our  refrigerators  when we're out of milk. But many of our devices still don't talk to each other, and they're often not as smart as promised. 

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But Samsung and others believe that will change, thanks to artificial intelligence. 

"The devices you use will understand you as an individual, blurring the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds, and changing the way you interact with your cities and communities," Kim wrote last week.

And "instead of changing your routine to incorporate more devices, your devices will work seamlessly for you," Kim added. "Just imagine how much more you could accomplish with an intelligent companion that supports you, instantly reacting to your needs.

"As we look ahead, we know people want more," Kim wrote. "Not simply more things, but more experiences that make these new technologies increasingly meaningful in their lives."   

Kim expanded on his vision for the Age of Experience throughout Monday's keynote. A spokesperson said many of the products shown, including the robots and Samsung AR glasses, are only prototypes. It hasn't yet said when -- or if -- they'll be available for consumers. 

The 'Age of Experience'

Samsung made a bold proclamation at  CES  2015 that within five years, every Samsung product would be internet-connected. Not only would its  phones  and  TVs  be smart, but also its  washing machines ovens  and a myriad other electronics, then co-CEO B.K. Yoon declared. At last year's CES, Kim said that Samsung has a "bold vision to take a half a billion devices we sell every year and make them connected and intelligent." 

Today, most Samsung devices have Wi-Fi and  Bluetooth  links, but it turns out that some things, like various home appliances, don't need to be connected to the internet at all. And the things that are connected need to go about it in a smarter way. It's not enough that devices have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections. They also have to be able to do things that actually help users. 

Samsung has declined to say what percentage of its devices are internet connected, beyond Kim writing in his blog post ahead of CES that the "majority" of Samsung products are smart. 

As companies like Google, Amazon and, yes, Samsung have discovered, the key to actually making smart devices useful is packing in artificial intelligence, typically in the form of voice assistants. Every tech heavyweight is investing in these assistants because they're heralded as the future of how we'll interact with our gadgets . The ultimate promise for the smart technology is to predict what you want before you even ask -- but in most cases, the digital assistants just aren't smart enough yet.

Two years ago, Samsung said it would spend $22 billion on AI by 2020 and would employ 1,000 AI specialists by the same time frame. It has opened AI centers around the globe to work on solving problems for making technology smarter.

Cute -- and helpful -- robots


Samsung co-CEO H.S. Kim shows off the company's Ballie companion robot. 

James Martin/CNET

Samsung at last year's CES showed off several robots that could do things like monitor health and help with mobility issues and its Bot Chef helped out cooks at IFA in early September

Most of Samsung's consumer-centric efforts in AI have revolved around Bixby, which first arrived in 2017's Galaxy S8. The digital assistant has since made its way to smart TVs, refrigerators, washers, air conditioners, speakers and more. Samsung previously aimed to put Bixby voice controls into every device it sells by 2020. But Samsung didn't spend much time talking about Bixby on Monday, and its press release didn't mention the technology.

Instead, Ballie and other AI efforts took center stage. 

Along with Ballie, Samsung showed off new capabilities for its GEMS robots, unveiled at CES last year. The robots look like exoskeletons and are meant to help with mobility issues, such as those caused by injuries from strokes. Last year, Samsung said it has developed three models: the GEMS-H for hips, GEMS-A for ankles and GEMS-K for knees.

At CES 2020, Samsung demonstrated people using GEMS to improve health and fitness. The company demonstrated consumers using AR glasses to work out with a virtual personal trainer, climb a mountain or walk underwater, all from their own living rooms. GEMS then can aggregate and analyze results to give users personalized workout recommendations. 

Smarter homes and cities

Samsung also talked up efforts to make smart home even smarter and more personal -- but simpler to use at the same time.

"It is often said that there is no place like home," said Federico Casalegno, chief design innovation officer of Samsung's Design Innovation Center. "The smart home will add a new meaning to us. There will be no other place like yours."

And it wants to make cities smarter, too. Smart devices, platforms and data will make living in cities safer and easier. 

Samsung also showed off efforts to make technology to help society and individuals. Along with GEMS, which can help the elderly and disable move, it's also developing Relúmĭno, which can help the visually impaired see, and IGNIS, a tool that helps firefighters make their jobs safer.

Samsung believes that its efforts in AI and the internet of things will help it "lead in this Age of Experience," according to Kim.

"At Samsung, we see a future of opportunity," he wrote. "With the emergence of AI and IoT, finally enabled by the power of 5G, the start of 2020 marks a moment where the realization of our vision for an intelligently connected world becomes a reality."

All the cool new gadgets at CES 2020

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Originally published at 7 p.m. PT
Update at 8:40 p.m. PT: Adds additional details.
Update at 11:55 p.m. PT: Adds comments about prototypes