While there are always a plethora of prosaic products at CES, it also provides a window into the future. In the impending years, according to the CES worldview, we'll all be scooting, yet counting our steps, and our devices will be telling us when to breathe, drink and roll over in bed. Your car will have conversations with your house, and there'll be a man-cave entertainment system so grand you might as well move into the garage and live in it. No more naked faces -- you're interacting with the world through virtual or augmented reality specs. Possibly having sex that way, too. Robots will roam your home doing I'm-not-quite-sure what except scaring your pets, but that's okay because you'll be gleefully tracking how much activity that fear is generating. You'll be printing your food and replacement body parts. When you look up, the sky will be crammed with flying cameras. And there'll be TV screens everywhere, curved, transparent and rolled up in your bag.
On the other hand, you won't know whether to wave at, touch or talk to your car's controls, and you'll still need a human at the wheel because there's no neural net deep enough to safely drive your car for you yet. Your smarty-pants home will have a gazillion different hubs because from your appliances' perspective it's the Tower of Babel.
Photo by: CNET
The future of screens is OLED
LG made an all-out push to showcase the amazing flexibility (pardon the pun) of organic light-emitting diode technology, displaying extremely concave and convex screens, screens you can roll up and screens you can see through, as well as how thin and large they can be.
Alienware launched the first gaming laptop with an OLED display, the Alienware 13. Since OLED delivers highly saturated colors, blacker blacks and fast refresh, it's a natural pick for game displays. You'll pay $1,500 (£1,030, AU$2,150) for a 13-inch model -- no premium over the standard model.
All-in-ones typically make frustrating gaming machines because their lack of upgradability. Origin PC and MSI both revealed all-in-ones with enough horsepower and expandability to please the most avid FPS junkie. Only the Omni has an estimated ship date -- by the end of March. There's no price yet, but we estimate it'll start at around $2,000 in the US.
The most talked-about gaming system of the show was the Razer Blade Stealth, an inexpensive Clark Kent-notebook that turns into a Superman system when plugged into an external box with a desktop graphics card via a USB-C cable.
CES in one of the most important shows for manufacturers to showcase their new TVs. Samsung countered LG's OLED juggernaut with the first Quantum Dot TVs and built-in smart-home hubs. And like comment trolls on the Internet, there's no avoiding the inevitable claim of "biggest!" This year Samsung nabbed that title with its 170-inch monster comprised of individual screen modules. And continuing from last year, 8K models are picking up steam and everybody's boarding the HDR train. Unfortunately, all these developments do nothing to solve buyer confusion.
For me, one of the most striking trends was about how little agreement there is on what car interfaces should look and act like. From Visteon and BMW's gesture-based operation to current touchscreen controls to knob/touchscreen hybrids, it's not clear what we'll be seeing in cars this time next year.
Every car maker at the show talked about autonomous cars -- and why we don't have them yet (especially nVidia, whose press conference was more like a grad school course in neural networks). Over and over again, they explained why they're doing great on the easy conditions, but the hard ones, such as understanding inclement weather and dealing with unexpected occurrences, are still out of our reach. The other aspect they're united on is the acceptance issue; people are not going to want self-driving cars until we can be convinced to trust that they're not going to kill you or pedestrians. Still, Volvo announced that it will have the first semi-autonomous car in the US.
Another common vision of the automotive experience is sharing as much information as possible between your car, your home -- worth it just to be able to be able to prove that UPS didn't even try to deliver that package -- and eventually, between vehicles. Both Faraday and Bosch see your car as an extension of your phone.
With all of the glitzy and future-perfect concepts, however, the biggest auto news of the show turned out to be a lot more prosaic: The forthcoming Chevy Bolt. It's the first mass-market electric vehicle with a reasonable range and practical design, and is being sold for less than $30,000 (£25,500, AU$43,000), which includes federal subsidy.
Concept cars and autos kitted out with the latest (and sometimes most bizarre) tech, audio and infotainment systems are a CES staple, and this year was no different. An interesting audio concept comes from Bose, whose prototype NEAR system projects sounds such as notifications into the most spatially logical place you'd expect to hear them. And the Rinspeed Σtos combines two CES favorites, a tricked-out-car with a drone that rises omniously from the back. CES isn't the biggest showing of autos in January, though; that would be the Detroit Auto Show, which kicks off on January 11.
Smart homes aren't quite that smart yet; devices can talk, but for all the shouting at CES, the information they broadcast mostly falls on deaf ears because of continuing chaos in standards. And, in fact, there were a lot of announcements for support for the myriad different existing platforms, such as Amazon Alexa voice support.
One of the big trends in home security is professional monitoring of your connected security devices; one of the biggest names in home security, ADT, announced a host of new partnerships with smart home device providers, including Samsung's SmartThings platform.
Fitness bands were the main event in wearables this year, though there weren't any whizzy new announcements, just upgrades to existing systems that seem to be working and attempts to make them look a little less...functional. Plus, there was no shortage of sports-oriented wearables -- smart sneakers, helmets, clothing and so on -- to further micromanage your performance.
With its proximity to Mobile World Congress in February, CES generally isn't a big show for revealing the hottest phones of the year. Instead we see a lot of budget models -- and the big news this year is that the budget models look pretty good. Surprisingly, the biggest topic of conversation wasn't even about a phone: It was Lenovo kicking the Motorola brand to the curb in favor of the faster-to-say "Moto".
Given that they're still a relatively niche market, the number of drone models at CES was astounding: at least 25, not counting the toy versions. One of the most notable new ones is the Onagofly, because as silly as a drone following you around shooting selfies sounds, it's reasonably priced and has some serious, useful applications for more commercial videos (think tours, how-tos, and House Hunters), provided the video quality is good enough. Many new drones are being advertised as lightweight (so they don't require registration) and this year we saw a lot more featuring obstacle avoidance.
While misnamed hoverboards are exploding into flame across the world, CES provided us with tons of less volatile forms of personal mobility. We saw scads of scooters -- folding, electric, and folding electric -- but the most newsworthy commuter was the Ehang octocopter, for your solo above-the-jams mobility pleasure. It has tons of hurdles to face (only a few of which have to do with technology) before it can be a reality, though.
There weren't quite as many pet products as we expected this year -- a health-tracking bow tie collar and a couple of treat dispensers (the CleverPet, for one) -- were the high points. There was, however, a whole corral devoted to baby gear, much of which (not surprisingly) seems superfluous. But the data will flow. It sounds like only one product made the cut for CNET News reporter and prospective father Roger Cheng and his wife: Owlet, a smart sock that dates back to 2013.
There are always at least a few adult toys at CES, but as you'd guess, VR porn was big (again) this year thanks to purveyor of VR titles Naughty America, drawing folks to its suite to try out its programming.