By JENSEN LIM LEONG
Every year, the biggest tech companies head to Las Vegas and showcase some of their upcoming products for the new year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This year’s focus has shifted from augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) of last year to smarter homes and cars. The star of the show was Amazon’s new assistant, Alexa, despite Amazon not actually having a booth at CES 2017. This e-commerce giant is smart enough to integrate Alexa not only to the typical home entertainment device and lighting but also to cars, other appliances and more, so Alexa will be everywhere.
While the Alexa technology is well known from the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, as an operating system (OS) it can be integrated into any product with voice command that Amazon supports. Ford, Samsung, GE, Lenovo, Mattel and LG all have Alexa supported products. For example, if the user’s Ford Fusion has a reminder, the same user’s LG refrigerator could give a the same reminder later in the day. Two vastly different companies with products speaking the same language and communicating with each other is Alexa’s goal. This creates an interconnected smart home that knows the user’s preferences and habits no matter where he or she is or which every product he or she owns. The user communicates with his or her devices and each item communicates with each other to improve interaction with the user.
The car was one of the big highlights at CES this year as well. Tesla’s first rival Faraday Future released the FF91 SUV, which was supposed to make the Tesla Model X look like a minivan. It bragged about face recognition, zero gravity seating and driverless valet. Although the FF91’s 64,000 preorders is nowhere near Tesla’s order numbers, Faraday is aiming to be more luxurious than Tesla. Ford’s new car supported Alexa, and Toyota showcased its own in-car artificial intelligence, Yui, which directly engages with the driver. Honda and Hyundai, however, decided to center their cars around autonomous driving. All of these cars also seem to be abandoning the typical dashboard, now supporting full touchscreen dashboards, which seems to be the result of Tesla’s influence and the increased popularity of a touchscreen-only display.
Gaming laptops were also a focus with many laptops trying to reach the same specifications as desktop PCs, resulting in extremely high price points. Acer revealed a $9000 laptop that weighed 19 pounds – in my opinion, it would most likely be easier to carry a desktop from place to place. Razer’s experimental prototype for a 3-screen gaming laptop also debuted at CES as a test to see whether consumers would respond positively. However, no plans have been made to release a commercial product. Oddly enough, at the end of CES it was revealed that three of the prototype models were stolen. Although it is possible that competitors stole the models to understand how they worked, most likely the thefts were perpetrated by some convention goers.
One of my personal favorite items was the Airbar, by NEONODE, which makes any normal laptop screen into a touch screen for a mere $79. Most laptops add on upwards of $300 for this touch screen feature, and the fact that none of Apple’s laptops even have that option also makes it a plus.
Overall this year’s exhibition of upcoming and innovative technology was interesting. It seems after the splash of AR/VR last year, the tech community has gone back to focusing on Internet of Things (IOT). IOT is the idea of an interconnected world via data gathered by microprocessors, sensors and actuators to enable a user’s preference. At a higher level, there is some cognitive computing between the connective devices to manage the environment. It is exciting to see how Amazon and other IOT companies will allow us to live a lifestyle like the Jetsons of the future, today.