Brian Wallace

Founder @ NowSourcing. Contributor @ Hackernoon, Advisor @GoogleSmallBiz, Podcaster, infographics

Here’s What CES 2020 Looked Like to the Experts at Digital Trends

Photo by Ameer Basheer on Unsplash

If you’ve been to CES, you know it’s like a sprawling, exhausting rumpus room for tech geeks. You probably saw things you didn’t even believe were possible. And you probably went home overstimulated and mind-blown. But how does the technology extravaganza look to someone who knows tech inside and out, someone who keeps up with each new product as they’re released and developed?
Jeremy Kaplan is Editor-in-Chief of Digital Trends, the world’s largest independently owned technology review publisher. He and his staff make their living testing, comparing, and writing about virtually every tech product on the market. Needless to say, they’re a little less easy to impress.

So what does CES look like to them? The convention wrapped up last week, and we got a chance to chat with Kaplan about the things that caught the editors’ eyes, stopped them in their tracks -- or maybe even blew their minds.
Finding Novelty that Moves Beyond Novelty
He says among their favorites was a mosquito tracking device that will help you keep your bedroom pest-free and sleepable. Kaplan says their coverage of the tracker became “a huge, viral hit (see what I did there?)”
Novelty is fun, but part of Kaplan’s job is to sift through the novel to find technologies that will last and make an impact. That’s especially difficult with familiar electronics, like laptops, when everyone’s trying to break the mold. “We loved the Thinkpad X1,” Kaplan says of the new foldable laptop, “although we lamented the absence of Microsoft’s Windows 10X, which will power the unique folding device, as well as the new Neo and Duo concept devices Microsoft unveiled last year.”
Beyond just gadgets, CES offered plenty of opportunity to expand one’s understanding of technologies with talks and panel discussions by experts. And of course, Kaplan was on one. But he was also learning from it.
AI Learns Differently When It’s Designed To Look Like a Robot Instead of a Human
“My Monday morning panel was really fascinating, notably thanks to Kass Dawson, who heads Softbank’s robotics team,” says Kaplan.
The panel, AI Assistants and Everyday Life, was a discussion on the future of artificial intelligence in the context of our daily routines. In addition to Kaplan and Dawson, it featured Andrew Hill, Director of UX, Data and AI at Mercedes-Benz Research and Development, and Kari Olson, who is both Chief Innovation and Tech Officer of Front Porch, and  President of the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Well Being.
Kaplan says the panel got him thinking about AI in a completely different way. “We tend to think of AI as voice assistants, but they can be so much more,” says Kaplan, “if we build them right.”
When we build generic looking speakers, he explains, we talk to them like robots, or using baby talk. This limits the AI’s ability to learn from us. When we build humanoid forms, users put forth more of an effort to engage, and the AI can learn more.
“And what’s the role of emotion in AI?” Kaplan asks. “Does it help us engage if the assistant is empathetic? Does it prevent adoption if we react angrily when it messes up?”
These are the questions that are going to be shaping our voice directed assistants (like Alexa, Siri, and ‘Hey Google’), as well as other forms of AI, in the coming years.
The Single Coolest Gadget at CES, According to the Experts
“We were dazzled – as always – by the fantastically innovative new televisions, including the official release to the world of LG’s rollup set, Samsung’s new MicroLEDs, and the ULED XD from HiSense,” Kaplan says.
But when the time came to hand out awards, the top trophy went to something else entirely. Digital Trends puts a lot of editorial resources into their award-winning “Tech for Change” coverage. Journalists and editors have an ongoing mission to cover the kind of technology that’s addressing social issues or environmental crises, saving lives, removing barriers ... or generally making the world a better place. In step with that mission, they chose a device that’s cool enough to change lives.
“We saw plenty of technology that could make our lives marginally more comfortable, exciting, or convenient,” says Kaplan. “But one device we saw at CES 2020 absolutely floored us when we realized the life-changing implications: The BrainCo Dexus.”
The Dexus is a prosthetic arm that responds to the thoughts of the person wearing it. BrainCo has spent a lot of time and money researching brainwaves, and has found a way to connect them to articulated prosthetics. That’s right: a prosthetic arm that moves based on your brainwaves. If there’s any doubt about how well this can work, Kaplan says they watched a demonstrator, who was an amputee, paint intricate calligraphy with their Dexus arm. Digital Trends called it the best product of CES, in all categories.
“I really like how we chose as best of show not a laptop or a TV but a prosthetic arm,” says Kaplan, “tech that is truly making lives better.”

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