CES in a word is, overwhelming. And much of what is shown isn’t new or interesting. Here’s what I found worth taking note of…
Intel revealed a series of new VR experiences coming off the back of their Replay Technologies acquisition last year. The noteworthiness of this is less about the improved VR experience innovation and more about the computing power at-the-ready. It’s truly astonishing. In one of their demonstrations each frame of the visual experience was 3GB. I repeat, 3 gigabytes, per frame. So even if they are only delivering 24 frames per second (which is unlikely given they touted “a very high frame rate”), you would be consuming over 1TB of data every 15 seconds of content. Analyzing it from another angle, Intel’s 360 degree recording approach uses a total of 38 high-definition 5k cameras to capture the surrounding environment. This demonstration represented video capture and processing power at a magnitude that boggles my “child of the 80’s” mind. It will be massive processing players like Intel that will make a virtual future possible.
It isn’t really the Lenovo device that’s interesting. The Lenovo+Alexa launch is just one of dozens of examples where the major players in voice interaction are lending their agents out to external device brands. Microsoft, Google, and Amazon each announced partnerships with third-party brands to use their Cortana, Google Assistant, and Alexa services. LG’s connected fridge is now Alexa-enabled. Nissan and BMW announced partnerships to incorporate Cortana and Hyundai struck a deal with Google’s Assistant. Nvidia is integrating Google Assistant into their new Shield over-the-top streaming device. Mattel even announced a kid-friendly device powered by Cortana. This is just series cluster of indications that we’re moving away from typing, clicking, and swiping and toward pervasive voice interactions. It’s certainly taken hold in my household…
As promised, Apple delivered the momentum to the smart watch category that it needed to become a durable consumer category. In turn, Fossil Group now says they will double their connected watch offering across their brand portfolio. This is the first CES where a smart watch hasn’t been seen as a novelty still trying to find its primary use cases. Smart watches are here to stay and your uncle Jerry will no longer ask you what stupid toy you have on your wrist now — well he might, but he’s just doing it out of habit, not because he hasn’t seen a backlit wristwatch before.
There is a driverless car on all of our futures. What CES 2017 made clear is that this technology won’t only be for the wealthiest leisure classes over the next few years — the features that make a vehicles autonomous are being discussed among all manufacturers and the costs of ownership are therefore going to drop precipitously. I’m actually in the market for a car as I write this and I plan to sign nothing longer than a 2-year lease because I’m convinced that in 24 months I will be buying a new and reasonably priced car that is capable of being fully autonomous (in the states that will allow it). And in all likelihood it won’t be Tesla Motors model (who is arguably already delivering autonomous-ready vehicles).
The HDMI Forum, a group of electronics companies like Sony, Google, and Netflix, has announced plans to release HDMI 2.1 this summer. These latest HDMI specifications will support resolutions up to 10K. So now the rate limiting step of image clarity won’t be the wires. In fact, the resolution sent through HDMI 2.1 will be well beyond the perceivable resolution of the human eye on any reasonably sized screen that would fit in your home. So why does this even matter? Well the improved HDMI standard also delivers data at 48 gigabits per second (compared to 18Gbps for today’s HDMI 2.0 or 10Gbps within the most widely used HDMI 1.4). That amount of data will allow for a frame rates and “smoothness” in fast action scenes and gaming that will rival a real-world feel. And don’t worry about buyer’s remorse, all of the new connections will be backward compatible (ie. old devices will still work).
The folks at Qualcomm and Qualcomm Ventures get it. The one feature that consistently ranks at the top of consumer’s smartphone wish list is battery life. Consumers crave battery life more than the features hardware manufacturers typically tout each year (e.g. water resistance, screen durability, megapixels, etc.). Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon chip reduces processing-related battery drain by 25 percent. Like in political elections we need to be reminded that people want jobs and in smartphone elections they want battery life. Period. At a future CES someone will announce a revolutionary battery technology that will make the inventor gazillions, but until then at least Qualcomm understands the incremental gains people actually want.
But this year the Internet of Things (IOT) was shown in a different light. IOT itself isn’t news — in 2017 IOT just is, and will continue, to be a predictable part of most physical products debuting at CES. It’s no longer interesting to announce the your [enter old school product here] connects to your smartphone or the Internet in some way, it’s just expected. If you are exhibiting a new physical product at CES your device is more likely than not now a node in the internet of everything. This week LG alone promoted a connected oven, fridge, lawn mower, airport assistant robot, home virtual assistant, and air conditioner. CES 2017 also featured connected wheelchairs, trashcans, and grain silos. But again, these aren’t big news, they’re just new, and of course they’re connected.
@grantowens Chief Strategy Officer at Critical Mass