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#sowhoknew: CES 2018 Preview – From AI to VR, what’s hot & what’s not

The Consumer Electronics Show is back this week and the hype machine is already in full flow. Want to know what’s going on in Vegas? Read on…

The Christmas decorations are only just down and the New Year hangover migraine is now just a dull headache, so that means it must be time for the annual techfest that is CES. Over 170,000 geeks and tech heads will descend upon the bright lights of Las Vegas for 4 days starting on Tuesday 9th January. There will be almost 4,000 exhibitors at the World Trade Center Las Vegas (WTCLV) all plying their all-new electronic wares across the 3.2 million square feet of floor space.

Since it’s inception in 1967, CES has showcased some groundbreaking technology such as the VCR (1970), DVD (1996), IPTV (2005) and Autonomous Vehicles (2013). So what is the latest buzz on the shiny new kit that we are likely to see next week? And will there be anything truly game changing?

Artificial Intelligence
Last year we saw Hong Kong based Hanson Robotics demonstrate their Sophia Bot and although it was a huge leap forward in the development of animated expressions / emotional intelligence it still looked somewhat creepy. Or was it just me? Anyway, Sophia supposedly has a sophisticated level of artificial intelligence and will respond to open questions. I’m guessing we will see an updated version of Sophia this year at CES albeit with a few tweaked algorithms – I’m not sure Hanson want a repeat of her infamous comment that she would like to “destroy humans”. Visions of Skynet and Arnie anyone?

Given that around 25 per cent of the WTCLV is dedicated to cars, you might be deceived into thinking that CES was a motor show. Over the past few years the presence of all the auto giants has accelerated as they focus on their connected, electric and driverless product. Rumours include four new ‘robotics’ concepts from Honda (including an autonomous off roader), a sexy new infotainment system from Mercedes and a new solid state battery by Fisker which promises a range of over 500 miles and a recharge time of just one minute.

This year’s keynote will be from Ford’s new CEO Jim Hackett following on from Carlos Ghosn from Renault Nissan last year and Mary Barra from General Motors the year before – a clear sign that automotive is critically important to the event.

Internet of Things
Or as I prefer to call it, the Internet of Everything. In recent years, we have seen more and more kitchen appliances being connected and this year will be no different. Although we saw Bixby voice assistant on a Samsung fridge last year, I predict there will be a lot more Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant integrations. I also expect to see a whole slew of connected gadgets, although given that in recent years I have seen random items such as underpants, toothbrushes, cutlery and even bras all being hooked up to the internet I’m honestly not sure what there is possibly left to connect.

Bigger (100 inch plus), thinner (the thickness of wallpaper) and even higher definition (up to 8k). News on the grapevine is that LG have an 88 inch 8k unit that will be presented in all it’s HD glory in Vegas. Obviously all of them will be connected and increasingly voice activated. I just wonder if we will witness anything really revolutionary (like the curved screens from 5 years ago) or it will just be improvements of existing technology? I’m predicting more of the latter than the former.

Virtual Reality
Google don’t often have a particularly large presence at CES but this year they have got plenty of space booked. I’m guessing that a decent chunk of that will be to showcase their new Daydream VR product. Even though it’s already launched, Oculus Go will likely have some space dedicated to it and there is some noise around a new VR headset from Lenovo called the ‘Mirage’ which might make its debut at CES.

On top of all that there will inevitably be plenty of new drones, wearables (predominantly health focused), smartphones, robots and crazy one-off gizmo’s that will almost certainly entertain but probably never make it to the mainstream.

As usual I will be trawling the floors (in a comfy pair of shoes) to bring you details on the latest and greatest kit so don’t forget to check back later this week when I will be providing a full review of CES and analysing whether any of my predictions actually become a (virtual) reality.

Steve Blakeman

Steve Blakeman is the Global Media Lead - Nestlé at Mindshare. Previously, he was the Managing Director - Global Accounts, OMD Europe. Previously, he was the CEO, Asia Pacific – OMD. Prior to that, he was Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). He has also had stints as worked as Managing Partner at Omnicom Media Group owned media agency, PHD where he successfully launched their second office in the UK. He began his career at JWT and has over two decades of experience in advertising, media and marketing communications.