Thank you CES 2017, See you soon CES 2018!!!
Another CES came and went. As I always say, CES is where you go to peek into the future. Evolution of any kind, be biological, geological or technological, is a slow process. It has taken at least ten years for autonomous cars to be center stage. The technology that makes autonomous driving possible has been around for over 30 years, although starting from a primitive form. We can see that pace of development at every edition of CES.
Drones was big at CES, for no special reason other than it is a more mature market. So in order to impress us, something new needs to happen. In 2016 eHang, a Chinese company, gave us a glimpse of it. This year they had it in display again. It is an individual transport system. Basically a small cockpit for one person, with four arms to the sides. Each arm had two motors, rotating in opposite directions, for a total of eight motors. This year the real working (not at CES) unit was shown. You can see an interview at http://bit.ly/ehang184PD
There were a number of small personal “follow me” selfies drones at the show as well. As their name says they are designed to follow you around, keep a distance and be ready to take pictures. They are designed in a cage that prevents people from getting their fingers or body parts damaged by the rotors.
Intel demonstrated a Virtual Reality (VR) self contained headset, but in an effort to have all the computing on the device, they had to grow it and add VENTS to remove the heat from the system. I liked better a different approach that is basically a body computer, then you plug it to the headset and enjoy the action without being limited by a cable. That is a true wearable computer.
Virtual Reality headsets, cousin of wearables, have branched out on their own. Most of what you see is using a smartphone, but as technology has progressed, we can expect more integrated units, in smaller sizes, longer battery life, and better performance. We can also expect smarter and integrated wearables where they can communicate with other devices, read other sensorial information, process it and provide us with recommendations on what wee need to do based on its analysis.
And talking about sensorial information, the big phrase these days is Internet of Things or IOT. It is basically the proliferation of intelligence in all devices or objects adding to the increase in artificial sensorial capabilities. In the case of automobiles, one key to bring autonomous driving capabilities is the ability to see and map their surroundings. Over ten years ago it was done with devices called LIDAR, which use lasers to scan the surroundings and then prepare the data for analysis. These devices have also rode the Kurzweil curve where they now cost several thousands of dollars versus hundreds of dollars in the past, but their size and aesthetics have also become better.
Probably one of the most mundane IOT examples are common devices with enhanced sensorial, communications and control features. A good example of this is a security camera that plugs into a regular light socket. It then draws the power from the socket, and via wireless capabilities it can beam the information as well as receive control instructions from the user. Very convenient way to upgrade your home intelligence without having to tear walls down and expensive re-wiring and remodeling.
With all these sensorial information, what is an electronic device to do, but to process it and do something for you, intelligently. Some examples of these recognition and artificial intelligence applications are those that can look at you, and then allow you to put on virtual make up. This enables make up companies to test different products and combinations without the expense of putting it physically in the hands of consumers. For consumers it reduces the frustration of buying something that does not satisfies you.
And last but not least, with the combination of all the ingredients I mentioned above, what could be the natural result of all that technology salad? Think of sensors, more performance, better power from batteries, and intelligence, and your natural conclusion will be Robots. More ready to deploy robots were shown at CES. Many coming from Chinese companies, and they reported some healthy sales in China for some of the low end robots. From almost toys, to devices that stay fixed like Alexa look a likes, to fully mobile for education, entertainment or actual work such as cleaning windows. Prices range from $300 to $20,000, and they can be used to read to your children, play with them, engage with elderly and more. Be ready for a robot coming soon to a home near your.