A look into the
future at CES
-By Aaron J. Cunningham
The CES Festival took place in Las Vegas from January 7th to 10th, but if you’re interested in the latest advances in consumer technology, then you already knew that. The four-day event attracts the world’s business leaders and most innovative thinkers. From flying cars to Artificial Intelligence (AI) assistants and smart windows to robot suitcases, this year did not disappoint.
Will you be taking a flying car to work soon?
As kids, many of us read sci-fi books and dreamt of a not-too-distant future where everyone would have a flying car. So, now that we are in that future, where are our flying cars? Well, maybe the little kid in you is closer than you think to taking a ride in that flying car.
Uber has partnered with Bell, not the phone company but the aviation company, to create the Nexus. During CES, they showed off the second-stage prototype of their flying car that they plan to begin testing in 2020. The full-scale model at CES claims it will have the ability to fly up to five people over 240km at a speed of 240km/h on a single charge. Initially, the product will be aimed at executives who want to fly across the city and avoid traffic jams, perhaps one day replacing the corporate helicopter, then eventually making its way down to the rest of us.
While the prototype on display at CES did not actually fly, it is being taken very seriously by industry insiders. Why? Because Bell has a long-standing track record with aviation and is currently employed by the military to design the propulsion technology behind the V-22 Osprey, one of the military’s most advanced (and expensive) helicopters.
A new take on first responder vehicles
Hyundai revealed the Elevate, their vision of a wildly futuristic vehicle that has four wheels and four legs. The vehicle was designed specifically for first responders that need to navigate through difficult terrain.
A concept rendering showed the Elevate assisting a person in a wheelchair up the steps and into their home. The Elevate shows what is possible if robotics and self-driving technologies combine in the right way.
AI assistants see a major move towards mass adoption
So, now that you may soon have your flying car, where’s your robot butler? They’re already here – well, sort of. AI digital voice assistants have seen a major move toward widespread adoption.
Google claims that four times more people are using Google Assistant, with over one billion active Google Assistant devices. So far, the two biggest players in AI assistants are Google and Amazon, with Apple following closely behind.
During CES, Samsung threw their hat into the AI ring, with their new AI assistant Bixby. They also revealed four new robots designed to help with various tasks. Samsung brought one of these robots, the Samsung Bot Care, on stage to demonstrate its health-tracking capabilities.
“It’s a partner for everyday tasks to help keep you healthy,” according to Gary Lee, Samsung Senior Vice President and head of the company’s AI efforts. “Family members… can check on your well-being even from far away.”
Samsung also revealed a retail robot that allows you to order and pay for food, as well as delivering it, which would be perfect for food courts. They also revealed some exoskeleton mobility suits, which could help elderly or disabled people who have mobility issues. The exoskeletons can drastically reduce the effort it takes to walk or climb stairs.
TVs of the future
From displays that spanned entire walls to interactive projections, CES was chock-full of ways we might see our content in the future. LG definitely stole the show at CES with its flexible OLED screens that they showcased on the small-scale TV, which expand and retract from a sleek bass. They also created, on the large scale, a massive installation called the LG OLED Falls, a 6m tall x 20m wide display made up of 260 flax, convex, and concave screens.
Another standout product at CES was Samsung’s The Wall, a new way to create displays out of modular microLED tiles that can be installed onto any surface in any size, shape, or orientation. Imagine a world were instead of buying a bigger TV, home owners can buy a few more microLED tiles to add onto their existing units.
Smart windows help us see the future
EMD Performance Materials showcased some amazing new glass. Their smart windows are made with liquid crystal, the same material that makes the LCD screen on your phone and most TVs. The windows can instantly change their opacity, with just a tiny zap of electricity. Quickly adjusting tint could help homeowners save on heating and air conditioning costs, while another minor adjustment could make the windows white, allowing for total privacy.
R2-D2-like robot suitcases
Perhaps this next invention won’t have the most profound effect on our society, but it was definitely one of the most charming and coolest new pieces of tech showcased at CES. The Rover Speed smart luggage autonomously follows its owner around the airport or down the street. Its handle is equipped with a camera and AI system that can identify you and follow you as you walk around. If you travel a lot and get lonely, maybe this new robot luggage can keep you company as it buzzes behind you at the airport.