CES in Review

The dust is settling, the power is back on, and presumably, Las Vegas is starting to dry out. As CES comes to an end, it’s time to review of few of the more quirky highlights that we saw, or what we didn’t see. So settle in a enjoy our different perspective on the CES highlights.

Blockchain, AI, VR and other buzzwords

I entered the vast halls of CES prepared for a barrage of cliches and buzzwords. And they were there (AI in a toothbrush anyone?) but in much smaller amounts than I was expecting. The vendors all seemed to have resisted to obvious temptation to claim that their product was founded on artificial intelligence, and secured through blockchain. And, for that, I thank them all. I know, in Vegas of all places, it must have been truly difficult to take the high-road..

Hey Google!

CES 2017 was Alexa’s event, and it was clear that Google was not going to allow that to happen again. Hey Google! marketing blanketed many parts of the city for the week, reminding us all that Alexa is hardly the only voice in town. Indeed, far from it: while the buzzwords were avoided this year, many OEMs were keen to claim that they too had a voice assistant worthy of room in you house. Sure… but Google announced that it has sold one assistant per SECOND since it launched the Home Mini on October 19, so between Amazon and Google the market may not have much more space for the smaller guys. Not everything went Google’s way though: the Tuesday storm flooded out the Google tent at CES which dampened (yes, we went there) some customer enthusiasm.

One well placed rant

Huawei stole the show when Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer division, came to the end of his teleprompter script but clearly had much more to say. He had probably been hoping to use the CES event to announce a new handset partnership with AT&T, but that deal was killed at the eleventh hour. The rumor mill claims the deal was killed due to “security concerns.” As Mr Yu pointed out, the rest of the world has moved on and, frankly, Huawei seems to be killing it in Europe. The net result is that the third largest handset vendor in the world still does not have a carrier foothold in the US, although there is the possibility that Verizon will step in where AT&T flinched. We hope so. Otherwise, expect Huawei to keep pushing, but through the unlocked market. Ignoring Huawei may be a risky strategy for the US carriers: as the unlocked market grows in the US, the marketing weight of a major player such as Huawei could help to tip the balance of power away from the carriers. AT&T may have just started the OEM revolution.

The robot uprising has begun

LG unveiled its new consumer robot during a keynote, but all did not go according to plan. CLOi quickly decided that the questions being asked of “her” were not worth answering. Perhaps it was a technical glitch, or perhaps CLOi’s AI innards decided that questions such as “am I ready on my washer cycle” and “what’s for dinner tonight” did not sit well with her self-taught feminist beliefs. She even had the demeanor down, as she refused to even look at the presenter while the questions were asked. Vive la revolution CLOi.

Not all robots were feisty

My favorite robot of the show didn’t do very much at all. Rather than trying to take over the world, the sleep robot, made by Somnox, is designed to help you sleep at night. The pillow-sized device “breathes” as you hold it close, helping you to focus on relaxing and taking your mind of the day full of trouble you no-doubt just left behind. And if the breathing doesn’t work on its own, the robot can stream music, or political speeches… whatever gets you drowsy.

Time for a new body?

Psychasec was showing off its ability to upload your consciousness into a new body (a “sleeve”) because, as their tag line said, “no body lasts forever.” The theory is that death is simply an inconvenience that can be overcome. Sound far fetched? Well, it is, and kudos to Netflix for the booth, which was to promote the new Netflix original, Altered Carbon, due out in early February. This near-future science fiction story, based on the book by Richard K Morgan, is a perfect fit for the CES audience. Or perhaps not, as many show-goers seemed a little freaked out by the concept, not realizing it just a movie promo. Perhaps we are not quite ready for the concept yet… but watch the movie anyway. The book was exceptional and it’s about time someone took up the movie option. So kudos to Netflix for picking it up, and for the outrageous marketing stunt.