The first-ever virtual edition of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the biggest tech exhibition in the world, is still an exciting showcase of innovations
AROUND this time every year, consumer technology communities around the world will gather in Las Vegas, the United States, for the Consumer Electronics Show, the biggest technology exhibition in the world.
Due to the pandemic and the closure of international borders, this year's CES went online from Jan 5 to 8.
As an event that set the tone for the tech industry for the year, innovations and influential insights into new products were showcased. Some are available now while others will hit the market soon.
A NEW EXPERIENCE
The digital CES this year attracted close to 2,000 exhibitors. Being online, exhibitors were able to get "up close" with the audience, which included the media, businesses and audiences around the world, and did creative presentations of their products.
While the number of exhibitors was slightly less than half of last year's 4,500, the online CES was still the biggest technology convention in virtual history.
Throughout the five days of the exhibition, attendees got to experience a highly personalised show. They were presented with the latest product launches, listened to insights from global visionaries, engaged with global brands and start-ups, chatted and met with attendees from around the globe and received recommendations based on personal preferences.
Attendees also received prompts as well as email on new products being announced based on preferences they set when registering for the event.
If a real exhibition had "information desks" and exhibition officers scattered around the exhibition halls, the online version had a live anchor desk that served as a "home base" to guide audiences through the digital experience.
Opening the show on Jan 5 was the Consumer Technology Association's chief executive officer Gary Shapiro, who gave an outlook of this year's show and how the pandemic was changing the industry.
"The pandemic forced us to take a step back from a traditional CES, throw out the playbook and transform how we'd bring the tech community together.
"CES looks different this year, but the foundation of the show — innovation, connection, collaboration — remains strong and consistent.
"The digital transformation will continue for years, even as we return to Las Vegas in 2022. We have seen the value of connecting digitally and we can welcome even more people from around the world," he said in his keynote address.
Throughout the five days of the online exhibition, attendees got to see innovations and products spanning the tech industry, from automotive to digital health, 5G, smart cities, artificial intelligence, robotics and more.
On Jan 11, the world's media had exclusive access to nearly 20 press conferences from global brands. There were sneak peeks into the trends for 2021, including a smart home with office and workout space; sustainable products for a safer future; and innovations in transportation and mobility.
ON THE 'EXHIBITION FLOOR'
Since the world is currently plagued by the Covid-19 pandemic, many new innovations revolved around health technologies.
For instance, one company, Binatone, showcased its revolutionary face mask, MaskFone, which features a wireless headphone, a built-in microphone and medical grade N95 filter using Hubble Connected's patented technology.
The mask thus provides both protection and connected convenience.
The unique product is equipped with high-quality built-in wireless earbuds with noise cancellation features to suppress background noise. Consumers can enjoy music and take phone calls without compromising on safety.
We are living in the robotic age and, as expected, a number of companies showcased how intelligent machines could play a role as companions in our day-to-day life.
Samsung, for instance, introduced a "bot" that uses AI to recognise humans and learn their habits.
The Samsung Bot Handy uses advanced AI to recognise and pick up objects of varying sizes, shapes and weights, useful in certain circumstances and chores. In essence, it becomes an extension of you, helping you with work around the house.
The robot will be able to tell the difference between various objects, utilising the appropriate amount of force to grab and move household items and objects. It is therefore able to help with house chores such as cleaning up messy rooms or sorting out the dishes after a meal.
Another innovative robot from Samsung, the JetBot 90 AI+, utilises smart technologies to optimise its cleaning route and respond to its environment.
At CES 2021, several autonomous disinfection robots were also shown as well as wearables that monitor vital signs and provide early detection for coronavirus infections.
Meanwhile, French start-up Yumii presented its Cutii companion robot, designed specifically for at-home elderly care.
Cutii is the world's first care robot developed for seniors to overcome social isolation and cognitive decline.
With an eye on the ageing population market, Yumii sees a big potential for companion robots that help the elderly in their twilight years. With its simple interface, Cutii empowers human interaction and makes day-to-day living easier.
Still on robots, France's Pollen Robotics's Reachy is an open source humanoid platform that makes robotics and AI more accessible.
With its animated antennas, Reachy is able to convey a range of emotions ranging from happy to sad to excited.
Users "see" through the robots's cameras and, using a VR device and an app, will be able to control Reachy's motions remotely.
In the wellness tech space, a company called Biohacking introduced ORB, a touchless, self-administered wellness platform. It's designed to enable users to realise personal development and wellness goals in minutes.
ORB improves body and mind performance and enhances spirit/mood through seven treatment journeys based on evidence-based wellness modalities that include neuroacoustic sound therapy, vibroacoustic therapy, aromatherapy and chromotherapy.
Transportation and smart mobility have always been crowd-pullers at CES.
From electric-powered vehicles, we now move to an interesting concept — an autonomous, electric flying cab, as shown by General Motors through its Cadillac division. It will be a single-seat, all-electric, self-contained flying vehicle.
The idea is to be able to take off from home or from the workplace to get to places easily. It is able to land even on roofs and terraces.
This drone-like flying taxi will be equipped with four rotors and a 90 kWh engine. Being completely autonomous, the passenger is free to enjoy the view or get some work done. The vehicle can also be configured to accommodate two people.
Meanwhile, Tokyo-based SkyDrive Inc showcased its vertical take-off-and-landing vehicle which is essentially a cargo drone.
The Skydrive cargo drone can be mounted on a light truck or van with a payload of 30kg. Depending on demand, this drone can be repurposed to carry more than 100kg.
At CES, Mercedes showed off its MBUX Hyperscreen, which is a 141cm high-tech screen consisting of three displays.
It features artificial intelligence, with software capable of learning. It adapts to its user and makes personalised suggestions for numerous infotainment, comfort and vehicle functions.
With the so-called zero layer, the user does not have to scroll through submenus or give voice commands to operate it.
For many electronics manufacturers, enhancing experience and comfort is paramount. One such effort involves powering the appliances wirelessly!
At CES, Russian start-up Reasonance presented one of its prototypes, a fully wireless 40-inch TV with 120W of power.
For demonstration purposes, the receiving coil was placed on the back panel instead of incorporating it inside.
The transmitting system was then placed at a distance of 50cm and it was demonstrated that any misalignment or angle change between the coil and transmitting system did not impact the wireless power transfer.
Consumers would therefore be able to move the wireless TV closer or further from a bed or sofa without any problems.
Reasonance's prototype utilises a technology that differs from all known methods of wireless power transfer.
While it is still based on classic magnetic resonance, it brings the tech to the next level.
Its selling points include high power performance, efficiency, transfer distance and design freedom.