What to Watch Out for at CES 2018
I am what you might call a seasoned veteran of CES. I started going in 1976, and have since attended dozens of shows. More than 180,000 people are expected to descend on Las Vegas next week because CES is the go-to show to learn about what's new in tech and the major trends for the coming year. Here's what I expect to see as I roam the show floor, all 2.5 million net square feet of it.
Smart cars and autonomous vehicles
The auto industry has been represented at CES for decades but more in the form of add-on sound systems, in-car entertainment systems and navigational products. But CES has now become the place for many auto companies to showcase smart cars and autonomous vehicle technology.
Ford CEO Jim Hackett, for example, will deliver a keynote on Tuesday morning, during which he is expected to lay out the company's vision for smart cars and autonomous vehicles. But all told, there will be at least 15 other car makers on the show floor or in private suites talking about how they plan to drive the future of the automobile.
VR, AR and mixed reality everywhere
At CES 2014, a prototype VR headset from Oculus VR was one of the major draws. Since then, Oculus was acquired by Facebook, HTC introduced Vive, Sony debuted the Playstation VR, and Samsung started selling the Gear VR.
However, VR so far has focused on games. In the enterprise, it is targeted at vertical apps that bring VR to things like real estate listings, travel and many other visually driven business disciplines.
This year, the Magic Leap AR goggles will be the talk of the show, even though they are not expected to be showing the device at CES. Magic Leap has attracted over $1 billion of investment to create what they believe will be the definitive AR googles of the future.
But keep your eyes on the Lenovo Mirage AR headset, which was bundled with Star Wars: Jedi Challenge, an augmented reality game created with Disney. It uses the smartphone but overlays the action on your environment; I fought Darth Vader in my living room, for example. But this is a low-cost way to deliver mixed reality in more immersive ways.
8K is on the horizon
4K or HDR TVs were a hot topic at the last three shows, and they will be popular again in 2018. 4K TVs are now more affordable and anyone upgrading their TV should should consider the technology, even though 4K content has been slow to roll out. But roll out it has, and 4K programs will be more plentiful in 2018.
CES will also have at least five TV vendors showing off "8K" TVs. The goal is to start moving people to 8K by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which will be shot in 8K. By early 2020-2021, the TV industry wants to move consumers over to 8K in earnest.
But two other types of TV designs will be at CES: wallpaper TVs and picture frame TVs. Samsung has done a lot of research and has found that for some demographics, the idea of having a large TV in its current form factor does not fit into the asthetics of the home. So it created the Frame TV, which delivers a flat, ultra-thin TV in a picture frame but can also be used to display digital art. Special sensors light the picture so that it resembles what you might see in a museum.
Last year, LG showed off its wallpaper TV, which is so thin it looks like it's part of the wall. LG will show an updated version at CES and, along with Samsung, push the idea of the TV blending with a room's decor.
IoT and AI everywhere
The Internet of Things (IoT) will be represented in just about every product shown in one form or another. Everything from wearables and health products to appliances and vehicles will connect to the web.
This year, I have seen dozens of pre-CES announcements about IoT-based health and wellness devices. CES has these types of products in dedicated zones now, and if you are going to the show check out this CES zone chart to see where these types of products will be on the show floor.
The big addition to CES this year will be artificial intelligence. Most vendors are applying AI features to all they do, so expect this theme to be rampant and overused at CES.
Everything has a voice
Voice is emerging as the next big evolution in man-to-machine interfaces. While Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana and the Google Assistant have made great strides in delivering voice through PCs, tablets and smartphones, voice-based smart speakers are bringing voice into the home in new ways. But at the show, we will see voice-enabled refrigerators, toilets and many other devices that do not have screens but can benefit from voice for navigation purposes.
All the rest
Corning, which last year showed off how smart glass could impact the future design of automobiles, will be showing off a new level of 3D sensing in glass that could allow OEMs to use glass in more creative ways. It will start in mobile devices, but Corning will also be showing a bigger vision for use in smart homes, smart appliances and automobiles.
Given the amount of invites I have received about personal robots, I expect to see quite a few on the show floor. Some are task-oriented such as robot vacuums and robotic coffee makers, but some are small robots that follow you around and act as a type of personal assistant.
Also hot will be personal transportation devices like hoverboards and different variations on the idea of giving people new forms of personal electronic transportation options. And we should see dozens of new drones introduced that target business and consumers.
As a techie, this is my candy store. PCMag will have a top-notch team at CES, so check back during the show to keep up with all of the important announcements from the show. I will also be tweeting from the show so check out @Bajarin for my CES discoveries and commentary.