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It’s that time of year again: A crowd of journalists catering to fans of high tech gathers every year in early January in the gamblers’ mecca of Nevada to take a look at the latest technological achievements of the consumer electronics industry and related fields. And I was there to cover the event for you, right in the midst of it!
This was my twelfth CES, and I really had to think for a long time about how I could best convey to you the excitement of this crazy show. Of course I’ve got my Daimler hat on, and that’s the reason why I went to Las Vegas in the first place — to sing the praises of the truckies’ presentation, the debut of the Level 2 Cascadia, and the launch of the new Mercedes-Benz CLA into the digital world. And honestly and sincerely, my colleagues from Daimler really did a sensational job.
But first, let’s take a moment to look at CES from a different perspective. Let’s put aside the Group’s viewpoint and put our tech blogger hat on instead. Back to the roots!
These are my 5 Top trends for 2019:
1. The robots aren’t coming — they’re already here!
Visitors strolling through the halls of this year’s trade fair saw all kinds of robots for the smart house, the smart garden, the smart swimming pool… I can’t even list all the other things we want to smarten up. It’s no longer possible to avoid robots wherever you look.
But the big difference between this years’ show and last year’s is that now the solutions that are being offered don’t merely look cool at the manufacturers’ stands and attract throngs of visitors — they are genuinely useful. In fact, they’re so useful that I can even imagine supplementing my vacuum cleaner robot with additional models.
In this connection I’d like to mention Samsung from South Korea. The products this company is presenting at its stand don’t just represent a completely new level — they’ve got real substance!
For example, the Samsung Air Bot moves through the various rooms of an apartment, measures the air quality there, and cleans the air if the measurement goes over a certain value. I have allergies, and for that reason I’ve already set up two “air filters” in my apartment. One is in my living room, the other one is in the bedroom. The Air Bot could really take over this job in all the rooms!
Another robot, the Samsung Bot Care, could be used in hospitals and care facilities. Among other things, it can measure people’s blood pressure and heart rate.
Last but not least, there’s the Samsung Bot Retail, which can provide information in stores and in other places via its “touchscreen face.” It could also be used in restaurants to accept orders, serve food, and handle payments.
I could give you over a dozen more examples (including the Elli-Q and the Temi), but instead I’ve just got to tell you very clearly that I’m impressed by the breadth of Samsung’s vision and its unfailing focus on the customer. In my opinion, it’s definitely the leader of the pack!
2. A language assistant is (almost) indispensable
Here’s a general question: How many of you have a smartphone? That’s what I thought… That means you’ve got a language assistant such as Siri or the Google Assistant. If you also have Amazon Echo or Google Home, you’ve also got a language assistant within your own four walls. And if you’ve ever sat in the new A-Class with MBUX and launched a conversation with “Hey Mercedes,” you’ll know exactly why we’ve invested so much time and effort in these technologies.
These “smart” little helpers are now everywhere. I too have completely connected my apartment — or at least, all of my lamps, together with a language assistant. Every morning, it wakes me with pleasant “sunrise lighting” and a soundtrack of meditative background music. It reads to me the latest news stories from the major news stations to me, and it reminds me of important appointments. When I leave my apartment, I say, “Okay Google, I’m heading out,” and it promptly puts out all the lights and turns on the air filters (if necessary) and the vacuum cleaner robot.
Friends, I live alone and I tend to forget things like these. I don’t have, or want, even the beginnings of an emotional relationship with these digital helpers, but I’m extremely grateful for their services.
I do have to say that at the CES this trend was slowly but surely being pushed to new extremes that I couldn’t really relate to. By now I’m used to high-tech toilets from my visits to Asia, but I really don’t understand why I should need a language assistant for using one in the future. The assistant can manage the lighting, heat the toilet seat, and provide ambient sound — just imagine:
Alexa, please play the ‘Ode to Joy’ when I’m finished and then flush.
Ovens, washing machines, door locks — even showers can be controlled by means of language assistants. We’re getting ever closer to a “Star Trek” scenario like the following one.
Kirk: “Computer, which functions are you programmed for?”
Computer: “All of them!”
3. Displays, monitors and TVs that fulfill your dreams
“Don’t sit all day in front of the boob tube, boy! You need to get out into the fresh air!” Of course my beloved grandmother was right. She wanted only the best for me. When I was a kid, I loved to hang out with my C64, playing the latest games and splicing together demos using simple sequencer sounds and sprite animations.
The things that fascinated me back then on “my” first black-and-white TV would have completely blown my mind with today’s display technology. I’m full of enthusiasm, amazement, surprise!
The hardware that is presented by manufacturers at CES is absolutely breathtaking. And once again, I only have praise for the display industry from South Korea. LG and Samsung simply know what they’re doing.
LG Electronics’ “OLED Canyon” is nothing more and nothing less than the wildest visual experience I can imagine. It’s a kind of display canyon that shows content in 4k resolution. My friends, after that, the real world in Las Vegas, which is gray and actually just as artificial, looks a lot more boring. It’s insane, absolutely insane — and once again it demonstrates just how much we’re influenced by our visual impressions.
Once again, Samsung presented “The Wall,” its dream factory platform with 8K resolution. You stand before it without being able to figure it out. What’s happening in front of me, and can I touch it? I made a photo with my smartphone from the appropriate distance… and yet you can really see every single detail of the astronaut. Awesome!
I was equally impressed by “The Frame,” and in fact I now definitely know what I’m going to buy and set up in my apartment: displays of various sizes that look like pictures.
What else was there to see?
I really could have gone on to check out all of the AI, VR, drone, and gaming presentations, but I won’t go into detail about them in this blog. Sorry! It’s true that today there are drones for every purpose. Even “drone bikes” for the police force in Dubai were on display. However, I didn’t find any genuine innovations here, and the products simply didn’t interest me personally. I apologize for my subjective impressions. But I do have two highlights for you:
4. The foldable smartphone
Back in 2010, at the Display Show in Tokyo, I made an extensive video of the flexible OLED displays I saw there. By now foldable smartphones have reached the series production stage. However, I’m wondering whether anyone really wants to be the first manufacturer to launch them on the market.
The Royole Flexpai is rushing to be ahead of this much-discussed trend and showing what this kind of handset could look like.
Forgive me for not going on and on about the typical smartphone specifications and instead focusing on the “foldability” of the display. Judging from the technology’s current state of development, I don’t think it has really reached maturity. The samples at the stand clearly showed many signs of use, and as soon as you fold up the phone it’s as unwieldy as a Nokia Energy from the 1990s.
5. Whose idea was this, anyway?
Last but not least, here’s my WTF?! discovery at the trade fair. Who on earth came up with this concept? I’m a total fan of the chindogu (“wacky tool”) movement from Japan, which has come up with the craziest imaginable gadgets in recent decades (I’ll never forget the spaghetti fork with a crank for rolling up the spaghetti). But a mobile mixer combined with a Bluetooth speaker and a powerbank that you can use to charge your smartphone — could anyone possibly top that?
CES — I’m hooked on it!
And that concludes my review of the Consumer Electronic Show of 2019. I’d like to end by agreeing with Alexander Gerst’s comment that one’s own perspective will always be incomplete.
I can’t visit every producer’s stand, browse through every hall or try out every gadget. Instead, I always plan to thoroughly investigate two or three major trends, find out how the market leaders are reacting to them, and then spend at least half a day in one of the “anything goes” halls. I also look at the unknown tinkerers and designers, who often give you an overview of potential markets of the future.
After spending over a week in Las Vegas, I’m usually so exhausted that I’ve told myself at least ten times that next year I just have to slow down my pace. But no, I can’t really do that — I can’t do without CES. I simply need this sensory overload. But I also need to follow it up with fifty-two weeks of recovery, until January 2020 rolls around and I once again hear the words “Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas!”
P.S.: You can find all of our notifications on the Daimler CES Hub!