The biggest tech show in the world has kicked off in Las Vegas and gadget fans are getting very excited indeed.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 is expected to draw more than 170,000 people to see 4,000 exhibitors showcase their wares over the equivalent of nearly 50 football fields.
Press previews began yesterday, but the public will be let in on Tuesday.
Some of the hottest gadgets right now are voice-controlled smart speakers with digital assistants, such as the Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple’s upcoming HomePod.
Manufacturers are expected to unveil even more voice-controlled devices using Amazon and Google’s technology, meaning that you could soon be able to boss about kitchen appliances, washing machines and all sorts of other devices.
So what else can we expect to see at CES 2018?
Computers that learn your preferences and anticipate your needs are no longer the stuff of science fiction.
Consumers are seeing practical applications in voice-assisted speakers such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. These systems will get more useful as manufacturers design new ways to control their products with voice commands.
You might also see hints of where AI is heading. Steve Koenig, senior director of market research at CES organizer Consumer Technology Association, said that as more people use these AI systems, companies have more data to better train the machines.
Car makers will also demonstrate self-driving vehicles propelled by AI.
CES is increasing the space dedicated to self-driving technologies by more than a third this year.
Startups are also expected to unveil earphones that promise real-time translations of conversations in different languages, much as Google’s Pixel Buds now do for its Pixel phones.
There are also conference sessions devoted to high-tech retailing, including the importance of collecting and analyzing data on customers.
Cars, lights, washing machines and other everyday items are now being fitted with internet connections.
As more devices get connected, there’s greater concern for security. We’ll likely see more products and services designed to protect these smart-home devices from hacking.
Beyond that, companies will showcase the potential of smartening up entire cities so that maintenance crews can remotely detect roads needing repairs, and motorists can view and reserve parking spaces ahead of time. Better yet, how about traffic lights that aren’t set with timers, but reflect actual traffic and pedestrian flows?
For the first time, CES has an area devoted to smart cities, with more than 40 companies set to exhibit.
The smart-cities concept has been making the rounds at several tech shows, but what remains unanswered is when it will actually begin happening – and who will pay for it.
Samsung, LG and other manufacturers typically announce their TV lineups for the year at CES – and some of them are expected to be voice activated.
Don’t expect new iPhones or flagship Galaxy models, because Apple and Samsung typically announce those at their own events.
But CES is the place for less-known and lower-cost Android phones, along with tablets, laptops and other personal computers, not to mention storage drives and other accessories.
There will also be virtual-reality and augmented-reality technologies, some aimed at sports fans who want to feel they’re part of the game.
And while a few companies like Apple and Fitbit are currently dominant in wearable devices, many startups are eager to challenge them with new approaches for tracking fitness and medical issues.
There should also be no shortage of flying drones overhead and scurrying robots underfoot. There will even be a robot that folds your laundry at a snail’s pace of one shirt every two minutes.
Behind the scenes
Although CES is about consumer electronics, shoppers may never actually see many of the technologies on display. N
Network equipment makers, for instance, might use the show to display technologies for next-generation 5G wireless networks, which promise to be much faster than the existing 4G LTE. Phones that can take advantage of 5G won’t be around for a few more years.
Gary Shapiro, the head of the Consumer Technology Association, said that given the changing nature of technology, about a third of CES is now about back-end business deals rather than direct-to-consumer products.
‘Twenty years ago, people bought products sold at retail stores in very defined categories,’ he said.
‘Now every company and business defines itself as a tech company.’