By: Aaron Hoberman
Every January, tech companies from around the world gather at the Las Vegas Convention Center to show off the latest they have to offer at the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES. You’ll see some typical products like new computers, phones, audio and networking gear, as well as pretty crazy concepts like a 146-inch MicroLED TV or companion robots that can play, and probably beat you, in Scrabble.
Though there are a ton of different specialty conferences held throughout the year such as Google I/O, Adobe Summit, E3, or one of the handful of conferences Apple holds throughout the year, there’s something awesome about seeing all of the companies come together (yes, we all saw your billboard, Apple, even though you weren’t actually there) and showcasing a vast array of products.
So every January when CES rolls around, I get excited. I want to see what new products I need to have, or find out how the overlords at Facebook and Amazon have found another way to get even more information about me. Did you know that in 2016 Samsung partnered with Amazon to make a fridge that can see what you have inside? So when you think you won’t order food through Prime Now, go to Whole Foods, or use your Amazon credit card at Shoprite, that Amazon will still be able to figure out what you have in your fridge directly through photos, assuming they didn’t overhear you through your phone microphone while you were in the store deciding whether to get 2 or 3 packages of Oreos (3, obviously).
I don’t really mind though, I love the new technology and somehow I always convince myself that I need it. CES 2019 was no different, so let’s get into the top 5 things I was excited about at the show.
5. Google Assistant
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Smart assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google are available in pretty much in every product. Amazon recently released an Alexa powered microwave. But I find the upgrades that Google announced at CES particularly exciting.
First off, Google Assistant coming to Google Maps. This is something that was supposed to release last summer, but it’s finally here. Through Google Maps, you’ll be able to control navigation, respond to texts, get info, and more, all hands-free. Using an Android device gives you more functionality than an iOS device, which is to be expected, but the features are still great. As an iPhone user who uses Google Assistant frequently through my headphones, this is a welcome inclusion. In my experience, Google Assistant is much better than Siri.
To me, the bigger news is Google Assistant’s new interpreter mode. Previously, this was something that worked if you had Google Pixel Buds and a Google Pixel 2 or higher, but to see this tech getting better and expanding onto other devices is a big step forward. It’s currently being piloted at select hotels in Las Vegas, San Francisco and New York City on Google Home devices, but there are plans for expansion to phones and other smart devices.
It may not be something I’ll use on a daily basis, but it will give me peace of mind when traveling to unfamiliar places that I’ll be able to communicate at least somewhat well, hopefully.
4. Omron HeartGuide Smartwatch
Wearables are becoming more and more popular in today’s world, and for good reason. Whether you’re sporting an Apple Watch because you want all of your notifications or you’re wearing a Fitbit for some extra motivation to get in those steps and be active, there are many reasons you would want a wearable.
Personally, I got a Fitbit last summer, and it has definitely had a positive impact on my life. I don’t always hit my step goal, but you better believe that I’m walking around my apartment at the end of some nights trying to win the Workweek Hustle against my friends. It’s also allowed me to see how
CES showed off a lot of great health tech, but I wanted to give a specific shout out to what I saw about the Omron HeartGuide Smartwatch. Luckily, I don’t struggle with any heart problems, but I know some people who do, and if the Omron HeartGuide works as it’s intended to, it could be a game changer.
The band on the smartwatch will inflate so that it can take your blood pressure whenever you need. As with most other smartwatches, it will also track your steps and sleep, and can even be set up to take readings overnight to track potential health risks. All of the information gathered by the HeartGuide will be sent to an app on your phone, and can easily be shared with a doctor to provide critical information about your health over time that could help treat issues better in the long run.
I hope that I don’t have to buy one of these for myself someday, but I know how important this can be for the people who really need it.
“TVs? Really?” Had you come to me a few years ago and asked what we would be talking about at CES 2019, I probably wouldn’t have thought that TVs would be near the top of my list. 4K and HDR are just now becoming the standard in new TVs, and thankfully, those TVs are now actually somewhat affordable. OLED TVs are starting to come down in price a bit, but those are still a luxury item.
So why am I talking about TVs, you ask? Because 8K TVs are coming, and while they may not be mainstream for another few years, I can’t wait to see what this will look like.
Last year I got myself a 65” LG OLED TV, and it has not disappointed at all. The picture is crystal clear, the colors are vibrant, the lighting is terrific, and watching Planet Earth 2 in 4K HDR might have actually changed my life.
Can it get better? Apparently so. Though you’ll probably need a screen that is 88” or larger to really see the difference between 4K and 8K resolution, it’s nice to imagine that one day with technological advances that it might actually be affordable. Finding space for it may not be as easy, sorry Marie Kondo.
You know what Marie Kondo would approve of though, specifically when talking about huge TVs? LG's new OLED R series Rollable TV. No need to adjust your screen, you read that correctly. The TV screen rolls in and out of a cabinet that houses all of the ports and speakers. Do you want to watch the last season of Game of Thrones? The screen will roll up for your viewing pleasure. Done with the show and you want to curl up in a ball and listen to The Sound of Silence because you realize there are only 6 episodes left? The TV will compact and roll down so you can listen through the Dolby speakers. There’s even a third option to partially open the TV so you can get the time and weather with some ambient noise and lighting (you’ll have access to the main dashboard and music menu here as well).
I can’t wait until my home is literally a movie theater with a 50-foot screen, but until then, I guess these upgrades will suffice.
2. Virtual Reality (VR)
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Though VR headsets are not quite in the mainstream yet, and I’m hoping that will change sooner rather than later, the technology is quite remarkable.
There are a bunch cheaper headsets available on the market today such as Google Cardboard, Google Daydream View, and Samsung Gear VR, that can wet the pallet for anyone interested in VR, the larger, more immersive experiences require some more powerful hardware.
To date, most VR experiences (that I know of) are some type of video game. A few years ago, Sony released PlayStation VR (PSVR) in an effort to incorporate the platform into its gaming offerings. While there have been some critically acclaimed titles such as Tetris Effect, Moss, and Astro Bot, you don’t generally see the larger publishing studios or designers focusing on the platform.
This untapped potential is what has me really excited about seeing new headsets announced at CES such as the HTC Vive Pro Eye or the Oculus Quest. The new HTC Vive Pro Eye is really intriguing because of it’s new eye-tracking feature, and though I don’t have hands-on experience with it, I assume it works similar to other eye tracking tech, such as being able to scroll your phone with your eyes on certain Samsung phones. It could be great for accessibility as well, where you'll be able to choose menus in a game just by looking at it, and I’m sure they’ll find a way to make experiences even more immersive.
Being a pioneer of new technology can be challenging, but rewarding. Seeing Sony work with games in VR or HTC and Oculus evolve is exciting not only for the experiences it brings now but for the potentially incredible experiences once the platform is universally accepted. Maybe we’ll be able to see what it’s really like in space with VR technology. On a smaller scale, I imagine a time where I can be sitting on my couch at home watching a concert at the Playstation Theater in NYC through my PSVR headset, rather than going to the venue. I’m not sure about you, but not leaving the house would be a victory in my book.
1. 5G Networks
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Wow, we've come so far. I remember when 3G networks were first becoming the norm in around 2007/2008, iPhone was starting to rise in popularity, smartphones started becoming the status quo, excluding Blackberry, which had already been successful for a bit. Did you know that 3G networks originated in 2001?
Now, in 2019, 5G is starting to be thrown around a lot more. According to Intel, the upgrade from 3G to 4G was mostly about speed, but 5G “will bring more powerful wireless networks that connect ‘things’ to each other, to people and to the cloud.”
Many companies were very high on 5G at CES, with Samsung planning on bringing new phones to Verizon and AT&T sometime in 2019. Though it is real, it’s only in its infancy stages, and you probably won’t start to fully reap the benefits and see it more commonplace for a few years.
Even with that information, it’s nice to see 5G go from just a buzzword to being implemented in actual product. With the technology we use constantly evolving and needing more power, 5G can be the backbone that drives the products we use every single day. You might soon be able to download an entire season of your favorite show in a minute or two, how great is that?
My biggest takeaway from CES this year, and really every year, is that the best is yet to come. VR is great, but there are so many opportunities for it to be groundbreaking. Wearable tech will most likely be influential in curing or preventing certain disease. 5G (and eventually 6G, 7G, etc.), will power the world in a way we only see in the movies and could help AI evolve to the point where smart assistants such as Siri or Alexa work flawlessly. One can dream.
But is it all a dream? There are so many other things that didn’t make my list such as self-driving cars, a snack-delivering robot, foldable phones, and more. It says a lot about the quality of products and innovation that is going on in the world. One thing is for certain, I can’t wait to see what comes next.