Last week, thousands of people descended on Las Vegas, Nevada. And no, it was not just a typical week for the sixth most visited city in the United States. The annual International Consumer Electronics Show was held in Sin City from January 6 – 9, 2015 debuting products and prototypes poised to change the future of electronics and the way you use them in your day-to-day life.
For those unfamiliar with the tradeshow, it is the largest consumer electronics event boasting 3,600 exhibits and 170,000 attendees. The show covers two million net square feet of physical exhibit space in three hangar-sized convention centers, officially named Tech East, Tech West, and C Space, spread out along the Strip. The show has as much flash, bravado and fun to match its host city, with its dizzyingly bright big screen televisions, robotics and automation displays, futuristic cars and more. Read on to see what the big hits were at this year’s CES.
Whether or not you attended CES 2015, it’s likely you noticed its effects: websites, news outlets and your Twitter feed probably buzzed about the latest in television technology—4K TVs, also known as UHD (Ultra High Definition) TVs. Every year, the television industry presents a “must have” new design in hopes of inspiring consumers to change out their TVtvs as often as they do their mobile phones. This year was no different. In recent years, the push was toward 3D display and curved screens, but trumping all of that is the much talked about 4K technology,
What prevented the success of previous trends, in part, was the lack of programming in corresponding format. 4K technology might actually stand a chance of becoming mainstream with the commitment to 4K content by Netflix, Disney, Warner Brothers and other studios. Netflix has also promised upcoming lists of approved devices that will be compatible with or optimized for their 4K streaming service. This reveals the mutually beneficial and influential relationship between companies manufacturing streaming devices and those streaming content, and shows how those relationships affect what services and devices you purchase as a consumer.
Molly Wood from NYTimes Bits writes in her roundup of 4K television, “Sony’s new Bravia 4K TVs will include one series with an extra thin design, and all of them, the company says, will be able to upscale — or digitally improve — the image of standard HDTV so that even non-4K content looks good on its sets.” This bodes well for those looking to upgrade, but fear the loss of quality in watching non-4K content. From device giants, Samsung, Wood also tells us about what to expect: “Samsung, which said it holds more than 60 percent of the ultrahigh definition market, had some new machines of its own. The company also said its Internet-connected TVs would let Samsung smartphone users share content with their TVs.”
The discussion of improved devices and promises of compatible 4K programming leads us to another CES 2015 standout: Dish announcing a new web-based, streaming service called Sling TV. Sling will offer a monthly subscription that unbundles such cable channels as ESPN—which has never been available in a stand-alone format—Food Network, Disney Channel, CNN, HGTV, TNT, etc. for as low as $20 per month. Besides being available on Google’s Nexus, Roku and other boxes, Sling is slated to be viewable on mobile devices as well. This is a huge boon for people on-the-go, like business travelers, or those who consume most of their multimedia on their mobile phone, like millennials.
Although the specter of driverless cars passing you on the highway is not yet a reality, Mercedes’ prototype for a self-driving car debuted at CES 2015, showing the world that the technology is there. The concept car looks like a slick passenger pod with enough leg room to satisfy even the tallest of riders. By introducing a self-driving car, the automotive industry reveals a shift in focus and experience away from driving towards an emphasis on social interactions among passengers and any activities riders would rather be doing, like resting, listening to music, or working. Mercedes considers the concept car a potential “mobile living space.” With this debut, the idea of connecting your self-driving car mileage to your Concur account may be in the not-so-distant future. Before then, we can look forward to integrations that capture your mileage and car expenses while on the road like the prototype app, Trace, which pulls your driving data from the dashboard and sync with your Concur account.
Until we see the introduction of driverless cars to the mass market, you will have to make do with advances in the automotive industry designed to improve your driving experience safely. Although most new vehicles these days are equipped with touch screens, German car manufacturers back in the 90s chose the route of multifunction controllers for features like adjusting the radio, answering a Bluetooth telephone call, etc. Removing complex knob functions, this year’s CES saw car companies introduce gesture control technology. Gesturing to lower the volume on a song, for example, removes the need to look at a touchscreen, improving safety by keeping your eyes on the road.
Since the premiere of The Jetsons cartoon in the 1960s, people have imagined a world of personal robots helping us to complete mundane tasks. Attempting to deliver on this vision, CES delivers a litany of automatons year after year, most only serving as dancing toys or glorified shopping carts with few able to fulfill our fantasies of having a humanoid robot, like Rosie, of our own. Toshiba’s android hostess is taking us closer, but we’re waiting on the Honda ASIMO, which originally debuted in the US in 2002, to be able to do more than hop, run and slowly serve drinks, before we make a purchase.
One of the most exciting things at CES 2015 was the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset prototype named Crescent Bay. Oculus has premiered VR headsets before, but after being purchased by Facebook, Oculus was able to expand its team of engineers from 50 to 250 and invest in improvements in quality before these VR headsets are mass-produced and shipped.Crescent Bay’s special audio updates take the virtual reality experience to the next level. Brendan Iribe, Oculus CEO, said, “Regular surround sound, 5.1 surround sound, is really a 2D plane where the sound can travel around you, but you can’t tell if something is below or above. In VR 3D audio, 3D surround, you can hear something that could be coming from the ceiling, you can hear something on the ground. It really, truly, is spatialized audio. When you tie it all together […] it’s a pretty magical experience.” This sounds like music to our ears. What were your favorite innovations from CES 2015? Share with us in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.