A promising 50th CES 2017

The displays have powered off and the 50th anniversary show of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is done. As always, manufacturers pulled out all the stops to showcase the most outlandish products possible, some of which will hit stores in the near future, while others will remain proof of our engineering and manufacturing prowess. Here are some of the products showcased at CES that caught our eye.

Self-driving tech is coming – fast

NVIDIA has been busy doing more than making gaming video cards. It has been working closely with Audi for a self-driving technology, and brought some toys along. Audi’s self-driving tech is intelligent enough to learn and adapt to new situations and take action seamlessly, such as detect obstacles and detours. Mercedes was not far behind either, demoing a self-driving that also taps into map data to orient itself with its surroundings. On the motorcycle side of things, Honda had the next best thing to self driving — a self-balancing motorcycle that can follow its owner around at slow speeds.

The other big highlight was Faraday Future, a company that has been making big promises and garnering criticism for under-delivering. This year, it finally had a working prototype to show — the FF91, which aims to fuse cutting-edge technology in the cabin with advanced self-driving ability.

The company showed the car’s ability to accelerate from 0-60mph in about 2.3 seconds, and drive around a parking lot and park in an empty slot by itself.

Whether we see an FF91 hit the roads remains to be seen, as Faraday Future is mired in controversy about top employees leaving and poor financial management.

The TV is getting thinner, again

If you were born in the last millennium, you’ve already gone through one stage of bewilderment as television viewing went from clunky CRT boxes to sleek LED panels. It’s time for another phase.

Sony finally caught up to the benefits of LG-developed OLED technology, and licensed it to make its first TV that uses it — the wafer-thin A1E series.

While this is impressive in its own right, Panasonic went and converted a window into a television, and Chinese manufacturer Hisense opted to develop a projector and screen combination to replace the big screen TV.

However, the star was LG again, with its W7 ‘wallpaper’ TV, a super-thin panel that can literally be stuck to or peeled off a wall. It’s even set to be available for purchase soon, if you have 8,000 dollars.

Portable gaming gets a boost

If you’ve got over 8,000 dollars lying around, an update to your gaming set-up might be in order. Two of the most outlandish products at CES were laptops with spec sheets so powerful they might be from Krypton.

Razer, which already make the powerful Blade Pro gaming laptop, decided one screen was too less and debuted Project Valerie, a souped-up version of the Pro with three retractable 4K screens.

Not to be outdone, Acer, which has been hard at work on portable devices, has updated the Predator series with the Predator 21X, complete with two full desktop-grade NVIDIA GTX 1080 video cards, a 21-inch curved display, full mechanical keyboard and eye-tracking technology. All this for a paltry 9,000 dollars.

Honourable mentions

Smartphones and wearables were in a downtrend at CES, which is not unwelcome because other devices get to shine. The one ‘wearable’ that did get some attention was a compact breast pump developed by Willow. The small machine does not require a connection to an external pump and also can be worn underneath clothing so the wearer does not have to undress, allowing greater freedom even in the early stages of motherhood.

Virtual assistants were also everywhere. Amazon’s Alexa has been dominating the home integration space, with Google playing catch up as its Assistant slowly expands to cars and newer generation smartwatches.

BMW was present at the show too, and it thought ahead of the self-driving race by focussing on what drivers can do while a car drives itself.

The company brought along a car cockpit with a holographic interface that helps take video calls, transcribes text from calls and automatically pulls up suggested actions based on the context of the conversation.

All considered, it was a pretty good 50th year for the show. Mobiles and conventional wearables have become passé at such events, and attendees did well to bring their best and most outlandish designs for the future to the show. A future that may, at first glance, look eye-wateringly expensive but promises unlimited innovation.

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