January 13, 2019
Each year the very brightest and best converge in Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and once again this year representatives of Louis Mamo & Company were in attendance looking for cutting and leading edge business and consumer solutions for its many clients and customers.
For 2019 we saw all sorts are marvelous things — TVs that rise out of a credenza. Robot legs that help you walk. A wand that “erases” skin blemishes. A tasty burger with no meat. And, of course, a litany of smart appliances including a toilet that connects to Amazon’s Alexa.
You couldn’t go anywhere in Las Vegas without seeing Google branding this year. The company even had a Disney-esque tram ride in its massive booth outside the convention center extolling the virtues of its Google Assistant. But it wasn’t just all bluster: The search giant unleashed a deluge of Assistant upgrades and nearly every other company at the show was boasting about Assistant compatibility in its products.
However, Alexa remained the leader in this area as it was nearly always available in new products alongside Google’s offering.
But while it was a good show for Google, it was arguably even better for a company that wasn’t officially present in Las Vegas: Apple shocked by throwing open the gates of its walled garden with a slew of new AirPlay and HomeKit partners, and Samsung TVs will even offer an iTunes video app. Samsung, meanwhile, dropped a bomb of its own towards the end of the show: Its eagerly anticipated Galaxy S10 line of phones will be officially unveiled in San Francisco on Feb. 20, likely alongside a Samsung foldable phone, too.
All the while, no one in Las Vegas could stop talking about (and eating) the new version of the Impossible Burger, which debuted at the show. The second iteration of the meatless, plant-based burger tastes so much like the real thing that it threw professional chefs in attendance for a loop.
Here’s a category by category recap of CES 2019.
5G, the ultrafast fifth-gen cellular wireless technology that will start rolling out to more markets in 2019, was on everyone’s lips at CES — and basically nowhere else. We went into the week thinking 5G would be the lifeblood of the show. Instead, it was conspicuous by the dearth of real-world 5G-compatible products.
With the exception of some fixed-wireless 5G home routers, an old Moto phone with a snap-on 5G modem (really) and a prototype 5G Galaxy phone tucked away in Samsung’s booth, 5G felt like a whiff at this show, made even worse by AT&T’s misleading “5G E” labeling of existing 4G service. Of course, with the phone-centric Mobile World Congress show — and Samsung’s Galaxy S10 launch — both happening next month, we’re guessing we’ll be waist deep in 5G-compatible products soon enough.
Google had the most visible smart home presence at CES, but it also brought plenty of substance to back up the fluffy tram ride in its booth and nearby giant gumball machine. Interpreter, a new feature for Google Smart Displays and Google Assistant, is already at some hotel concierge desks, ready to translate conversations for speakers of 27 different languages via onscreen text as well as voice. And you can expect a flood of Google Assistant-compatible gadgets later this year, thanks to a lightweight developer kit called Google Assistant Connect.
Amazon had a quieter presence. It had a booth for the first time, but it was mostly showing off partner products, of which there was no shortage. Alexa’s expansion into categories outside of the home, particularly through Echo Auto, was top of mind. And Kohler’s Alexa-connected toilet had many wondering if we’ve achieved “peak smart home.”
Whirlpool and its KitchenAid brand, meanwhile, unveiled a deep investment into smart kitchen tech with a fleet of large and small appliances that all work with the Yummly recipe app. GE launched a suite of connected lights to compete with Philips Hue. And we also liked Netatmo’s new Smart Video Doorbell. It’s the first HomeKit doorbell and has no subscription fees for video storage, person detection or other features that its competitors commonly make you pay for.
Robots were everywhere at CES 2019. There were home robots, working robots, robots with heads but no bodies, robots with bodies but no heads, and more. The one thing we learned from the sheer variety of robots we saw at the show was that they’re going to play roles in so many aspects of our lives in the future.
That might mean a robot teaches you to get to better at sports, like Omron’s ping pong-playing Forpheus bot. Or, like Samsung’s robots, they could help purify the air, monitor your health or provide you with retail services. Maybe, as with the Alexa-powered Temi, they’ll just be vessels for a voice assistant. Or maybe they’ll leave you feeling less lonely and more open to the possibilities of creating loving relationships, like Groove X’s adorable, blinky-eyed Lovot.
So many robots, so little time until they’re an integral part of our everyday lives.
8K TVs and More
CES is the place where all the big screen makers in the world show off their latest tech, but rarely have they gone as big as this year. The reason? 8K. 2019 will mark the first year numerous TV makers sell sets with higher-than-4K resolution, and most of the 8K TVs in 2019 will be ginormous. Samsung and Sony will sell 98-inch 8K TVs, LG will counter with an 88-inch OLED, and all of them will be ridiculously expensive. The cheapest 8K set so far is a $5,000 65-inch Samsung, but with no 8K content, there’s still no reason to buy one now.
The biggest CES surprise came from Apple. For the first time ever the iPhone company opened up its ecosystem to work with TV makers. Samsung, Sony, LG and Vizio can work with the AirPlay 2 system, which uses iPhones, iPads or Mac computers to control video, music and photo playback on the TV from numerous apps. Meanwhile Samsung TVs will get exclusive access to the iTunes app on-screen, allowing even easier access to iTunes Movies and TV shows.
Thanks to Nvidia’s new RTX graphics chips for gaming laptops (and a new midpriced RTX 2060 for desktops), gaming PCs stepped up in a major way at CES 2019, with bold new shapes and features from the Asus Mothership, Alienware Area-15m and Acer Triton 900, among others. What was so surprising was that many of these flagships felt free to play with the traditional clamshell design, and it will be interesting to see which new ideas take off and which don’t.
But as gaming laptops were getting bigger, mainstream laptops were getting smaller. The Acer Swift 7 takes the prize for most-improved sequel. Last year’s superthin original was one of my 2018 favorites, but the even smaller 2019 version is amazingly light and compact. Meanwhile Dell found a way to squeeze a 2.3mm webcam in the slim top bezel of the new XPS 13 — so no more nostril cam.
Budget laptops also made an appearance, but didn’t dominate. New Chromebooks with AMD processors could bring prices down further, while Samsung experimented with the Flash, a new, low-power Windows laptop with a unique textured design that at least stands out from other budget machines.
Health and Medical Industry Technology
With a slew of products promising you to stay fit, eat healthier, or measure your (insert whatever biometric reading here) more accurately, health tech had a bigger presence than ever at CES 2019. The DIY medtech products included vision self-testing kits, a vest that monitors heart health, a new ECG watch that’s far cheaper than the Apple Watch Series 4 and the Omron HeartGuide — a smartwatch that doubles as a blood-pressure cuff. And while Butterfly IQ’s portable ultrasound machine is designed for a healthcare professional to monitor it remotely, the fact that you can use it in your own home could be a huge step forward for telemedicine.
Need to get more exercise? There were devices on display to amp up your game on tennis, golf and boxing, as well as a treadmill that’s designed to turn your daily running sessions into electricity.
Sleep was another prominent theme for health tech. Lack of sleep is related to memory loss, irritability and impaired cognitive function, which is why both the Hupnos sleep mask and Philips Sleep Sensor are aiming to curtail snoring.
Automobile Industry Technology
Automakers and developers continued their steady roll down the road to autonomous cars — and even autonomous motorcycles — at CES 2019, which has become the first major car show of the year. This year we’ve seen a renewed focus on what dashboard and cabin tech of the future will look like once the humans inside those self-driving cars need more to do than just stare through the windshield.
Byton lead the way, showcasing the production dashboard for its upcoming M-Byte electric SUV featuring a 48-inch pillar-to-pillar display and a screen on the steering wheel. WayRay demonstrated its holographic AR head-up display technology, which overlays data about the world ahead relative to the driver’s view. The tech will debut on the production Genesis G80 luxury sedan in 2020. Meanwhile, partnerships between Audi and Disney and Intel and WB explore even more immersive use of AR and VR tech in the car.
Looking even further forward, Hyundai and Bell Aviation imagine a future where we don’t need roads. Hyundai’s Cradle robotics startup incubator gave us a peek at the Elevate concept, an electric rescue vehicle with legs and wheels that enable it to walk or roll over almost any terrain. Meanwhile, Bell’s Nexus concept presents a vision of what the flying urban taxis of the future will look like. For the earthbound, though, Nissan’s Leaf E+ was the sort of evolution of the electric vehicle that will benefit real-world consumers just looking for a solid alternative to gas-guzzling internal combustion engines.
Beauty Industry Technology
Beauty was high-tech at CES this year but the message was age-old: “We have the secret to eternal youth.” The lines between tech and beauty companies are blurring, with products designed to diagnose skin problems, correct flaws and quantify what was previously unquantifiable. It was all a continuation of a trend — albeit a judgmental one — that we saw last year.
If you thought beauty is skin deep, think again. There were hand-held devices ready to analyze your every pore, such as the Smarkin from Comper, which claims to be able to remove fatty cells and reduce skin irritation. There’s also the HiSkin by HiMirror, a device that analyses your skin’s hydration and melanin levels and communicates the data back to your mirror. Here’s lookin’ at you, skin.
But one of the biggest beauty tech displays was from CES first-timer Procter & Gamble. The 181-year-old brand’s start-up division, P&G Ventures, was showing off a new handheld wand that captures images of your skin, detects changes in tone (such as freckles or blemishes) and prints makeup on those precise spots. It blew us away, but it won’t be cheap when it hits stores. P&G’s skincare brand SK-II brand also got a showing, with a walk-through retail experience brand that used facial recognition to scan your face, diagnose your skin age and then, conveniently, recommend the exact products you should buy to fix your issues. After all, what’s the point in analyzing your skin if there isn’t a solution being sold at the end of it all?
Virtual Reality and Artificial Reality
VR seemed dead at the end of 2018, but it was everywhere at CES. The Holoride technology from Audi and Disney shows that killer apps and good execution are still what’s needed most if the category is to get a second wind. HTC had the largest VR presence at the show, but mostly demonstrated enterprise VR: The Vive Pro Eye headset uses heat maps of eye motion and “foveated rendering” that improves by only ramping up the highest graphics detail to where the eyes are looking. But the company’s new promised consumer headset, the Cosmos, was nothing but a brief tease at the show.
Still, with the possible exception of destination VR experiences like The Void, nothing on the VR front at CES 2019 seemed to best the already announced Oculus Quest, the standalone VR system coming later this year from Facebook. With full movement and game console-level graphics, the Quest still feels like the most amazing VR tech to come. It’s just $400 and nothing else seems like it will be able to touch it. But its success is still far from guaranteed.
On the AR front, there were baby steps. Smart glasses are back, and companies like NReal tried to shrink down mixed reality into a smaller package, but AR still feels like a technology that’s perhaps best used off the head. Phones, car displays and even ovens, showed us where AR could offered a better experience. Magic Leap’s first headset seemed like a bit of a disappointment last year after setting high expectations, but no manufacturer did anything with AR at CES that was more impressive. Expect continued progress in 2019 but more growing pains, too.
The Return of the Processor Chip Wars
Graphics ruled the processor news at CES this year. Nobody outblitzed Nvidia, which blanketed CES with no less than 40 laptops incorporating its new mobile RTX 20-series GPUs. The company launched its much anticipated, more affordable GeForce RTX 2060 desktop card and took direct aim at AMD’s FreeSync adaptive refresh standard by announcing a “G-Sync compatible” program. It was a masterstroke marketing ploy that managed to simultaneously denigrate FreeSync while co-opting the best-performing FreeSync monitors in order to get the G-Sync branding onto less expensive products than would otherwise bear it.
Even AMD’s CPU news — second-gen mobile Ryzen processors and a couple of dedicated chips for Chromebooks — took a backseat to its GPU news: The unveiling of its flagship Radeon VII card with the first 7-nanometer GPU, shipping in February. We did get a peek at its 7nm third-gen Ryzen, an octocore desktop CPU with support for the fourth generation of PCIe.
Intel’s focus on speeds and feeds at its CES press conference was a refreshing return to form after years of drone shows, VR and charging bowls. After casually tossing out an announcement that six ninth-gen Core i3, i5 and i7 processors were imminent with no details, Intel concentrated on touting the virtues of its upcoming 10nm Ice Lake architecture. It’s probably the most pragmatic update we’ve seen in a while and could be coming to thin-and-light and two-in-one laptops by the end of the year — notably, a Dell XPS.
Ice Lake incorporates the next generation (the 11th) of the integrated GPU, which adds USB-C monitor support and adaptive sync for gaming. It also adds native support for Thunderbolt 3, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and its DL Boost (Deep Learning) to accelerate increasingly common AI features. Intel also mentioned its post-Ice Lake Lakefield architecture, which combines different core architectures for dual-screen and sub-11-inch devices. And with Qualcomm, AMD and ARM chips coming on strong, it’s not a moment too soon.
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