This year's three-day CES conference brought some of the biggest names in electronics to the event which featured keynote speakers from industry leaders, exciting product announcements, and exhibition halls where a wide variety of products were on display. Here is a recap of some of the top trends on display during CES 2017.
Virtual Assistants: Alexa Expands Its Territory
Virtual assistants have come a long way. In 2011 when Apple released Siri on its iPhones, the software was hailed for its advanced speech detection technology which enabled users to communicate with Siri in natural spoken language.
Since then, virtual assistants have continued to expand and become much smarter and able to predict users' needs. Currently, there are three major virtual assistants available on distinct platforms: Siri on Apple devices, Cortana on Windows devices, and Alexa on the Amazon Echo home device.
While the Alexa assistant is not new for 2017, what is new is the expanding presence of Alexa in a variety of platforms. Not only is the software available via the Amazon Echo, but at CES 2017 it became clear that Alexa would be expanding into a variety of platforms including automotive vehicles and home appliances.
LG's smart fridge, powered by Alexa. Image courtesy of LG.
What makes Alexa now stand out is that the software is becoming an assistant available everywhere, including now on your phone or laptop computer. This is like having an ultra-smart Internet of Things device that is not only reacting to your requests and behaviors, but learning about them to make predictions about your needs wherever you go.
Augmented Reality: Wearables and... Automotive?
If 2016 was the year for virtual reality, 2017 is the year for augmented reality. Many were hopeful about the future of augmented reality when Google announced its Google Glass project back in 2012. But with the status of the project largely unknown, there was some uncertainty about how soon we could be seeing consumer AR available.
However, it appears many companies are stepping up. Lenovo, for example, showcased the Glass C200 headset at CES 2017.
The Glass C200. Image courtesy of Lenovo.
The Glass C200 is a wearable device, specifically a headset, which compliments the user’s vision with information about the viewed surroundings. The major difference noted so far between it and other similar products is that the device consists of two parts: the part you wear near your eye (which has a camera and display) and another part which is carried in the user's pocket that can tether to the user’s smartphone. Not many details have been shared so far on the pocket device.
Augmented reality may also start showing up in automotive applications. Visteon, which manufactures instrument displays and infotainment systems used in vehicles, demonstrated an augmented reality windshield projection that graphically displays any potential dangers around the driver. This includes cars that are braking or nearby pedestrians.
Visteon's heads-up-display will expand to include information about potential dangers to the driver. Image courtesy of Visteon.
Meanwhile, Harman (which is in the process of being acquired by Samsung) also demonstrated augmented reality technology in vehicles at CES. Their demonstration showed a dashboard LCD screen of the driver’s surroundings with information layered on top of real-time camera images. This screen can display the speed of nearby vehicles and more prominent street sign displays. The information is pulled from sensors on the vehicle as well as GPS location data.
Harman is planning on expanding this to a windshield projection so that drivers can see this information without having to take their eyes off the road. Harman will be partnering with Navdy, a producer of heads-up automotive displays.
Drones: Better Video, New Depths
Drones and UAVs are being used in an increasing variety of applications: recreation, disaster relief, data gathering, and product delivery. Consequently, a lot of drone technology was showcased at CES 2017, demonstrating the capabilities drones are developing.
The H22 System-on-Chip developed by Ambarella is one such example. The H22 is a camera chip designed for drones which enables 4K and HD video recording and electronic image stabilization. This eliminates the need for gimbal mounts on drones to take smooth video and images. It also lightens the overall load on drones, which is incredibly important for weight concerns.
The H22 SoC. Image courtesy of Ambarella.
The H3 chip was also announced by Ambarella which enables Ultra HD and 8K video recording on drones. So far, 8K televisions and displays are still a little rare, but H3 will be ready for when they become more commonplace.
Finally, PowerVision is exploring new depths with the PowerRay underwater drone. The underwater drone is a consumer device with Wi-Fi capabilities and 4K video recording, with a depth rating of 30 meters.
Concept image of the PowerRay at work. Image courtesy of PowerVision.
Sonar detection helps the PowerRay detect fish and uses its Wi-Fi and cameras to send information to the user, and can be paired with a smartphone and VR goggles providing gesture driven guidance. It's being marketed as a device to assist fishers, but it likely won't be long until users find other creative uses for the underwater drone.