Every now and then CES, the world’s largest and most influential consumer electronics show, gets eclipsed by something that is happening elsewhere in the gadget world at the same time.
This year the big topic of conversation was centred around the Uber rival Lyft. In collaboration with its partner Aptiv it offered delegates a free drive around the Las Vegas strip in one of its driverless cars. As it only had a pool of eight and over 100,000 tech obsessives attended CES it became the hottest ticket in town. Working out how to get a ride became a preoccupation for many delegates.
Nevertheless this year’s CES did deliver some interesting products. Many are at the transitional stage, several years away from making their mark in the real world, but if anything the event gave those who attended an interesting perspective on the future.
Here then are eight things we learned at CES.
Driverless cars are coming and fast
The auto industry is slowly taking over CES. This year huge halls boasted numerous prototypes of driverless cars from every big manufacturer from Ford through to Mercedes Benz . There were talks of deals, of new trials and launch dates. What feels like it is something for the future is actually approaching very rapidly.
The autonomous car also gives in car entertainment companies the chance to makeover what they are able to offer. And if you want a glimpse of what the dashboard of the future might look like this prototype from Harman may offer a few clues
Voice control is everywhere and Amazon is leading the way
If one company ruled CES 2018 it was Amazon. For the Alexa voice control system was everywhere. The product that impressed me the most was was a voice controlled pair of smart glasses from Vuzix which will be hugely pricey, but could be a real game changer. Imagine a Google Glass yet powered by an operational system (controlled by voice) that actually works so you can call up web pages that appear in front of your eyes and you get some idea of its potential.
Voice is also making its presence felt in the white goods world too. Samsung unveiled a variety of products with its Bixby voice control systems built in such as a TV and a smart refrigerator.
CES also saw Google massively push its voice assistant – its ads were omnipresent in Vegas – but at the moment the voice market seems Amazon’s to lose.
The French are going for the startup world in a big way
For many Eureka Park, the place where the startups are sited at CES, is the most intriguing part of the show. Walk through this year though and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Lyon rather than Las Vegas. There were endless aisles of French startups offering everything from smart AI driven family organisers through to intelligent shoes which sends out alerts is some has a fall.
The French government apparently has a dream of creating Europe’s answer to silicon valley and if CES is anything to go by the French, aided by Macron’s pro-entrepreneur approach, are already heading in that direction.
But there’s still some great British innovation too
Brits however were a lot thinner on the ground at CES 2018. However one company that were generating a significant amount of interest was Extreme Fliers who are working on a revamped version of the drone Zano which was a very big and high profile crowdfunding fail from a few years ago.
Also exciting a lot of gadget lovers was the Gemini, a 2018 take on the Psion PDA. Its keyboard and flexibility – it can even work with a mouse – could see it become a big hit when it goes on sale via Indiegogo later this year.
Pet gadgets are going to be huge news in 2018
Another interesting trend was the emergence of pet tech. Eureka Park boasted a host of companies who had created gadgets for keeping an eye on or in some instances interacting with pets remotely. The one that caught our eye was Laika which not only enables your dog to take selfies but also lets you speak to it via its two way communication system.
If you don’t fancy the vet bills then Sony brought its robot dog Aibo out of retirement and added a few new impressive features.
Everything comes with AI – even though it is not entirely clear what it means
Artificial Intelligence was everywhere at CES 2018. So many products featured the world powered by AI but in some ways cynics began to wonder what exactly that means and what level of AI is being employed.
Lots of people are using tech for good
One of the great things about CES is there is still very clear sense that many people are using to change people’s lives for the better. There were many examples of this in both Eureka Park and across the exhibition halls, like the Aflac Duck an interactive toy for kids with cancer.
Lots of people are still cynical about the Hyperloop
Another tech to watch is the Hyperloop who had a big stand in the car park area of the exhibition centre. At CES it debuted a new app which gives more information about how the Hyperloop could work as well as listing how quickly it will be able to ferry passengers between cities. The company have also been testing the loop out in the Nevada desert and have now posted speeds of 240 miles per hour. Yet not everyone is convinced. As one of the team told me, “people still have lots of reasons why they think it won’t work. But we just keep surprising them.”