Since the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) debuted in 1967, it’s been a magnet for emerging technologies hoping to shape our future, and 2017 was no different.
The 50th CES attracted record-breaking numbers; with 3,800 companies — including 600 start-up businesses — and 177, 393 visitors descending on Las Vegas from every global market to explore the latest tech. And there was plenty to see, from the bizarre — flying selfie-taking drones and vibrating GPS clothing — to the useful — such as routers that protect smart homes and mobile phones offering eye-initiated scrolling.
But with so many new gadgets vying to be the next big thing, which innovations are the ones to watch? Here’s our top four pick:
5G: all-encompassing connectivity
A new era is dawning and according to Qualcomm CEO Stephen Mollenkopf, it will be driven by the next mobile connectivity evolution: 5G. During the unveiling of the company’s new chip, Snapdragon 835 (which will enable smart devices to run on 5G), Mollenkopf described the development as akin to the “introduction of electricity”; a seismic shift that will affect “entire economies” and benefit “entire societies.”
How will it do so? By facilitating the creation of a hyper-connected world. With the arrival of 5G will come ultra-fast loading speeds and minimal latency, which will in turn make it possible for everything to be connected — and that means real-time VR streaming, autonomous cars, and smart cities could soon become everyday realities.
Outside in: the new HTC Vive tracker
Now that virtual reality (VR) has hit the mainstream — with a range tools from the Oculus Rift to Google’s cardboard now widely available — providers are starting to differentiate themselves by making VR more immersive. HTC, for example, used this year’s CES to launch its HTC Vive Tracker: an accessory that takes things from the real world and brings them into the virtual space. By attaching a sensor to almost any object, such as baseball bat or fire-fighting hose, gamers can make it a controller and bring a touch of realism to VR that makes the experience vastly more engaging.
Inside out: the Phab 2 Pro
Working to achieve the opposite effect is Lenovo’s Phab 2 Pro — purportedly the first smartphone to support Google’s augmented reality (AR) software, Tango (although ASUS is hot on it heels with the Zenfone). Using advanced depth perception and motion tracking, the software allows smartphone owners to view real world objects via the device’s camera and digitally reconfigure them. For example, users can scan the furniture in their living room and redesign the interior by overlaying online alternatives — all without leaving the comfort of the sofa they are revamping. While currently most useful as a tool for retailers to enhance digital strategy, the Phab 2 Pro represents the first step toward making AR accessible to the masses.
Amazon’s Alexa: Queen of the 2017 CES
Hailed as the star of this year’s CES, Amazon’s voice-initiated virtual assistant, Alexa, was everywhere. In the form we currently know best, the Amazon Echo speaker, Alexa had been linked to the LG smart fridge — giving consumers the ability to check their food stock and order replenishments. Alexa was also a feature of the upcoming Huawei Mate 9 smartphone, the latest Ford smart car, and a humanoid robot named Lynx from Ubtech. Suffice to say, speculation is rife that Alexa will leave artificially intelligent (AI) assistants from rivals Google (Google Assistant) and Apple (Siri) trailing in its wake, but one thing is for sure: demand for AI-driven convenience is growing and in the near future, voice-controlled technology will dominate.
Ubiquitous connectivity, virtual reality with a slice of realism, digital interior design, and AI that streamlines nearly everything; CES 2017 certainly didn’t disappoint when it came to innovative tech. But how many of these devices will become integral to the way we live, work, and play? We’ll have to wait for CES 2018 to find out.