Our tech guru’s view from CES – Part 1

6th January 2017

CES – The Consumer Electronic Show - though people could be forgiven thinking it was the Car Electronic Show. 

Most years seem to have an unofficial theme: 3D, Curved Screens or Smart Home.  This year, the buzz is definitely autonomous vehicles. CES gives the impression they’re already mainstream, parked on our driveways or being used as car-sharing taxis, taking people to work. But having seen some demos, I’m as now as excited as everyone else.

One of the best demos I saw showed an in-car simulation where the view out of the windscreen was supplemented with text and graphic overlays.  As I approached a school, the building itself and crossing areas were highlighted, while a voice warned that it was a busy time when children were likely to cross the road.  Once I arrived in a town, the same voice told me there was a parking spot nearby and asked if I wanted to book it and enable auto-drive and park.

There was also a brilliant demonstration of the smart car headrest which monitors brain activity.  A volunteer drove a virtual car, but when he distracted by a light thump on his shoulder, the car automatically came to a safe stop.  Only when his concentration level increased, the car set off again. 

But it’s definitely not all car-related. The connected home looks a lot more sensible and real than it did a couple of years ago, with more and more devices able to communicate intelligently. 

Here are a few things that caught my eye on the first day:

A sensor which connects to a phone to analyse the molecular structure of materials.  In a demo, a presenter used an app that advised which was the best tasting strawberry, before you bought it!  They’ll be similar apps depending on the type of food you want to buy.  A Chinese-based company is about to launch a phone with a sensor built in that will incorporate this feature, so it could go mainstream. Watch this space.

Similarly, there’s now a smart egg box which tells you which eggs to eat first.

The choice of home sensors is growing. Smoke alarms are old hat, but what about air quality monitors and even monitors that tell you when you need to dust?  Or better still, you can now tell a robot vacuum cleaner to go and clean the house.

Many companies at CES are demonstrating various ways to interact with gadgets too. Voice control seems to be the preferred method, but an impressive device projected controls onto any surface, which can be controlled by fingertips for when visible cues are needed. This would come in handy when you’ve lost the TV remote or want to set the microwave, as you can project the controls onto a table.

TVs are still being made in all shapes and sizes but one that caught my eye was double-sided and only a centimetre thin. It will mean no more arguing about what to watch. Just place the TV in the middle of the room and choose which side you want to watch - literally!

Read the second part of my blog about the technology and gadgets I’ve seen at CES, on Monday.

Neil Illingworth is Virgin Media’s Director of Advanced Technology and Innovation

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