Our tech guru’s view from CES – Part 2

9th January 2017

This was my last day at CES and the activity tracker in my phone must think I’ve made some crazy New Year’s resolution. Nearly 19,000 steps today, which is apparently over 14km.   But worth every step.

Another TV evolution is happening. 65” seems to be the minimum size here, 4k is of course the default resolution and 8k demos were incredible.  But the new TV tech really turning heads is HDR.  If you’re a keen photographer or just have one of the latest phones then you’ll be familiar with the term.  In TV world it means millions more colours (no rainbow effects) and brighter, much brighter pictures.  With such high resolution you can sit much closer to the TV and still don’t see the pixels, instead the picture just keeps getting more amazing.  I was watching a scene with a sunrise and as it did I instinctively looked away knowing it’s not good to look at the sun…it really was that real.  HDR TVs are already available and content is coming out.  You’ll be pleased to hear that the V6, Virgin Media’s latest set top box, is HDR compatible.

Video doesn’t get all the glory though; sound is just as amazing.  I was lucky enough to experience 3D audio using a special pair of headphones.  Sound came from all around me and I kept looking around convinced the noises were coming from the real world.  Not only that, as I moved my head to locate the source, the direction of the sound corresponded with where I was looking.  It really was the audio equivalent of VR and the young company behind it won the CES Innovation Award for Headphones.

Smart home tech seemed endless but some of the cleverer vendors are beginning to incorporate Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Analytics, fancy words that basically mean that the data the sensors are collecting can be used in all sorts of exciting new ways to intelligently manage your home and your daily schedules.  Standards and new security features are, rightly so, in development as privacy and security concerns are high in everyone’s priorities.  Speaking of which, if you don’t fancy cameras in your house but still want security then one cool company is launching a device that senses change in radio waves in the home, able to detect if someone is there, without a house full of cameras and movement sensors.  If that’s still all too much for the home then fingerprint enabled padlocks ensure you don’t get locked out of your shed.

In the world of children entertainment our babies and children are soon to be conversing and interacting with all sorts of cuddly and, in some cases, quite emotional robots.  But if you’d rather be the one giving the cuddles then one startup company has created rather odd looking teddy bears that allow you to hug loved ones from thousands of miles away.  Simply squeeze or stroke the teddy bear local to you and the remote one emits a gentle haptic response.  I haven’t made my mind up on this yet.

Haptic was a word I saw a lot in the VR world.  Right now VR uses sound and vision but companies are moving into virtual touch, smell and even taste.  Using special connected gloves I was able to feel and pick up a virtual vase and able to tell the difference in touch between this and a virtual teddy bear.  There’s some way to go, but development in this area is incredibly rapid.

Of course drones were a popular attraction.  I have a thing for them too, but one I was particularly drawn to was able to stay so still in the air that I was looking for the wires that might have been holding it there.  I also liked the startup company that made miniature cameras that a child would fit to the front of their paper aeroplane to record and stream that perfect loop the loop or in my case a nosedive.  The kid in me had great fun with large battling four legged robots too, that can be upgraded with added armour and rocket launchers. 

Healthcare and fitness is a massive growth area and there doesn’t seem to be a part of you that is immune to having a corresponding sensor.  Heart, blood pressure, breath, sweat and more besides can now be recorded, analysed and results immediately sent to the doctor.  You won’t lose sleep over the results too as there are plenty of other sensors and emitters that will help you nod off.  Your smart pillow automatically adjusting and recording your sleep patterns.

Speaking of which it’s time I said goodbye to CES 2017 and finally got some sleep too.

This year was the most interesting year yet, companies have accelerated their innovation and the new tech was more varied, imaginative and (in most cases) relevant than ever before.   CES began in 1967, perhaps turning 50 isn’t so bad after all.

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

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