I want you to picture a stadium completely filled with people. Let’s go with the SuperBowl, for example. Now imagine that every single person in that stadium represents a company wanting to present a brand new piece of technology or gadget meant to revolutionize a market or industry or career field.
That’s just 40% of CES.
Over a 5 day period, the entire world bands together in Las Vegas in what I can only really describe as an orgy of technology and science. Some of the world’s best and brightest fly thousands of miles (or drive a few hours) to rub elbows with the rest of the technology elite and brag about their latest innovation.
For the average consumer, CES is mostly about getting their hands on the latest version of the Oculus Rift (as I did here), or checking out the new 8K HDTVs from Sony or Samsung, but for many analysts and engineers out there, CES is also about checking the technological pulse of the world; seeing the trends, pinpointing areas of interest and opportunities for new innovation never before thought of.
Going into 2015, there has already been a slew of buzzwords bouncing around the web about what the big trends were going to be this year, one of the most notable ones being “The internet of things”. But as I traveled the unending show floors and wove through rows upon rows of booths, I started to get a sense of where the most traffic was and what many companies were doing everything they could to stand out among the competitors.
- Drones, Drones, Drones!
Without getting bogged down in politics, there’s no question that drones have become a major factor in the future of avionics and flight. To be fair, the drones at CES were far less of the military type, and more in the quadracopter variety.
From squadrons of synchronized mechs fighting synchronized rollers on the ground to larger versions capable of tracking a target and maintaining the same altitude as the moving target, It seemed there were hundreds of companies with drones that all seemed to do something slightly different than the one 3 booths down. Ranging in shape, size, number of propellers, but all of them tethered to some of the most complicated looking remote controllers I have ever seen, there was no question that the market for commercial drones is set to explode this year.
Need a drone to follow your every move at the park? Done. Want to take some overhead surveillance shots of your ranch to keep an eye on your cattle? Easy. Need a squadron of battlebots to practice your accuracy for the coming SkyNet catastrophe? You better get in line because it’s looking pretty certain at this point.
- “Who’s Texting You?” “My Kitchen!”
The “Smart” revolution has only just begun, and CES was blunt in reminding me that if it’s not a smart device, it is a dumb device.
The idea behind this “Internet of Things” philosophy refers to the evolution of our gadgets becoming more and more assimilated to the virtual space where data is collected, collated, quantified, and computated to help achieve new levels of optimization and efficiency. Things in your home that you wouldn’t dream of having any importance other than heating or cooling objects remain untapped resources of data that many companies believe can be harnessed in relatively simple ways.
WeMo was particularly interested in this field, and were proud to unveil several outlet adapters and plug-ins that connect any electrical device to the software on your phone. By doing so, the user now has complete control of any device in their household and can turn them on with just a few swipes.
But it doesn’t just stop with Lamps and Ceiling fans. They want you in control of your kitchen too. On display was a crockpot that, when connected to your WeMo software, you could text when to start, slow, and stop cooking. When the meal is ready, the crockpot then sends you a text letting you know it’s time to eat. That’s right folks, your kitchen will start blowing up your phone more than actual human beings.
Parrot had something similar in mind, but wanted to take the idea outdoors. This Pot works in the same way as WeMo does in that the pot will text you when it’s time to water your plant to keep the soil at an optimal moisture level. As other species of plants are used with the same pot, the gathered data can start to suggest patterns in soil degradation and can alert you when new soil is needed.
- When Reality Is Just Too Boring, Go Virtual!
VR isn’t a new concept, and we’ve been talking about some bigger labels for quite some time now. Oculus Rift’s DK3 model “Crescent Bay” was the big ringer going into CES this year, but there were some other worthy contenders and surprise announcements in the VR field.
Sadly, Sony’s Project Morpheus was a no-show this year, but this proved to Samsung’s benefit as they showed off their Gear VR headset yet again. Armed with an improved Galaxy S4 and a refined headset that felt lighter, I walked away feeling more confident that Samsung isn’t throwing money down a hole with this one. Even more advantageous might be their price tag, as Oculus is rumored to be over $1,000 when you factor in a powerful PC required to run the headset.
One of our nice surprises came from Razor’s booth as they debuted their Open Source and Hacker-Friendly VR Headset. Unlike Oculus and Sony, Razor is looking to bring in the power of the public by allowing users to tweak and modify the device as they desire. This hasn’t always proven the best way to improve a device, but I like the idea of having some ability to manipulate how I experience VR.
Last but certainly not least, Omni is going all-out with their latest device. Secured into an ovular platform with a rig around the waist and a VR headset, Omni delivers a full-blown VR experience. The slick floor design means your feet return to the center of the platform after taking a step, which in turn registers movement in the game. The rifle peripheral acts as your targeting reticle and would be sold separately. It’s rumored that Omni is looking to come in under the $500 price point for the entire device, which seems a bit overzealous when you take a step back and look at the size of the entire machine.
- Some Other Hidden Gems
Perhaps the best part of CES isn’t the big things that you’ve been hyping up all year, but rather the smaller, quieter booths that still pack some surprisingly cool stuff.
In the fitness exhibit, AiQ had some of their new smart clothing on display. Recording bio-feedback every second, this shirt records pulse rate, sweat levels and calorie expenditure during exercise. The data is then transmitted to your phone and as more data accrues, the more efficient the shirt becomes at pinpointing the precise times to cool down or heat up, depending on the season.
These little guys could be a huge pain in Apple’s side if they are as effective as they mean to be. WiTricity is designed to be electronic hubs scattered across the home and use resonant repeater technology to become wireless chargers for any device within ten feet. Simply put, they charge your devices without wires or connections to outlets. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to smartphones or PCs, but essentially any device running off any type of battery.
Finally, the minds at Beam have taken Robotics and Skype to create an unnervingly new kind of FaceChat. The cute young woman you see in the picture was talking to me from Paris, France, while simultaneously controlling the robot around the floor. Any device you saw zipping around and striking up conversations with people was being controlled live from someone else in the world. Others users haled from Egypt, New Zealand and Russia.
- And Finally… These.
It’s officially 2015, which by movie standards means we’re now in the future. And that means it’s time for some new kicks.
These bad boys of Back to the Future fame are replicas of the original concepts first made in 1989 with a few LED tweaks. The heel and side lights remain on as long as you are wearing the shoes, and the strap will automatically fasten itself as you start walking—no laces, no problem.
You have my attention Nike. Now please get these on the production line!
All in all, CES 2015 was a 5-day long celebration of all things sciencey and nerdy, from which I just couldn’t get enough of. If even half of these things make it to store shelves, 2015 is looking to be the first year of the “future”.