Once again, high tech met with high expectations at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Those in attendance were suitably mesmerised by the wealth of cutting-edge gizmos and gadgets on display – from both startups and major industry players alike.
While many of us were still recovering from New Year’s Eve activities, those actively involved in the tech industry were busy converging on Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which this year ran from January 5-8. As always, the event confirmed two things that have remained constant for well over 50 years… the public’s unquenchable thirst for new gadgets, and the industry’s relentless desire to bring the latest must-have devices to market.
Billed as “the Super Bowl for global consumer technology”, the 2023 edition of CES drew more than 3,200 exhibitors from over 170 countries and regions, and shattered organisers’ expectations with a recorded 115,000 attendees. Clearly the idea of being face-to-face once again appealed to many. And while top retailers and industry leaders took up the majority of the booths, the amount of startups and first-time exhibitors clocked in at approximately 1,000.
Whether big or small, virtually every exhibitor was proudly showcasing their latest innovations and life-changing technologies; all sprawled over 2.2 million square feet of exhibition space, with over 40 product categories for attendees to choose from – including vehicle technology, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, digital health, mobility tech, home entertainment and smart home tech, food tech, space tech, and NFTs.
One of this year’s most memorable moments was when Hollywood megastar Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared on stage during BMW’s keynote address. During his speech the actor and former governor of California joked that: “In most of my movies, the machines were the enemy. But today, we found ways to use technology as an ally.” He was later joined on stage by Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW, who unveiled the automaker’s new i Vision Dee – a colour-changing car!
The sheer variety of eye-popping – and sometimes head-scratching – gizmos and gadgets on display clearly demonstrates that human ingenuity and imagination knows no bounds. Pana-sonic, for instance, introduced the wonderfully practical Nanoe X portable in-vehicle air cleaner for cars; a thermos-sized device designed to fit in most cup holders. Somewhat more niche market is the Bird Buddy, a “smart” bird feeder that uses AI and a built-in camera to help identify the species of birds (as well as other creatures) feasting in your backyard. Then there’s Q-Bear, a company from Taiwan, who introduced a device that can reportedly analyse and decipher a baby’s cry, letting the parent know if the infant is in need of food, sleep, comfort, or changing. Eerily, this very same idea was predicted in an episode of The Simpsons back in 1992… proving that even the craziest sounding idea can eventually become reality.
LIGHTYEAR’S SOLAR POWERED CAR
Lightyear is a Dutch hi-tech company developing electric vehicles that draw their energy from that most readily available and renewable source of power available… the sun. The original concept vehicle, the Lightyear One, was unveiled in 2018, with the production version arriving exactly four years later – renamed Lightyear 0. The top of this sleek, modern-looking 4-door sedan is lined tip to tail with solar panels, which help keep its 60-kWh battery pack charged (allowing for a range of about 44 miles per day). And while this model was on display at CES, the real attraction was the Lightyear 2, a revision of the European original which promises up to 500 miles of range on long journeys, and nearly unlimited mileage for short, daily trips. Attendees, however, could only catch fleeting glimpses of this new prototype by peering between the wooden slats that made up the car’s deliberately teasing enclosure.
THE AFEELA, BY SONY HONDA MOBILITY
Sony and Honda have partnered up to develop Afeela, their very own electric vehicle (set to be on the roads by 2026). This joint venture between the two mega-brands has resulted in the formation of Sony Honda Mobility Inc, with it’s very first prototype being christened the Afeela. And while Yasuhide Mizuno, CEO of Sony Honda Mobility, didn’t really delve into great detail about the car’s features when it was officially unveiled at CES 2023, it was revealed that this four-door sedan will have an incredible 45 sensors inside and out – with the goal of minimising accidents – and will feature Level 3 automated driving; meaning that it can drive in traffic jams but the driver must be ready to take over when the system notifies. Inside the vehicle, both front headrests have screens built-in so rear passengers can watch films, listen to music and – if the presentation is to be believed – play PlayStation 5 games.
COLOUR CHANGING CAR FROM BMW
At CES 2022, automaker BMW unveiled their groundbreaking iX Flow, which was then billed as “the world’s first colour-changing car” (even though it could only shift its various panels between white, black, and gray). For 2023, the carmaker dazzled the assembled crowds once again, this time with the i Vision Dee, the full colour counterpart of last year’s B&W concept model. Using the same E Ink technology – the kind found in e-readers – this electric sports sedan is capable of displaying 32 individual colours, and all 240 of its e-paper segments can be controlled individually – meaning the car can shift seamlessly from a solid shade to a flashy, multi-coloured pattern. The i Vision Dee also boasts a raft of other futuristic technologies – including AI-powered virtual assistants and full-windshield heads-up displays – thus combining digital and analogue into a complete whole, and opening up new levels of interaction.
VIVE XR ELITE HEADSET FROM HTC
We’ve all seen the many different VR headsets on the market these days, but what makes the HTC Vive XR Elite – the latest version of HTC’s virtual and augmented reality headset – so special? Primarily, it’s the size, as HTC has shrunk the gadget down to almost normal glasses size, making it less than half the weight of competitors. Then there’s the fact that if you wear eyeglasses normally, you can take them off while using the Vive XR Elite since the idea here is that the adjusting dials, or diopters, will adapt to the necessary lens prescription in real time (a very useful feature). Add to all that vibrant high-resolution XR passthrough, four wide field-of-view tracking cameras, depth sensor, skeletal-level hand tracking, crisp audio, a cool ergonomic design, and a battery that offers up to two hours of continuous power, and you’re looking at a gamer’s dream come true.
FRENZ AI-POWERED BRAINBAND
Wearable health devices were well represented at this year’s CES, and one company getting a lot of attention was Earable Neuroscience, creators of the Frenz AI-Powered Brainband. This very sci-fi looking device is worn positioned around the forehead and rear of the cranium, and it uses EEG, EMG, PPG EOG, gyroscopic and accelerometer sensors to analyse the user’s noggin. Harnessing the power of AI, the brainband keeps track of heart rate, head motion, breathing rhythm, and more, allowing the wearer to discover how they’re sleeping, or concentrating, after looking at the data sent to the accompanying smartphone app. Along with aiding in helping wearer’s sleep better and focus more effectively, the Frenz Brainband also delivers curated contents, based on your brain states, designed to soothe and relieve feelings of stress and anxiety (think of it like a “brain spa”).
SAMSUNG’S NEO G9 GAMING MONITOR
Gaming is big business, and so, understandably, it’s a huge part of CES. This year, Samsung announced two new gaming monitors that are really pushing the envelope in terms of physical size and display capability. The most impressive of the pair is the mammoth 57-inch Odyssey Neo G9, which is ready to take on the RTX 4090 and the new RDNA3 GPUs. It’s also been dubbed the “world’s first 8K gaming monitor”, even though technically it’s actually 8K horizontally, and only 4K vertically. Like its predecessors the Neo G9 uses quantum mini-LED technology, and it’s the first monitor to come with the new DisplayPort 2.1 connector. The second gaming monitor Samsung unveiled was the Odyssey OLED G9, which the brand calls the world’s first 32:9 OLED gaming monitor. This time the display stretches 49 inches across – still very impressive – with a more subtle 1800R curvature, and a 5,120 x 1,440 resolution.
AVOCADO RIPENESS CHECKER
Buying an avocado can be an expensive leap of faith. They are perfectly ripe for such a brief window of time that being able to tell which ones are at their edible best is something akin to a mystic art. But Dutch entrepreneur Marco Snikkers, the man behind the startup OneThird, aims to solve that problem with the high-tech avocado scanner his firm recently unveiled. Designed as a consumer-friendly device for use in supermarkets, the optical sensor uses AI technology to determine the avocado’s ripeness; displaying via a screen whether it’s ready to eat, or still too firm. Founded in 2019, OneThird already works with growers, distributors, and other professionals along the agricultural supply chain, offering high-accuracy shelf-life predictions for produce such as tomatoes, strawberries and blueberries. The company’s overall aim is to dramatically reduce food waste by ensuring that the right product gets to the right place at the right time.
MINTiD DOG-E BY WOWWEE
Standing out amidst all the sleek, high tech at CES was the ultra-cute MINTiD Dog-E, an app-connected robot dog with life-like movements, audio and touch sensors, and a wagging tail that can display digital messages. Launched by WowWee, a global innovator of robotic toys and consumer entertainment products, each individual Dog-E is personalised to its owner, with different shaped and/or coloured eyes, paws, tails, and hearts to choose from, as well as a library of special sounds and customisable personality traits to consider. In addition, the app allows for multiple members of the household to “mint” and save their own individual profiles in a single Dog-E robot, so that for each person in the family the toy will behave uniquely. You can “feed” your pet, play games with it to keep it happy, and even take it to the virtual dog salon or on a visit to the virtual vet. Things sure have come a long way since Tamagotchi…
MOVANO’S EVIE RING
A particularly eye-catching entry in the booming health-related wearable tech sector was the Evie Ring by Movano Health, a California-based health solution company. Available in multiple finishes, this stylish “smart ring” is specifically focused on tracking women’s health. And even though it’s much smaller than a watch, it has the ability to monitor heart rate and variability, menstrual and ovulation cycles, sleep stages, skin temperature, and oxygen saturation. Movano says the intention is to help women understand some of the reasons why they feel certain ways at certain times, claiming that the ring can “mood track” the wearer. In addition, the Evie also offers your typical fitness activity profile, showing total steps taken, continuous movement stats, and calorie output – data which users can access via a smartphone app.