The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the modern equivalent of a mid 20th century ‘world of tomorrow’ expo, where leading techies gather (in Las Vegas of all places) to give the rest of us a glimpse into the future. But this year the ideas seem to be running dry. Take a look at these leading developments and see if they seem at all... familiar.
Huawei, Fitbit and Casio are among those to have unveiled new smart watches this year. It’s like a phone... on your wrist. Just like it was last year. And the year before. So far smart watches haven’t replicated the success of the smart phone, having shipped 91.5 million units last year according to Gartner, but the tech giants keep trying. Some are managing it better than others, however.
See the sparkly colours
Bitter rivals LG and Samsung are leading the TV charge with super thin screens (the LG 4K OLED is a mere 2.57mm thick), curved screens and 8K screens - that’s eight times the resolution of an HD set. StreamTV Networks meanwhile showed off a set that lets you watch 3D movies without 3D glasses, using something similar to hologram technology. Clear images, 3D, holograms... definitely cool, but again not exactly new.
No emissions here
Chinese backed Faraday Future and VW were among those to unveil new electric cars in Las Vegas this week – a mere 13 years after Tesla was founded. Perhaps the whole emissions scandal has put VW off the internal combustion engine entirely. Its BUDD-e and e-Golf Concept cars are fully electric and feature such novelties as an ‘intuitive’ dash board, voice and gesture command interface and a (dude?) ‘where’s my car’ function.
I’m afraid I can’t do that Dave
‘The internet will eat everything’, Fred Potter of ‘internet of things’ firm Netatmo told MT earlier this year, and it does appear to be munching its way happily through your house. Smart boilers, smart speakers and smart lighting have all been integrated into the ‘connected home’, which is currently the preserve of early adopters but which may be coming to a dwelling (very) near you, not least because of its potential to save on bills as well as time.
Now it’s the turn of the humble fridge. Smarter has come up with the Fridge Cam, which is exactly what you think it is. Out at the shops and can’t remember if you’re out of parmesan? Open the app and take a look. It's similar to Samsung's revamped Family Hub, which can also order your shopping for you or play streamed music.
Where will it stop, you might ask? The shower? Well, no actually. Hydrao Smart Shower doesn’t involve cameras (thankfully) but does use sensors to tell you when you’ve used too much water. Presumably a sister product for the loo roll dispenser is on the cards for next year.
One may wonder whether some of these ideas are heading for the dustbin of history along with tin foil catsuits and the self-drying jacket, but something that improves the internet will surely not be one of them. Israeli firm Sckipio’s G.Fast technology demonstrated speeds of nearly 750mbps down a copper phone line, or 50 times faster than current broadband, according to CNNMoney. The product is due to launch in the US later this year, but BT is also working on G.Fast technology over here, so you may want to think twice about getting that fibre optic cable installed.
These technologies are all very well and good, and some of them clearly have great potential. But just look at what was on offer last year at CES 2015. It’s more of the same (down to Nixie’s parasitic scorpion wrist drone, which is also there this year). Yes, the tech’s better than it was last year and some of it’s different, but where’s the next big idea? Techies may be impressed by the innovations being unveiled in Vegas, but the rest of us are still waiting for our hoverboards (and we don’t mean exploding handleless segways).