Every year thousands of tech companies congregate at the concrete oasis that is Las Vegas. Amidst all the neon that lines the strip, the card flicking hustlers and coin spewing slot machines, the casinos will also host the best of what the tech world has to show the world. Of course, it is a strange venue to set the agenda for technology every new year, but then at least some of us realise that tech sector is as much a gamble these days as any of the casinos here can roll.
Unlike last year, this year there seems to be at least one clear trend on show. This will clearly be the year artificial intelligence jumps out of the comfort zone of computing devices to more devices and platforms. So you will see everything from AI-enabled speakers to televisions and even cars. There are already hundreds of companies lining up Bluetooth speakers that can work in tandem with either Siri or Google Assistant. In fact, the global smart speaker market is set to grow to 56.3 million units this year as per Canalys with US clearly emerging as the largest market.
While Amazon with Echo and Google with its Home series of products are expected to maintain their lead, there are going to be a host of new entrants in this segment including audio equipment makers who will try their best to stay relevant.
There is also a lot of buzz being generated around Google’s first CES booth, which will most probably be showcasing all the hardware products the company has launched in recent months, especially the Pixel 2 smartphones and Home smart speakers. There will, again, be a lot of AI at show, from the Google Assistant to how the technology helps make everything from search to email better.
But artificial intelligence will not be limited to consumer electronics. There is a whole artificial intelligence marketplace this time where AI infrastructure and computer systems that try and do what human brains do will be on show.
The other big trend to look for, quite literally, will be the displays. While there is a possibility that at least one foldable or flexible display will be on show from a smartphone company, a lot of eyes will also be trained on whether Samsung gives a sneak peek of its next Galaxy S9. LG has already promised to give the world a look at its 88-inch display packed with 7680×4320 pixels.
Then, as has been the trend in the past few years, there will be the auto part of the show, where you see the two giant industry segments collide more and more. Auto majors are expected to show how their vehicles are becoming smarter — there is even talk of a mind-controlled car from Nissan. Yes, the show has clearly moved on from the time when Nevada used to be the test zone for self driving cars.
However, don’t expect any big ticket announcements in the smartphone space, unless someone like a Sony decides to surprise everyone with another flagship. This is just not the forum, certainly not with Mobile World Congress just weeks away. You can expect a handful of sleek laptops and 2-in-1s from players like HP and Dell, but nothing revolutionary, at least not for the average users. In fact, with Spectre and Meltdown looming large on the entire computing space, there is a possibility that this segment might just hit the mute button this time with big ticket announcements.
However, as everything in the world, except with the strange exception of humans, becomes smarter, CES would also, hopefully, trigger some debate and on what this brave new world entails for all of us. There are clearly a lot of fears around what AI will do to devices and, more importantly, us. Also, this new spate of devices also open up a lot of privacy issues, unprecedented so far in the course of human history.
There very few forums like CES where so many stakeholders, that too from various segments of the modern world, converge. That could well be the biggest opportunity for the world this time. Hope some of this thinking will be on show.
Disclaimer: The author is travelling to CES 2018 on the invite of Intel India