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Rounding up the best of CES 2019

Andrew | 21/01/2019

As CES 2019 comes to a close, we take a look at some of the trends to look out for in year to come.

The annual CES event in Las Vegas last month showcased the cutting edge of the tech industry, with presentations ranging from the exciting to the bizarre. Here’s a roundup of the most notable announcements, and what they mean for tech in the next year.

Competing voices

Voice was everywhere once again this year, with the focus still on Amazon and Google’s fierce competition. With the influence of voice technologies ever growing, both companies announced their respective assistants are being built into a raft of products. As we saw at last year’s CES, voice is continuing to mature and being seen as a core functionality instead of another gimmick to add to an already existing product.

Alexa still has the largest influence with an estimated 41% of the global smart speaker market – showing up everywhere this year from new security devices to electric pianos and intelligent toilets (once again).

Google is still holding its own, however – now with an estimated 28% of the market – and showcased their expertise in artificial intelligence with the new Interpreter Mode, allowing users to translate conversations in real time. They also announced their equivalent to Alexa’s Connect Kit – the ‘Google Assistant Connect’, a similarly-functioning chip which allows the user to add the Google Assistant to products without the need for them to be connected to Google’s cloud.


While not present at the conference, Apple's presence was felt throughout CES this year. [Source: Fortune]

Apple, as usual, were not at CES, though they still had an impressive presence through key partnerships in home entertainment, such as Samsung’s addition of an iTunes app in their smart TVs. While not in the realm of emerging tech, this suggests a relaxing of Apple’s usually restrictive approach to their products and services, and could make for some interesting developments in regards to Siri and their place in the voice market.

While Microsoft’s presence seemed to be diminishing this year – with Cortana notably absent – they did make a small appearance with their Virtual Assistant Accelerator. Having already been previewed in November, it allows users to change the name, voice and personality of their own assistant. While it’s a move away from Cortana being a standalone virtual assistant competing with Alexa and Google Assistant, it seems to be in Microsoft’s benefit, with LG announcing that they will be using the Virtual Assistant Accelerator as part of their self-driving technology – on top of other Microsoft Azure and AI products.

The transport industry

Mercedes-Benz also announced a collaboration with Garmin smartwatches. Garmin’s latest Vivo-Active smartwatch connects to the Mercedes app so that the wearer’s car can anticipate their physical and mental state before they get in the car, with options to play soothing music, adjust heat levels and select quieter routes home for stressed-out drivers.


Augmented Reality (AR) glasses were a highlight of CES this year, with North's Focals being a crowd-pleaser. [Source: Variety]

Sleek and understated Augmented Reality

AR showed some promising developments, with eyewear becoming more advanced, more stylish, and less cumbersome. A newcomer to the scene, North, showcased their understated Focals, which were very well received by reviewers. Similar to the more recognisable Vuzix models, they allow wearers to view alerts within their field of view such as social notifications, weather reports or directions, but also come with Alexa built in straight out of the box. Wearers can also scroll through messages using a microcontroller on a ring around their finger – checking the time or viewing a text, to which they can reply through voice control.

As AR becomes more ubiquitous, exemplified by the ever increasing number of AR products on display at CES, AR headsets are increasingly becoming more understated and designed in a way that users may find attractive and practical enough to wear in their daily lives.

Robots across industries

CES 2019 was once again heavily populated by robots, but this time with no disastrous breakdowns. The Lovot from Japanese startup Groove X was one that garnered many attendees’ attention. The bot - which looks a bit like a small rolling Tellytubby - is designed to “nurture people’s capacity to love”, largely by following its owner around and asking to be cuddled.


Samsung's new line of robots made their debut at CES [Source: Samsung]

More functional use cases came from Samsung’s announcements of their new Bot Care, Bot Air and Bot Retail – for health-monitoring, air-purifying and customer service respectively. While Samsung is certainly not the first to announce new robots, with rivals like LG and Sony having showcased their own previous years, Samsung expanding their offerings in artificial intelligence beyond just their virtual assistant is something worth keeping an eye on.

It’s unlikely these will be commercially released any time soon, but it is another step closer to intelligent robots performing ever more varied and useful roles across a variety of industries.

 

Alexa and Google Assistant had a strong hold over CES once again, being integrated into more and more devices. This year’s offerings were eclectic, with smart homes getting smarter, AR getting more stylish and robots diversifying. Amidst it all, though, it was AI and voice tech that proved themselves to be positioned firmly at the heart of major developments. 

 

If you want to find out more about 2019’s biggest tech trends and how they will affect your industry, drop us a line, we love chatting about this stuff.​

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