CES 2015: Tech that makes love to the senses and smart homes get less creepy
The Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas is the show that sets the pace for the coming year in technology – the first time in the calendar year when the industry and media sample the wares of the leading technology innovators.
CES 2014 was all about wearables, smart homes, next-gen televisions and gaming. Anyone who has been following CES 2015 will know that this year’s trends haven’t changed too much. But maybe that’s a good thing. Rather than a lot of hype and hot air, the topics that dominated the headlines of 2014 are moving on significantly.
Last year was a mixed year for wearable technology. Despite Samsung’s launch of the Galaxy Gear in September 2013 sparking off a flurry of smartwatch announcements, we realistically probably won’t know just how in demand these products really are until the iWatch hits the shelves this year. What we do know is the wearable technology market has evolved to mean a lot more than smartwatches.
At CES 2015 the products catching the eyes of the world’s media are wearables with a health, wellness and fitness benefit. This video from CNET gives us a flavour of what to expect this year; wearable devices that tell your calorie intake is after eating, how you performed in your latest work out and whether or not you had an adequate night’s sleep. I wouldn’t recommend wearing any such products in Vegas.
Smart homes and appliances
The concept of smart homes been around for a few years, but in reality the majority of us still live in fairly silly homes. Homes that require us to put up with minor irritations such as flicking light switches and turning the heating on.
One theme of this year’s CES smart home scene is prospective vendors focusing on pushing slightly less creepy concepts. There was a period where, as Time magazine eloquently pointed out, the smart home seemed to mean consumers were being sold data surveillance technologies device by device. At CES 2015, however, smart technologies have been a bit more fun.
Trusted Reviews provided a lovely real-time round up of the best and worst smart home tech throughout the show. A couple of examples that caught my eye were self-watering decorative plants and an app-controlled coffee machine that you can effectively order your drink from remotely. Best of all, a video-enabled doorbell – a useful gadget for avoiding salesman and Aunty Pat, but also something of an e-gatekeeper that can be programmed to instruct delivery people to drop packages off at your neighbour’s house.
This is an area in which we saw significant strides last year with lots of innovation promised and delivered by automotive powerhouses such as Mercedes, BMW and Audi and VW. Google even made a driverless car, which it is closing in on obtaining insurance for.
CES 2015 saw an interesting announcement from NVIDIA stating its intention to provide powerful graphics processors to the automotive market that can cope with the necessary computing capabilities required by the communications and networking requirements of in-car technologies. Gesture control companies are also targeting this market as a pie they want a slice of – with all sorts of ideas from waving at our radios to “virtual cockpits”.
Increasing the quality
Intel’s launch of its hotly anticipated 5th-gen core processor family nicely sums up the general theme of this year’s show when it comes to outright consumer tech. Expect more power, more speed and better audio-visual capabilities from your tech.
Sony is just one company that is pouring a few eggs into the hi-res audio basket and the return of the Walkman is a real stake in the ground, challenging consumers to sacrifice the ultra-light weight, excess storage audio devices they are used to in exchange for great sound. Furthermore, LG is looking to improve audio quality on flat screen TVs and multi-room entertainment systems with its new sound bar and Music Flow speakers.
It’s not just audio that is getting better on TVs, of course. Stunning visuals dominated CES once again and the 4K versus HDR argument continues to rage on. While 4K achieves the Ultra HD experience through increasing the pixels, High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology, as demonstrated by Dolby Vision at this year’s show, focuses on improving the quality of the pixel itself to revolutionise the viewing experience.
Both of these trends indicate that the industry as a whole is shifting in favour of quality over convenience and coming up with products that meet the needs of consumers that are willing to pay more for a great experience.