CES has now come to a close, and the ordered chaos which comes from one of the largest events in the industry has ended. As ever, CES was a show of contrasts. Some of the products on display shone brightly, while others merely baffled consumers. And among the bigger players, the sense of rivalry and competition was ramped up once again. Here are the top ten talking points from CES 2014.
Connected cars drive into view
It will be a while before vehicles are allowed to roam roads sans driver, but customers will see cars with apps, Internet and LTE connectivity sooner rather than later. However, roadblocks remain for consumers looking to install new technology. Polk research firm reports the average American car is 11.4 years old, and upgrades will be difficult to retrofit. Safety also worries regulators, customers and manufacturers alike as the threat of distracted driving permeates discussions on innovation. Though cars will be equipped with many of the same capabilities as a smartphone, automakers seem to eager to protect drivers from themselves, with the likes of GM limiting the apps for purchase in its shop.
3D printers come down in price
3D printers may be capable of creating Eiffel Towers, weapons, and even organs, but for now are unable do so without costing makers a fortune. At CES 2014, 3D printing companies sent prices for their wares sliding downhill, beginning with the MakerBot mini tagged at $1,375. Other sub-$1,000 competitors on display showed the industry slowly making its way into mainstream consumer electronics. One such device, the ChocaByte, cost less than $100 and printed chocolates for attendees.
Robotics show tech’s most ambitious side
Robotics is surely one of the most promising, dangerous and speculative industries in technology. Although the number of robotics products on display was relatively low, and the majority were devices intended to clean the home, there was a sense that the industry was making small steps forward, buoyed on by Google’s giant investment in the sector last year.
Ultra HD TVs debut
The biggest trend in televisions this year was the unveiling of ultra high definition 4K devices. Samsung, LG and Vizo all showed off this technology in their latest products. The televisions boast resolution four times better than conventional high definition screens. But the move to ultra HD is unlikely to have the same effect on the market as the initial move to HD, and it seems the industry is running out of ideas on how to make consumers need to upgrade their TVs.
Samsung also unveiled the curved screen, which although an impressive engineering accomplishment, also fails to capture the imagination in the way that smart TVs and internet-connected screens in the living room have done in the past.
Big name rivalries flare up again
Some of the big guns faced off against each other at CES this year. Although a few of the major players were not in attendance at all, such as Microsoft and Apple. But Samsung and LG went head to head with their ultra HD TVs (see above) and telecom giants T-Mobile and AT&T managed to get into an argument when the former’s CEO John Legere was thrown out of the latter’s concert. The rivalry in the games industry has always been fierce, and although Microsoft was not present, Sony still managed to land a major blow in the console wars, as it’s PlayStation 4 outsold the Xbox One. And the two are set for more competition as Steam announced it’s entrance into the console sector, with Steam Machines. Twitter and Facebook both had speakers at the conference side of the show, and there were hints of tension between the two competitors, currently facing off for video advertising dollars.
Wearables market getting more crowded
Wearable technology had a large presence at this year’s show. So far the majority of success in this sector has been enjoyed by the fitness companies such as Nike, but at CES major tech firms made big plays in this space. Intel was a prime example, revealing a smart earphone bud concept that could monitor the vitals of wearers. LG unveiled the Lifeband Touch, an activity tracker that allows users to control music and handle calls. Sony also revealed its own activity tracker, called The Core.
the entrance of these types of names into the wearables market shows it is maturing, but there was little to be enthused about regarding smartwatches or smartglasses at the event, and the wearables industry still doesn’t seem to be quite where it wants to be.
Occulus Rift steals gaming attention
Sony made big headlines when it announced during the show it sold 4.2 million PlayStation 4 consoles in 2013, revealing a healthy lead over Microsoft’s Xbox One, which sold 3 million. The company also offered a peek into the future of gaming with PlayStation Now, which allows games to be streamed.
But for many at the show the real news in gaming was the unveiling of the latest Occulus Rift prototype. The device offers gamers the chance to immerse themselves in video games through a large black box worn over their head. It may sound like something which was tried and failed in the 1980s, but the Occulus Rift has earned rave reviews from practically all who tried it out at CES.
The headset, designed by the prodigiously talented Palmer Luckey, first made waves on Kickstarter in 2012 when it raised ten times the $250,000 it aimed to raise. Bigger backers followed and in December last year, Andreessen Horowitz led a $75 million round of investment in the device. It’s not expected to be commercially available until at least the end of this year, but the Occulus Rift has made an incredible impression at CES.
Cheaper smartphones continue to enter market
CES reinforced the view that cheaper smartphones are sure to challenge the likes of Apple and Samsung in the near future. There were many impressive cheap devices being shown off at CES, including the MID5006 by Masun Info Technology, which is built around an eight core 1.7GHz processor, runs Android 4.2 and costs about $190. The was also the Jeko JK808 made by China’s DOME Group. It costs just $110 and has a 1.5GHz processor and a high-definition display. A lot of these phones are Chinese made and sold to other companies, which put their own names on them and resell them. Expect more of the same at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona in February.
Drones impress as toys
There were a number of drone products at CES this year, some of them toys, others for photography and cinematography. Not bad considering it’s still illegal to use them for any commercial reason in the U.S. For this reason the toys represent the biggest market right now, aside from the huge defense contracts to be won. Parrot’s mini-drones caught the most attention, its palm sized quadrocopter the Minidrone is controllable via iPhones and its
Jumping Sumo also impressed.
The Internet of Things connects it all
Connected cars, connected homes, wearables and robotics — to some extent, all these categories converge on one concept, the Internet of Things. Once a pipe dream, the idea for a world immersed in connectivity has launched products now en route for mass-market adoption. Verticals including entertainment, security and IT will feel the impact of Internet of Things, which will give consumers the chance to sync social and mobile with the physical world. Practical innovations will allow people to lock up and monitor their homes while they are on vacation or watch cable TV on the bus. Companies at CES showed consumers ways to use iPhones to remote control and gain information from devices around them. And while no product stole the show, some innovators stood out for their strategies heading into the emerging space. One such company was SmartThings, which Frank Gillett of Forrester set apart for the way it created an ecosystem around services.