There no place like Las Vegas to be visually stimulated except for Las Vegas in January during the gigantic Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Now in its 50th year the show expands far beyond the Las Vegas Convention Centre right across the city. Without a question of doubt the place where all the cool kids are hanging out is the Sands Expo centre behind the Venetian Casino. This is where Eureka Park is situated, a busy, high energy place where wannabe entrepreneurs and inventors reside. You’re not going to see flashy stands here but instead, out of the box, original thinking that covers just about anything that can be digi-fied. Naturally there is a trend towards IoT and wearable devices but we saw many innovations from brain-operated controllers to screens where you can feel texture through advanced haptics and even robots that can express emotion through subtle changes in facial expressions.

Here are some of our highlights:

Retail Innovation: Sprucebot

A guest experience bot that helps physical businesses build relationships with their customers by promoting human connection. It does this by logging guests details (once signed into the store’s WiFi), then allows a black book to be filled with key notes, everything from product preferences to personal information. When customers return, the bot alerts the store and a warm welcome can be shown.

Hospitality and wearables: Ocean Medallion

Carnival Corporation, that owns Princess Cruises showcased how technology and wearables can offer an enriched holiday experience. Called the “Ocean Medallion” the wearable allows anyone wearing the device to get into their rooms, navigate the ship, order and pay for food and drinks, find friends and family on board, power gaming experiences and allow crew to create surprises for each guest based on who they are and why they’re there. The team behind this are the same as who created Disney’s Magic band.

Televisions

TV’s are always a big deal at CES and this year we saw LG taking the show by storm with its 2.57mm-thin OLED TV that’s been referred to as a “wallpaper television”. It’s so thin that it comes with special magnets/stickers to mount it on the wall with almost a flush appearance. The LG Signature OLED W7 also features a 25% brighter screen than previous models while still offering 4K resolution and HDR

Another innovation was from Samsung with its “Lifestyle TV” that is designed to never be turned off. It comes in a wooden frame, in an attempt to look like a painting. When positioned amongst an array of actual paintings it was impossible to tell which one was the TV.

Augmented Reality

AR is still in its infancy but it’s something that will play a part in most of our lives in the future (just look at how prominent of a role it plays in Facebook’s ten-year roadmap). Today the commercial use is centred around gaming, however at CES we saw lots of companies using AR in order to tell their own stories better. The rich, immersive and intuitive user interface VR offers means that in the future we will be able to appreciate places and experiences like never before. Intel presented a series of VR experiences using Project Alloy, a powerful untethered VR experience that can uses merged realty, (where you can combine the virtual and real worlds). They also showed off volumetric or 360 degree video which they believe is the future of video. Many brands including Nikon showed off 360 degree cameras, further evidence that video will get immersive and social.

Autonomous Driving

The main story of CES this year was autonomous cars and AI. Every car manufacturer is talking about autonomous driving, not only about the technology but more interesting about the purpose of a car. Moving from point A to B will be centred around purpose, with cars acting more like living spaces or offices. BMW even showed a car that contained its own library with real books and soft furnishings. Ford announced a partnership with Amazon and its AI assistant Alexa. Honda explored how the car could earn money for its driver by “working” or transporting other passengers whilst its owner is at work or not using the car. ZF, a German tier 1 automotive supplier showed how cars could save their owners time by carrying out errands such as re-charging itself and paying for services autonomously. Do you love your existing car but want it to able to drive itself? According to X-Matik, they will be able to sell the “brains” that can make that happen. Cars in the future will be so intelligent they will know who is approaching it, Faraday Future unveiled its FF91 that has no handles, the doors open as the driver approaches (it has facial and emotional recognition). It’s also the fastest car in the world with a 0-60 in 2.39 seconds. This is what Chinese investment and Silicon Valley brains is bringing to the world.

There was so much more from drones that can follow its owner by recognising their face, to mobile phone interfaces that uses human fingers and bone conduction to take a receive calls. CES has yet again done an amazing job in curating the most creative and innovative minds on the planet.

Steven Kainth