CES is home to massive crowds and attention-grabbing gadgets, which can make it difficult to see the forest for the trees. We’re taking a step back to look at the trends at the show that will have the biggest influence on technology this year.
Now that CES 2020 is wrapping up, we’re taking a step back to get a broader view and identify some common themes. A few are unsurprisingly familiar (CES has always been a launchpad for larger, sharper, and more colorful TVs), while others are new, reflecting changes in available technologies and the times.
This year, the usual array of giant screens was joined by some gadgets that will help make your home and car smarter, loads of robots, and, in a sharp change from last year’s policies, a good deal of sex devices. With that in mind, these are the biggest trends from this year’s show.
Displays on Display
Despite the difficulties Samsung faced in bringing its chic Galaxy Fold to market, the concept has proven popular enough to show up in plenty of new devices this year. We saw a folding phone prototype from TCL, a similar tablet from Lenovo, and an LG TV that can change between flat and curved views.
In the more traditional space — big, flat TVs — we’re seeing more 8K sets, with wide color gamuts and inky blacks thanks to OLED tech. OLED can’t be used in computer monitors due to burn-in, but Mini LED tech brings many of the same benefits, including strong black levels and true color reproduction, to gamers and photo editors. Computing giant Asus is using it in screens for gamers and creators.
The Race to 5G Continues
You don’t go to CES to see a ton of new phones these days — most of those are held back for the upcoming Mobile World Congress show. But we saw lots of new 5G tech, including a desktop computer with a built-in 5G modem and a new mobile hotspot. As we’ve been tracking in our Race to 5G coverage, you can expect to wait a bit longer to really reap the benefits of the next generation of cellular networks.
And there are going to be engineering challenges along the way. To get the best speeds out of any network, you want the best signal, and that’s something that can be affected by the seemingly innocuous smartphone case. D30, the materials company that supplies several case makers, introduced a new plastic that doesn’t block 5G signals.
Concepts Are the Coolest Things
Let’s face it — a lot of the best stuff at CES is never going to go on sale. We saw a concept car from Mercedes and James Cameron, but it’s not something you can test drive at a dealership. OnePlus was also on hand with a leather-wrapped handset with obscured rear camera lenses. The industrial design is stunning, but will it ship?
Some of the best concepts weren’t quite as ambitious. We love Alienware’s UFO handheld gaming computer, basically a Windows 10 tablet crossed with a Nintendo Switch. Samsung’s Ballie robot is another headline-grabber, but one that we’d be surprised to see go on sale.
Loads of Gear for Gamers
There’s more stuff than ever for gamers. Nostalgists will love the Arcade1Up NBA Jam cabinet, and PC gamers have loads of new hardware options to buy in 2020 — most with very nifty multi-color lighting effects.
It’s not all about flash, though that’s a big part of it for brands like Asus Republic of Gamers, MSI, and XPG (to name a few). We also saw screens with faster refresh rates, up to 360 times per second, so you can better react to incoming fire when playing Fortnite.
It was a quiet CES for console lovers, though. With new Xbox and Playstation machines on the horizon, the only thing Sony showed us was the logo for its upcoming PS5. Nintendo doesn’t do CES, instead reserving most development news for its Nintendo Direct events.
Australia is on fire. Venice was recently more under water than usual. As consumers, we have the responsibility to make purchase decisions that are as friendly to the environment as possible. But it’s up to the engineers to develop the products.
Impossible brought its new meat alternative, Impossible Pork, to Las Vegas, a product that has both benefits to human health and the environment — it uses fewer resources to produce than animal agriculture.
Electric Vehicles — and car tech in general — is also big at CES. Our favorite car this year is one that is built with the environment in mind. The Fisker Ocean is an all-electric SUV that uses vegan leather for the interior and includes solar panels on the roof to reduce stress on the electrical grid.
Continued Rise of the Robots
It’s safe to say that the Samsung Ballie was the cutest robot at the show. The small rolling ball is rather nebulous in function — Samsung showed it following its owner around and responding to voice commands. Charmin, on the other hand, brought the RollBot. It’s the DJ Roomba of toilet paper — though I’d recommend just keeping your spare rolls within reach of the commode.
And, related to automation and AI is the continuing trend of digital assistants making their way into pretty much everything. Kohler is putting Alexa into a shower-head, so you can control your Spotify playlist while shampooing. Now, Charmin just needs to add an Alexa skill for the RollBot…
Sex Tech and Smart Health
We weren’t happy with the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)’s decision last year to rescind an award given to a sex toy, the Osé, for purely puritanical reasons. But the CTA, the group that runs CES, was a bit more socially liberal this year. We saw plenty of sex tech at the show, including a station for folks to build a vibrator from a kit, as well as the aforementioned Lora DiCarlo Osé (pictured).
Tech to help better your bedroom experience is just one aspect of smart health, of course. It’s still a growing space, and we saw the expected health-minded wearables, including the Withings Scanwatch, which takes heart rate monitoring a step further with a live ECG.
We also saw a connected razor from Bic, which is more of a device for voluntary market research rather than one with any benefit to your health. Conversely, connected toothbrushes from Colgate and Oral-B promise to improve oral health by helping you become a better brusher.
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