CES 2019: Day 2 Report

Oh Google, you tease. The Hey Google stand sits incongruously in the Las Vegas Convention Center parking lot, looking like it wants into CES but not being allowed. And yet, in amongst the IKEA-style furniture and layout demonstrating their Home Hub story, is a little rollercoaster – no, really, a REAL rollercoaster – called The Google Assistant Ride.

It’s a little like Disney’s It’s A Small World, with lots of exhibits showing how their voice assistant can work in our everyday lives, with a hilarious song too (please publish this at once Google!). You get your photo taken, and at the end, where you’d normally look back at the photos briefly before walking away, CES attendees scan their pass to get a copy and the chance of having a Home Hub delivered (US only, at the time of writing).

Google’s tongue-in-cheek take on the Magic Kingdom blew a breath of fresh air into Day 2 of CES. We took a pleasingly-crowded monorail – pleasing because we sailed over long queues of traffic – and got stuck in with our mission to cover both the North and South halls, while picking off a couple of larger booths missed from day 1.

I don’t know how much time, effort and money Google spent on their Assistant ride, but it was absolutely worth it – a real highlight of this year’s CES!

The North hall, closest to the Westgate hotel, featured lots of IoT providers. Like autonomous vehicles, the tech stack is widening in IoT; it is not one particular technology or solution, more a principle or strategy. As such we saw sensor tech, management platforms and even IoT managed services, with the word “agnostic” used just enough in the right places. Certainly, there’s enough going on in this space that one supplier just can’t cover all bases, so as this industry expands, we can expect even more companies in the IoT stack.

We dropped in on Samsung, whose biggest draw was The Wall, a gigantic, 219-inch LED screen. Interestingly, talking to some of the Samsung engineers revealed that although 8K screens are now appearing, the content production is falling even further behind and that the biggest development in this space is with the scaling software. This has apparently evolved very quickly and means your simple HD cable or satellite feed can be scaled in realtime to suit your higher resolution screens.

If that screen looks big, that’s because it is; Samsung’s The Wall display

Lots on with Intel, too, and a great case study with both IoT and artificial intelligence. Partnering RESOLVE to develop a camera that links via antennas, their solution uses AI to work out if a human being is in a protected wildlife reserve and can alert authorities. We even got to have a play on their stand, tip-toeing through lots of plants to see if we could evade detection from the camera (I failed). Intel also showed off their work with driverless technology and a fun virtual reality game.

That’s your writer hiding in the bushes, but identified as a poacher using Intel’s clever solution

The South Mall was jammed with robots, drones and gaming technology. The latter was interesting if only for the number of retro products drawing the crowds. Lots of 1980s classics coverted into tiny, desktop-sized, battery-powered arcade machines, and a neat take on the original Pong video game with a physical table-top version.

The robotics were interesting and this space continues to evolve quickly, particularly in the humanoid space. I can’t stand the word cute, but it is applicable in many cases here, as the manufacturers try a pull on the heart strings – perhaps over practical use cases – to attract buyers. Dancing, window cleaning and even playing with your dog: they can do it all.

Lots of dancing robots. A real crowd draw, yes, but what price longevity once taken home?

We also liked Hypervsn (“Hypervision”), a UK-based company who have developed a kind of fan that works like a screen or projector. Each blade has a strip of LEDs and when the fan rotates, the LEDs switch on and off to match the pitch of the blades so you get a hovering display. It’s not perfect but it is clever, and definitely an attention grabber.

A shout also to Yamaha who were operating a driverless vehicle trial between the Central and South Halls. Theirs included oversized golf buggies that followed a covered wire in the road. Cameras enable passengers to control the pace (a raised palm causes the buggy to stop, thumbs up from all passengers lets it go) and with sensors to detect obstructions it covers the driverless bases without the amazing complexity that goes with them. As a low duty, intermediate driverless solution, it demands a look.

I can report that my legs are hurting now – 17,500 steps today – but that’s the main bit (the LVCC) done. We’re at the Sands and Venetian expo centers tomorrow to provide yet more musings here in another 24 hours. It won’t be quite like the Google Assistant ride though.


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