Crazy robots prove they’re not just a passing tech fad, electric cars and Google gets wet in our CES 2018 day one review.
Novelty is an easy subject to stray into in the world of technology, but with each passing tech trade show it’s clear robot companions aren’t going to fall into that category.
On the show floor at this year’s CES in Las Vegas, the number of robots is truly astonishing, as is the range of forms they take.
In a manner that feels similar to drones two or three years ago, it seems robots are seen as the new best way to draw attention to your company.
As artificial intelligence software becomes more powerful but crucially also more accessible, the human-like interactions these devices are capable of improves too.
One argument that can be levelled at the robotics industry, however, is the current lack of imagination in some quarters.
A walk through the aisles of CES will leave you surprised at just how many robots there are, but also slightly bored by the number of bots that seem to do similar versions of the same thing – offer companionship or entertainment in the home.
Usually roughly humanoid in shape, they’ll have a happy, friendly face, and will normally sing and/or dance.
In the long term, the robotics industry needs to get past this idea of “cute is appealing” if it is to truly innovate in consumers’ lives, but given the relative infancy of the modern market, this approach can be forgiven for now.
Especially when there are green shoots such as those shown by the Industrial Technology Research Institute.
The Taiwanese firm has its Intelligent Vision System for Companion Robots on display, which used a combination of AI, 3D object recognition and hand-eye coordination to play Scrabble.
The level of intelligence demonstrated proves how capable robots can be.
This sort of focus, combined with LG’s current push for robots to be deployed as service units in public spaces, are enough for now to show the industry is moving forward, and will fill the show floor at CES for years to come.
Byton looking to upset the apple cart
CES has increasingly become a battleground not just for tech firms, but also car companies as they look to make their vehicles smarter.
Alongside the household names of Ford, Toyota and Honda this year is Byton, a new start-up looking to disrupt the market with its new electric concept car.
Known simply as the Byton Concept for now, it is a fully electric car thats most striking feature is its huge dashboard display.
The 49-inch screen fills the entire dashboard, and is joined by another tablet-sized screen mounted in the steering wheel, and more mounted on the backs of the front seats for passengers in the rear.
Naturally the screens are about providing entertainment, but can also be used for communication purposes.
Users can even sync their fitness trackers to the car, which will then give you health advice.
But the most pertinent question about the Byton is probably about its viability. Last year at CES, another start-up, Faraday Future, showed off a concept electric, autonomous car to much fanfare.
Visiting the Byton stand on the floor at CES does bring with it a sense of deja vu.
But that’s not a good thing – Faraday Future has since become a cautionary tale for automotive start-ups. Since that CES last year the company has been hit by financial issues and the departure of key executives, including some to Byton.
As a result, questions remain over whether or not Byton is the next big thing in motoring, able to challenge the likes of Tesla, or just another ambitious project that slips into CES folklore as a “nearly product”.
Google gets a bit wet
The opening of CES was marred by torrential rain, leaving technology giant Google unable to open its booth on the first day of the show.
The annual convention in Las Vegas, which began on Tuesday, is expected to welcome more than 170,000 visitors.
Google, exhibiting at the show for the first time, was unable to open its outdoor booth after it was partially flooded by downpours.
Water dripping from the roof was also reported inside other parts of the Las Vegas Convention Centre.
The company made light of the incident on social media, referencing its virtual helper Google Assistant to check the weather forecast.
“Hey Google, what’s the weather in Las Vegas tomorrow?,” a post to the company’s Instagram account read.
“A few drops of water at #CES2018 can’t keep us from playing for long – stay tuned for more views from the Google Assistant Playground.”
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, more than an inch of rain fell, ending a record 116-day dry spell for the city.
Show organiser the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) did not comment on the incident, but chief executive Gary Shapiro did hail the start of the four-day event.
“The future of innovation is on display this week at CES, with technology that will empower consumers and change our world for the better,” he said.
“Every major industry is represented here at CES 2018, with global brands and a record number of startups unveiling products that will revolutionise how we live, work and play.
“From the latest in self-driving vehicles, smart cities, AI, sports tech, robotics, health and fitness tech and more, the innovation at CES 2018 will further global business and spur new jobs and new markets around the world.”
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