CES 2019: The Big Trends and What That Looks Like for the Future

Like clockwork, every year in January, thousands (180,000, to be more precise) of big tech names (Samsung, Google, Apple, etc.) and their die-hard followers rush to Las Vegas in the Nevada desert with their heads full-to-the-brim of ideas and concepts to avidly grasp at the future.

Since its starting in New York City in 1967, CES has fast become the biggest tech show in the world, hopping over the USA to different venues and sparking constant interest; a huge benchmark for like-minded thinkers about product potentials and trends bubble away well in advance so consumers can get the most up-to-date information. Firstly, let’s define what trends really are. According to the Collins English Dictionary, the word ‘trend’ used as a noun means the “change or development towards something new or different”. Used as a verb, the act of ‘trending’ is when “a lot of people are discussing or mentioning [a subject] on the internet”. Both the noun and verb fit quite well in the digital economy, wouldn’t you say?

CES is distinguished for showcasing all sorts of new trends. The first home VCR was launched due to the growing trend of new aged golden cinema in 1970. Boom, put it in your home. Check. When computers were getting traction in businesses, the first PC was introduced in ’78 to be put in your home. Check. And DVD’s showed their faces for the first time in ’91 when a more easily accessible film-watching experience was needed, and the list goes on.

CES 2019 was all about artificial intelligence. Everything could connect to everything. I’m sorry to ruin anyone’s day, but basically the future is going to the robots. But you shouldn’t be scared! They’re here to help you, pledging to the masses a ‘better user experience’. American research company, Forrester defined artificial intelligence as “a system of capabilities for machines to interact, think or mimic human intelligence and engagement” and laptop’s, phones, drones, toilets, cars and sunglasses (to name but a few) contained this machine brain. In all honesty, it was like bringing a gun to a cock-fight with Google and Amazon on the battleground, each playing out some remarkable voice-powered products.

The trusted American multinational company, Google – which we all know and love dearly – said that over one billion devices now contain its Google Assistant, and to show that big statistic off, they had a big booth at the event. Three times bigger than last year. Dozens of Google displays were dotted around, advertising the latest in smartphone, speakers, smart displays and home devices, all able to connect with the artificial intelligence. Get this: they even had a fully-functioning home display that was completely in sync, a vast array of Made by Google products and even a rollercoaster.

The build-up to the AI craze would have people thinking that within the next couple of years we’ll be in a war with the robots. Artificial intelligence is growing more and more world-wide every day. Though, yes, we can all agree that it is disruptive in a socio-political sense – you know what they say, Big Brother’s watching. According to IDC, robot imports have increased from around 100,000 in 2000 to around 250,000 in 2015. Imagine how many would be about now with the increase of AI tech over the last couple of years.

With all the hype, the closest thing that was seen this year AI-related and jaw-dropping was the self-driving car, Lyft, and a TV set. Pretty sure those robots won’t turn against you and get you racing for a Soviet-era bunker. The Lyft’s BMW 540i is kitted out with retrofitted sensors and a lot of cameras made a lot of buzz, even though it was announced early last year. If the whole ‘taking over the world’ conspiracy is due to a car, let them have it.

Another AI product that shook CES was probably its most trending product which came in the form of LG’s 65-inch OLED TV, which is pretty stock-standard for such an event. But there is a catch that caught people’s interest and flipped all expectations on its head…or rolled it away like a burrito, and all you need to do is ask it nicely! The TV rolled away into its base instead of the screen sitting idly, taking up space. The TV includes three different viewing types: the ‘Full View’ gives the whole screenl; a ‘Line View’ gives the display partially hidden from sight, showing just a line or block of rectangle that will show you just the clock, or pictures, or music controls; and the ‘Zero View’ is, you guessed it, where there is no display at all. The 65-inch TV was controlled by audio queues that are picked up by Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri or Homekit.

It seems that AI is here to stay to make our lives more convenient and maybe in the future we’ll be seeing more elaborate concepts using it.

After AI, the next biggest trend was the 5G network. Put simply, it means a faster connection. It looks to the future, in a sense, with more connectivity and intelligence to newer spaces at twice the speed. Imagine, the whole eight seasons of Game of Thrones downloaded in mere seconds!

With the wealth of other super cool ideas and products making a big splash at CES, 5G (though a major trend) sort of faded away somewhat. Show booths from such names as T-Mobile and Verizon played off new smartphones with 5G capability, and that sparked a few discussions, but in reality this super new network is getting a bit too confusing off the first bat. Despite that, there’ll be a massive market for it, with economists suggest that 5G networks will reach up to USD$12 trillion by 2035.

The big question of 5G is, where will it actually take us? Think of a world where everyone (and everything) is connected – businesses, people, and robots all in a triangle of global union. Nowadays, nearly every person has a mobile phone and everyone uses it to check Facebook or go shopping. If we welcome in a faster speed in order to do that, our survival, in retrospect, will end up in the hands of the machine. But is that a bad thing? Are we gearing up to substitute our lives for convenience? 5G is a pretty big topic to cover, and it was slightly pushed aside by AI this year at CES, but I’m sure it’ll raise its head come 2020.

Connectivity and autonomy sort of go hand in hand these days, with Tesla tossing out electric vehicles that can do everything but massage your feet while you drive. Now, I know what you’re thinking: that’s already been done and not just by Tesla. But not to this extent. We’re talking significant enough breakthroughs by big multinational telecommunications companies, like Qualcomm that want to make the convenience of driving futuristic and readily accessible. With using a 9150 chipset, they have promised communication can get sent to a car by an anonymous chauffeur. Self-driving cars have, for the most part, their pros and cons. No matter which way you look at it, computers are actually pretty good drivers. They’ll use algorithms to determine the proper stopping distance and other factors that will decrease the possibility of car accidents. But on the other side of the coin, nothing beats the ability to operate a proper car. The cost would be extortionate and, admittedly, the company would take too much slack on faulty cars opposed to faulty drivers. I’m sure, however, that self-driving cars will make a come-back next year with its AI capability and foot massage additions. Here’s hoping.

Sitting centre stage at this year’s event, music hasn’t gone down without recognition. We all love a good tune and with music becoming so widely accessible these days with Spotify and iTunes, it’s no surprises that whole albums haven’t been zapped into our heads already.

A direct economy built on a blockchain world, music is fast becoming a very futuristic and convenient money-making system. For those of you not familiar with what blockchain is, it is a cryptocurrency sort of like Bitcoin that can help you buy anything, but there has been a rising price on music in recent years.

Sony’s CES press conference was led by Virginia-born rapper, singer, producer and songwriter, Pharrell Williams who announced the 360 Reality Audio. The new concept adds to high-res audio by special dimension, which will build on the MPEG-H 3D audio format and place the music around the listener, as though it’s being performed live. This idea will probably be seen in future audio-capable devices, like Smart TV’s, or speakers.

Courtney Holt, the Head of Spotify Studios and Jemele Hill, award-winning journalist, gave a talk on Spotify about the evolution of the online music store. There was also a massive wealth of other really cool products on the horizon, like the JBL Link Bar, the Sol Republic Shadow Fusion, SP3000 and Technics SL-1200 MK7.

The scope of what music is and how it can be easily distributed is a vast topic. I remember the days of CD players and rushing down to the closest record shop to get your hands on the latest Now That’s What I Call Music album. The change in the way we listen to music now is pretty extraordinary. That change is thanks to AI, a big trend that went through CES like wildfire. Different algorithms have learnt your favourite tracks off by heart with the power coming straight from the internet! Sounds like convenience to me.

It seems that new technical information and products are becoming smarter and more accessible. If we are to look at what the CES 2019 has taught us, if it can be synced to your self-driving car’s 3D radio, the product idea floating around in your head is going to be beneficial and justified on the CES stage. If it can massage your feet too, even better.

Technology is becoming as valuable as air nowadays. It surrounds us (even though we don’t want to admit it at times) and we are relying on it more and more for survival. The CES event is an integral part of the development of our tech-driven world and we can’t wait to see the trends and ideas that blossom for next year’s CES. It’s quite difficult to pinpoint what exactly will change the future, but there’s a lot of healthy potential. Who knows…maybe you, dear reader, will have the answer.