Every January, the Consumer Electronics Association hosts the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada -- where analysts, consumers, and professionals from all corners of the world gather to learn about the tech industry's latest trends, products, and services.
We had the chance to attend CES last year, where learned about the top anticipated tech trends for the year, the role of brand loyalty in consumer technology, and what it's really like to ride in a self-driving car -- not to mention, how important these vehicles could be to businesses within the next decade.
Next week, we're once again traveling to Las Vegas for CES 2019, where we'll spend -- from all corners of the world gather to learn about the latest tech trends, tinker with brand-new gadgets, and spend several days pondering the question, "What's next?"
But at what has come to be known as perhaps the largest consumer technology event of the year, it's nearly impossible to see everything. And trying to fit every learning opportunity -- not to mention, the chance to play with new technology that's just plain cool -- into a few days? That's no easy task, either.
That's why we hand-picked a short list of the things we're most excited to see at CES 2019, and why they're so important for us to check out while we're there.
1. CES 2019 Trends to Watch
One of the highlights of CES 2018 was an opening day presentation on the top tech trends to come that year, given by the Consumer Technology Association's (CTA) senior manager of market research Lesley Rohrbaugh, as well as senior director of market research Steve Koenig.
Last year, it was predicted that the following seven trends would dominate the year:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Facial Recognition on the Go
- Virtual Reality
- Smart Cities
Some of these trends may have panned out in 2018 more than others. For example, 5G and virtual reality both have yet to make the big splash that was anticipated, but that could very well change in 2019. In fact, the progress made within both technologies over the past year has helped shape what we're looking forward to seeing at the upcoming edition of CES -- see item #5.
Meanwhile, others items on the list -- such as voice technology -- continue to progress and appear on a number of different platforms. And seeing as 25% of people believe that all searches will be done by voice within the next five years, we wouldn't surprised to see that trend continue to evolve.
All things considered, we're eager to see how the events and evolution in all of these areas shape what makes the 2019 Trends to Watch list.
2. The Many Faces of AI
Artificial intelligence (AI) made the 2018 list of Trends to Watch, and as the dawn of 2019 is upon us, the role it plays in a number of technologies, platforms, and industries continues to grow.
Last year, all eyes were on how AI powers voice assistants and the hardware that comes equipped with them, such as smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and the company's Alexa assistant. In areas like these, AI technology like machine learning lends itself to the ability to recognize user preferences and behavioral patterns.
That particular piece of AI is one that appears likely to be crucial to several areas of technology in 2019 -- and one of the things we're most excited to learn about at CES this year. Samsung, for instance, is slated to unveil eight new AI projects developed in its C-Lab, including MEDEO: an instant video-making service that uses machine learning to edit video footage at the same time users are capturing it.
One sub-topic within AI that arose at last year's CES was how trust, bias, and ethics play a part in the technologies it powers. And as AI becomes more far-reaching -- serving as a foundation to autonomous vehicles, some advances in healthcare, and more -- those issues become more central to this topic. This year, sessions will take place on these issues, including one on the potential of bias in AI systems, and how it can be addressed in the technology's continued growth.
3. What's Next for Self-Driving Cars in Daily Life
As self-driving cars begin to appear on more U.S. roads, many are keeping a close eye on how well they work, and the services they'll provide as the technology continues to evolve.
Autonomous vehicle technology is one of the more highly anticipated categories of technology appearing at CES this year, and one of the items we're most eager to experience. For example, AutoX -- a self-driving food and grocery delivery service -- will be demonstrating its services next week, and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao is expected to address the future of autonomous vehicles in a keynote titled "The New Mobility Revolution."
When we surveyed 3,325 people across the U.S., UK, and Canada last fall, it shed some light on the public perception of self-driving cars -- and on their experiences with and expectations of autonomous vehicles. Nearly half said that while they had never ridden in a self-driving car before, they would like to try it, and 60% indicated that they believe these vehicles will make up the majority of cars on most roads within the next 20 years.
Data collected with Lucid
As we explore what's next for self-driving cars in day-to-day life, that time frame could shrink -- and the use cases for autonomous vehicle technology could become broader in a shorter period of time.
4. The Robot Is One of Us
One core area of technology that is highly powered by artificial intelligence is that of robotics -- and at CES 2019, several sessions will explore the role of robots in day-to-day lives, especially for consumers.
A dedicated CES conference track, "Service Robotics Arrive in Daily Life," will explore how "service robots" -- those that prepare and serve food, or perform household chores -- are integrating with more parts of our routines. Combined with the growth of artificial intelligence and the role it plays in the natural language capabilities of these robots, the topic of robotic companionship could also arise, with the potential of a future where household robots become, in some sense, members of the family.
One exhibitor, Zoetic, will debut such a companion robot at CES this year named Kiki, which is powered by deep learning technology -- a subset of AI -- to interact with humans, recognize faces and facial expressions (and respond in kind), and detect objects.
5. The 5G Era
Last month, when we examined how certain anticipated 2018 tech trends panned over the course of the year, we noted that 5G hadn't become quite as widespread as some may have hoped.
That said, 5G -- a fifth generation of wireless technology slated to support the rising number of mobile internet users by providing better speed, handling more data, greater responsiveness, and connectivity to smart devices -- made some significant progress in 2018.
At last year's Mobile Word Congress, for example, 5G dominated many discussions and presentations, with multiple mobile device manufacturers and wireless providers battling to be the top provider of this new type of connectivity.
Plus, Verizon selected Samsung as the provider for its 5G commercial launch -- and AT&T took a big step toward 5G becoming accessible for general users in December, when it launched a 5G mobile service in about 12 U.S. cities, though its 5G-capable phones are not slated to be released until 2019.
AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan is scheduled to deliver a keynote at CES next week on the topic of "New Frontiers in Mobile," where he's expected to discuss the role of 5G in robotic manufacturing, AR/VR and mixed reality, and public safety. Similarly, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg will also deliver a keynote, addressing the company's 5G broadband internet service could potentially shape smart cities infrastructure.
6. And Everything Else
To reiterate: At what has come to be known as perhaps the largest consumer technology event of the year, it's nearly impossible to see everything.
But in addition to the items on this list, we're also looking forward to discovering some of the latest trends and launches in the world of X reality (XR) -- in particular, how augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) play a role in consumer and business technology alike.
According to the VRX 2018 XR Industry Survey, for example, category experts believe the strongest opportunity for XR in enterprise is AR -- which CES vendors like Holoforge Interactive are addressing with the creation of platforms that allows companies to create their own AR services and experiences.
And the fun hardly ends there. From stress-reducing brain scans to body-temperature-regulating bracelets, there's a host of technologies we're eager to see at CES 2019. We'll be covering the event all week, so be sure to check back to see the latest and greatest developments from this year's event.