CES 2015: A Retrospective


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It has been a week since CES ended and a retrospective is in order. I believe this was the most interesting CES in many years, perhaps ever. Yes, there were the expected hundreds of smartphone cases and battery chargers and cables galore. But there were also strong indications of formerly embryonic trends becoming actual mainstream technology.

In my last column, I mentioned drones and robots, two areas that will absolutely become part of everyday life in the coming decade. In addition, we saw great advances in 3D printing, lower costs for consumables for this process as well as faster and more precision gave us new devices this year from true high-quality musical instruments both in appearance and sound, to 3D printed circuits complete with embedded active and passive components. Amazing computing advancements utilizing tiny components are making self-driving automobiles real; I don’t mean just a news article, but something that we can expect to see and I would guess even debate the value of very soon. I can imagine us hearing about some freeway segments being made "autopilot only" at some point, and I can imagine the debate it will cause. Sound ridiculous? Well, just wait and see.

I saw many devices and technology trends, far more than I have reported on so far. Let me provide some examples of exciting technology and services that I have not mentioned so far. It is impossible for one reporter to cover the entire show so my list may be quite different from others you may see. Here they are in no particular order.

1. Dish TV’s Internet streaming TV for $20 a month. Also the assurance from Dish when a number of us asked that they were working with Fox News to once again include them in their offerings (this has since happened).

2. Smart appliances becoming mainstream. Being able to pre-warm your oven or turn on your dishwasher and, of course, being able to turn on our lights, unlock our doors, open the skylights, etc., from anywhere. While this is not new, affordability and reliability are now making it mainstream.

3. Rewalk, a wearable exoskeleton that provides mobility for the disabled using a powered robotic exoskeleton that enables people, like the pictured disabled vet with a spinal cord injury, to be able to walk on their own.

4. Virtual reality. I mentioned the Lowes VR utility, but VR has so many possibilities. Most of us knew about Oculus Rift, which has made great strides as a VR pioneer, but now that Epson, Samsung and Virtuix are in the game, we can expect to see amazing strides both in hardware and application over the next few years.

5. The Intel Computer Stick. Intel introduced a pocket-sized device that can plug into any monitor or TV with an HDMI port, turning it into a full Windows 8.1 computer. It is not a powerful computer, as it is powered by an Atom Bay Trail processor, but it does have 2 Gb of ram and the equivalent of a 32 Gb SSD. Powerful enough for using Microsoft Office applications, surfing the Web, and doing other basic computer tasks including streaming Hulu or Netflix.  It is WiFi capable and includes Bluetooth connectivity. Intel says they will begin shipping this very capable microcomputer in the next few months. The reported price will be under $150.6. For those of us who are passionate about technology and who enjoy building the latest and greatest computer, CES is always an opportunity to see and try out the latest and greatest components. For the DIY computer set (of which I admit I am one) there are a number of very interesting new components. Corsair was showing some new cases as well as the now commercially available RGB LED lit K-70 and K-95 keyboards. What is special about a keyboard? Well, these bad boys are equipped with 100% mechanical Cherry MX keys, many of them programmable, and the fully customizable lighting in literally millions of possible colors make them stand out from the crowd.

7. One additional DIY computer component that got my attention is the new Gigabyte Water Force cooler. Most of us have transitioned to closed loop liquid cooling but for those that want the ultimate in cooling control along with a true ultra geeky look, the Gigabyte unit certainly gets attention.

8. Speaking of Corsair, they showed me a new SSD that is extremely lightweight, aimed at providing large amounts of storage for drone-taken videos. After all, these drones that are flying around and taking hi-res videos do require a place to store their files while in flight, and this SSD seems just the ticket. It’s low in power use, fast, and light in weight to help extend flight time.

9. And finally, a short list of other devices I saw that deserve honorable mention. (Detailed reviews are available online.)

- The Lenovo Yoga, a really well engineered Ultrabook/Tablet.- The TOBII Gaze eye tracking technology, which lets you select items on a screen by just looking at them.- New larger-screen OLED TVs, such as the LG 55”, $4,000 to $5,000, and now in OLED. Not just as good as real life, but even better!- New smartphone cameras that actually take “prosumer-level” photos, such as the Nokia Lumia900, which even includes a rear-facing wide-angle lens.- A number of new ultrathin, extremely light Ultrabooks.

 

And, in the realm of overkill, audio systems with power levels and speakers that should be able to fill a stadium with overpowering sound and bass levels seemingly able to simulate an earthquake.

So, there we have it. I think CES 2015 was the best CES I have attended. It was a show of mostly evolution rather than revolution, but it did show that many technologies and device categories are truly evolving from interesting toys to true mainstream technologies that will soon be part of our everyday lives.

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