Technology seems to be moving at an indomitable pace. From land phones to the next-generation smartphones that we have in our pockets today, almost anything and everything around us has been transforming into better versions of itself; all thanks to technological progress. And if there’s one place that allows you to take a sneak peek into what the future of everything around us might look like, that is the Consumer Electronics Show. Popularly dubbed as CES, this annual trade show has been around for more than 50 years and is the congregation of all the advancements that are taking place in consumer technologies. This is the very exhibition where numerous historic inventions have been put in front of the consumers for the very first time – Videocassette Recorder (VCR) in 1970, High Definition Television (HDTV) in 1998, Blu-Ray DVD in 2003 and so on.
CES 2020 took place in the illustrious city of Las Vegas from 7th January to 10th January. Brands from all around the world flocked to amaze the consumers with their latest innovations, experts poured in their comments and insight, while promising startups also dared to take the center stage and amaze the crowd with their products. Starting from drones to fitness to even sports technology, CES 2020 certainly had anything for anyone. But first, let’s take a look into the top-tier gadgets that the exhibition has displayed for the masses.
Top picks of CES 2020
1. Wearable – Suunto 7 Smartwatch
Suunto 7 smartwatch is the first model to combine the brand’s fitness tech with free offline maps and Google’s Wear OS features, resulting in a best-of-all-worlds scenario. Users can use it as a guide to both the outer world and their inner body and look stylish in the process. It includes over 70 sport modes, GPS tracking, and a wrist heart-rate sensor. Users can analyze and share data through the Suunto app or on third-party apps like Strava and TrainingPeaks. To control music while working out, one can simply connect their headset to their smartphone. Also featured on the Suunto 7 are free offline maps, complete with terrain details and contour lines. That’s joined by heatmaps for 15 activities, including running, swimming, and cycling. The smartwatch seems to be the proper embodiment of high-performance – built to last, water-resistant to 50m and enabling the user to overcome any obstacle.
2. Laptop – Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold
ThinkPad X1 Fold, the world’s first foldable, fully functional PC. The device’s state of the art folding OLED display allows it to toggle through multiple modes, from a fully flat 13.3” display to a smaller footprint laptop-like device. It is lightweight and portable—all in all, the device weighs less than 2.2 pounds. The X1 Fold joins Lenovo’s Always Connected ranks and is another example of the company’s efforts to blur the lines between laptops and smartphones. It was co-engineered with Intel and features Intel Core Processors and Intel Hybrid Technology. The device comes with an Active Pen for content creation and note-taking, and a Bluetooth Mini Fold Keyboard, which charges wirelessly inside of the X1 Fold when it is folded closed.
3. Phone – Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite and S10 Lite
When it comes to incorporating state-of-the-art features in smartphones, Samsung clearly is in the league of legends. Its Galaxy Note 10 Lite and S10 Lite have certainly helped the company to earn that bragging right. Both phones feature 6.7-inch Super AMOLED Infinity-O displays at 2400 × 1080 resolution, with center-mounted hole-punch front-facing cameras, 4,500mAh batteries, and either 6GB or 8GB of RAM with 128GB internal storage. But the rest of the internal hardware differs greatly between the two devices. The Galaxy S10 Lite features a Snapdragon 855 processor, while the Galaxy Note 10 Lite offers Samsung’s in-house Exynos 8895 chipset. The rear camera systems both offer triple-lens setups, but they are also completely different on the two phones. On the other hand, the S10 Lite offers a 5-megapixel f/2.4 macro lens; a 48-megapixel F2.0 wide-angle lens featuring “Super Steady OIS,” a feature that the Note 10 Lite doesn’t offer; and a 12-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide featuring a 123-degree angle lens. Rounding out the differences, of course, is the S Pen on the Note 10 Lite, which isn’t included with the S10 Lite. The S Pen features the same Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) support introduced with the Note 9 in 2018, allowing it to be used to control the phone.
4. TV – Samsung Q950TS 8K QLED TV
The new QLED 8K uses 99 percent of its front surface for the display. There is a bezel, but it’s hard to perceive at just 2.3 millimeters. The TV itself is incredibly thin at 15 millimeters. The TV has AI-powered upscaling for making content appear closer to native 8K resolution. Samsung says the TV includes an adaptive picture setting that adjusts brightness and contrast based on the TV’s surroundings. As with the company’s other TVs, the 8K QLED features quantum dot color and full-array local dimming. A feature called OTS+ (object tracking sound plus) recognizes when moving objects are on the screen and tries to move sound along the TV’s speakers in a realistic fashion, producing an end result that the company says resembles 5.1 surround sound. And there’s also a “Q-Symphony” function that optimizes audio performance by utilizing both the TV’s speakers and a connected soundbar simultaneously.
5. Smart Home-tech – August Wi-Fi Smart Lock
As the product name implies, the lock features built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, eliminating the need to use a bridge that was previously required. August says the Wi-Fi Smart Lock is 45 percent smaller and 20 percent slimmer than its Smart Lock Pro. Available in matte black and silver, the lock also sports a sleeker design with more rounded edges. As with other smart locks, the Wi-Fi Smart Lock allows the users to lock or unlock a door remotely and grant access to family members, friends, and trusted visitors. And with the Activity Feed, the user can easily know who is coming and going at any time, complete with push notifications. Installing the Wi-Fi Smart Lock takes less than 10 minutes, according to August. The lock can be installed on the inside of the door over its existing deadbolt, without touching the outside lock, allowing the users to keep their existing deadbolt and keys.
6. Small home appliance – Samsung Cube Refrigerator
The Samsung Cube Refrigerator series may be more interesting for those looking for small, single-purpose fridges. It comes in three models – Wine, Beer, and Beauty – and it’s designed to fit into any space in the users’ homes thanks to a variety of available colors. Contrary to many other refrigerators, the cooling system is so quiet that users can even have it in their bedrooms without it disrupting their sleep. Building on a much-lauded concept, the Cube Refrigerator takes a modular approach to cold-preservation. Quite like the Flatshare Fridge that secured the winning position at the Electrolux Design Lab more than a decade ago, Samsung’s Cube fridge is stackable and enables the users to add various units together to create the fridge of their choice. With its minimal styling, the Cube can be placed anywhere, from the kitchen countertop, to even right beside the couch in the living room.
7. Personal care – Colgate Plaqless Pro Toothbrush
The Colgate Plaqless Pro brush may have one of the coolest new features for electric toothbrushes: a plaque detector. A sensor lets the user know when they’ve removed all of the plaque from their teeth every time they brush, so it might help fend off buildup more than other smart toothbrushes. The plaque-detecting mechanism works via a light on the underside of the brush head, which makes the plaque look blue. The sensor detects those blue areas and knows when they disappear. The Plaqless Pro is, according to Colgate’s press release, the first brush available to consumers that has this function. On top of the plaque sensor, the Colgate Plaqless Pro brush has numerous other features – multiple cleaning modes, a coaching app, mouth mapping sensors, pressure sensors and brushing analytics. Fellow competitor Oral B have also joined the race; by introducing the new Oral-B iO toothbrush that features a frictionless magnetic drive, which distributes energy more efficiently to the tips of the bristles for a smoother and quieter brushing experience,
8. Camera – Insta360 One R
Insta360 has garnered a huge response thanks to its latest camera. The One R core houses the processor, LCD screen, and built-in mics and sits inside one half of the battery base. The other half houses the mods. At launch, the One R has the option for a Dual Lens 360 Mod for 360 5.7K footage, a 4K Wide Angle Mode for 60 frames per second, or a high-end, 1-inch-wide Angle Mod with a 1-inch camera sensor for 19-megapixel stills and 5.3K video. The 1-inch sensor mod, a sort of high-end action camera, was designed in collaboration with Leica. The modular design answers a major pain point for 360 cameras — mainly, that few scenes are great enough to capture from every angle.
Top technology trends identified in CES 2020
Since the event is a culmination of the best that technology has to offer, a forecast can be easily made to realize where technology is headed in the days to come.
1. Driverless cars are becoming a reality.
Toyota has unveiled its plans of creating a technology utopia near Mount Fuji in Japan. The 175-acre plot of land used to be a defunct manufacturing plant, which will now be renovated to launch one of Toyota’s most promising experiments. To be named Woven City, this entire place will host numerous future technologies including self-driving vehicles run on hydrogen fuel cells, robots, smart homes and new forms of personal mobility. Apparently, there will be no human-driven vehicles in Woven City, because the heart of Toyota’s concept is that today’s cities are built around cars and it wants to imagine a city that’s built for more sustainable forms of transportation. The best part of it all? People can become residents of this place and witness all the breathtaking wonders of this futuristic city.
2. Technology has started to embrace Nature
Today’s technology is flashy, it’s in your face and it’s everywhere. It’s difficult not to feel like technology is taking over our lives as it embeds itself in more and more places and things. But one of the trends of CES 2020 was technology becoming less obtrusive, more subtle and blending into the environment in more natural ways. Three companies have clearly portrayed these traits – UltraSense, Sentons and Mui Lab. UltraSense and Sentons both use sound waves to create touch interfaces out of plain surfaces made of plastic, metal, wood or other materials. This means the buttonless phone is a lot closer than we think because this sound-wave technology can simply make the side of the phone a virtual button. Pressing and holding one spot could activate a power button. Sliding your finger up and down one side can change the volume. Squeezing the phone can take a selfie. Running your index finger down the back of the phone could act as a scroll wheel. Mui Lab has decided to take a slightly different approach. The company has designed a smart display out of a natural wood surface. It looks like a normal strip of wood most of the time, but when it goes into display mode then it lights up with buttons or messages that show directly on top of the wood surface.
To conclude, these were the very best of what CES had to offer this year. Alongside multiple discussions from technology thought leaders and subject matter experts, this year’s exhibition only went to portray how far we have come in redefining our world with technology; and how there’s still a long way to go. As the countdown for next year’s Consumer Electronics Show begins, we can also gear up to see how the giants and newbies of the technology realm skillfully morph ideas into technological masterpieces and present in front of the masses.
Farhat Chowdhury (Zishan)