Trending Science: CES 2018, where ground-breaking research enhances consumer desires

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has been taking place this week in Las Vegas, showcasing all kinds of weird and wonderful, conceptual and practical technology. Whilst much focus has been on new gadgets for consumer use, other, more far-reaching technological developments, such as advances in quantum computing, have also been trending.

Want to talk to your TV? Well, digital voice assistants have been one of the break-out stars of the show, with LG and Samsung both implementing digital voice assistants into their 2018 TV lineup. With Samsung using its own Bixby assistant and LG using the Google Assistant, users will now be able to command select TVs vocally to, for example, search for the soundtrack from a movie or turn off when a particular programme has finished. One can argue that this indeed allows for the next giant leap forward in human laziness – from having to get up and turn your TV off manually, to being able to pick up a remote to do it from the sofa, to now being able to do it just with a simple voice command, no muscular effort needed!

The robotics industry has also featured prominently in the show, with the spotlight cast on Sophia, a robot constructed by Hanson Robotics. Famously, Saudi Arabia awarded the robot citizenship in 2017. Sophia took her first steps at CES 2018 using a new pair of legs designed by a team from the University of Las Vegas, Nevada. Unfortunately for LG, their robot CLOi showed signs of stage fright. Supposedly one of the smartest ever created, it failed to obey spoken commands (it’s designed to control home appliances and help organise domestic tasks). Initially the robot, being presented by LG marketing Vice-President David VanderWaal, cooperated but then stubbornly refused to answer any further questions. Oops.

Then there were showcases of new leaps forward for autonomous and electric cars. Toyota debuted its e-Palette autonomous vehicle which will form the core of a multi-purpose transportation and mobility platform for itself and its partners (which include the likes of Amazon, Pizza Hut and Uber). It was explained that the interior of the e-Palette can be outfitted to suit a company’s particular needs, whether this be for package or food delivery, a ride-sharing service or a mobile food van. Testing of e-Palette is due to begin in 2020. So if you order a pizza in the early 2020s and it’s delivered in a funky-looking autonomous vehicle, it very well could be that you’re being served by an e-Palette.

Meanwhile, Fisker officially unveiled its EMotion electric vehicle that has a range over 400 miles, can be charged in an astonishing nine minutes and has autonomous driving capabilities. It also looks cool. Admittedly the car has a pretty eye-watering price tag of USD 130 000 but if you want one, there’s still enough time to save up – it won’t be hitting the market until 2019 at least.

Finally, what your writer finds most exciting from all of the innovations showcased at CES 2018 are admittedly probably the un-flashiest and least-consumer focused of them all (and he hasn’t even mentioned Spartan’s radiation-blocking underwear…).

They are in fact two computer chips, both showcased by Intel. The first is a 49-qubit chip marking significant new progress in the development of quantum computing. The chip, explains Intel, will allow researchers to assess and improve error correction techniques and simulate computational problems. The second is a ground-breaking neuromorphic research chip code-named ‘Loihi’, designed to mimic the way neurons communicate in the brain. Loihi’s purpose is to make machine learning faster and more efficient and could one day be used to make better security cameras and enable smart-city infrastructure to communicate with autonomous vehicles (pizza delivery anyone?)

last modification: 2018-01-12

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