For gadget fans, the truly magical time of year is the opening of the Las Vegas Convention Center for CES. Previously known as the Consumer Electronics Show, this is the most influential technology event in the world.
The last two shows have been mostly virtual due to Covid and sparsely attended, but CES 2023 should be relaunching with a bang. There will be four massive halls, each crammed with exhibition stands, in the Convention Center, plus exclusive previews at nearby hotels and plenty of niche pop-ups across the city.
I’ve been to more CES events than I care to remember, and while it’s easy to get tired of overexcited booth guests squealing over their own wares, or hordes of “influencers” lugging massive suitcases through tightly packed crowds, I pass the ‘vacuum cleaner to freebies, I find that’s all part of the charm.
No technophile can resist seeing the future mapped out or delving into the avalanche of improbable new gizmos, like the smart fork that vibrates to reveal if you’re eating a little too fast (I kid you not). These out-of-nowhere surprises are slivers of joy, even if they’re rarely primetime.
And then there are the gamechangers: the hot new idea that suddenly makes everything else seem old. Sadly, these moments are all too rare in our frugal times, it’s more about incremental wins these days. In other words, the modest improvements that aim to move the needle a bit without breaking the bank.
Some say CES is over the top, but that’s the thrill. I look forward to being surrounded by strange robots and being flown around the city by electric air taxis while being bombarded with oodles of glorious nonsense.
Here’s my take on what could blow up at CES 2023, one category at a time.
The premise of greener technology will, rightfully, be the focus of this year’s event, so long as we ignore the delightful irony of the whole thing that it’s a vast product showcase filled with energy-guzzling products. Seriously, most brands speak highly of being more sustainable these days. Panasonic has some pedigree here, and Samsung will no doubt push that narrative as well.
The question is whether any of these brands can back this up with pragmatic steps, such as increasing the adoption of recycled materials or making it easier for consumers to keep old products running longer by, for example, allowing them to replace batteries? That’s the difference between meaningful change and um… corporate greenwashing. On this one, the jury is out and hopes aren’t high.
One to watch
I’m curious to visit LG’s “Better Life for All” exhibit, which promises to show how discarded e-waste is now being turned into parts for new products. Every little helps.
Sound and vision
The headline act of any CES has always been TV and the show floor will inevitably be dominated by giant screens with swanky gimmicks. Big brands showcased their ideas for the year at CES, and each of Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, LG and Philips has unveiled groundbreaking ideas at previous events.
Sony is expected to reveal an exotic QD-OLED TV (it’s a new technology that marries the exceptional contrast of an OLED screen with increased brightness levels). By the way, Panasonic regularly creates exquisite OLED screens and yet, unlike Sony and Samsung, they currently don’t have ultra-high-resolution 8K TVs in their lineup. Could 2023 be the year this changes? Don’t bet against it.
In the meantime, Samsung is very likely to expand its modular MicroLED screen technology, which can be integrated into wall-sized flat TVs, albeit at an eye-watering cost.
On the audio front, I predict there will be more smart speakers than signs of intelligent life in Las Vegas, and more true-wireless earphones scattered across its tables than roulette chips (well, almost). The JBL Tour PRO 2 buds promise us a display screen on the case and it could easily be a trend.
One to watch:
Get ready for the first truly wireless 55-inch TV. This is done by a startup called Displace and powered by batteries that are said to last a month between charges. It is light enough to be wall mounted, held solely by vacuum technology. And there’s no remote – it responds to your voice or hand gestures.
The road ahead
As cars have evolved into mobile showcases of technology, the automotive presence at CES has grown tremendously.
This is where you’re most likely to see moonshots — mind-blowing ideas that are either entirely impractical or at insanely priced — because the auto industry will be spending money to turn heads (did someone say publicity stunt?)
Last year, BMW grabbed the headlines with an entire car covered in E-Ink (pictured) not to look like a giant Kindle or display ad, but rather to instantly change its color, from black to white . The same brand has a keynote planned for this CES and I fully intend to be there.
Getting geeky for a moment (bear with me) the Qualcomm Snapdragon digital chassis is at the heart of many of the coolest features found in smart cars, in much the same way that Windows is at the heart of most PCs. The whole concept is accelerating rapidly and so I’m curious to see what’s on that roadmap.
CES often provides off-the-wall automotive technology, such as the car connecting to the local traffic light system so the driver can see real-time information about when the next green light is about to turn red. The idea was to slow down, knowing you weren’t going to beat these changing lights, don’t accelerate frantically. Chances are there will be a lot more ideas at CES 2023 along the lines of where this is coming from.
One to watch:
Performance electric car brand Polestar will unveil its new SUV, the Polestar 3, which will go into production in late 2023. This car is on display for the first time in the United States, with a demo of the latest fuel-monitoring technology driver.
Plenty of brands will come up with new ways to make household lights, televisions, blinds, radiators (or anything else you can think of) talk directly to you and save us from this problem. There will also be a renewed focus on how these types of smart home technologies can save us energy as well as burn it.
LG plans to put a whole new spin on the old smart fridge concept and will proudly unveil a new model with an interesting feature called Instaview. When you knock on a door panel, it will briefly become transparent to reveal what horrors lurk inside the fridge. The premise here is that you don’t let precious cold air escape by opening the door to check if you’re out of milk. Maybe it’s not as silly as it seems.
One to watch:
The big problem with smart home gizmos is that few brands are currently willing to play nice together. The Matter Alliance is a new collective of 220 companies – including, most notably, Amazon, Google and Apple – that is creating a single standard to make sure everything gets easier. Those in the know say CES 2023 will be Matter’s coming out party. If so, it could very well be the turning point of this year.
Wearables and health
Garmin, the maker of several hugely popular fitness watches, regularly unveils its latest wearables at CES and is likely to make another reveal this time around.
Japanese brand Omron is talking about its Going for Zero program which promises to “eliminate” heart attacks and strokes. This is based on a blood pressure monitor with ECG technology designed to detect heart disease early and provide remote patient monitoring. It is expected to be introduced in the UK in 2023.
One to watch:
Withings is known for its popular smart scales, sleep trackers, and various affordable wearables. The company is also expected to make a big announcement at CES — and if there’s one brand that can take the idea of predictive health tracking to the next level on a modest budget, it’s Withings.