Sunday, January 11, 2015

CES 2015 highlights and lowlights: Wearables, drones and androids

This year marked my 15th trip to the annual Consumer Electronics Show, officially called the International CES.
Every year I approach CES with a mix of excitement and dread. I enjoy seeing all the cool new gadgets and hearing from industry leaders about hot technology trends. But the show is a logistical hell and is physically taxing.
What follows are some observations from this year’s show.

Buzzword of the show: Wearable

Every year after CES, I choose a buzzword for the show. It’s usually an adjective that a lot of different companies were throwing around to describe their products. This year’s buzzword was pretty obvious going into the show. That buzzword is “wearable.”
The wearables category was big at CES 2015, including smartwatches, fitness bands, health and activity trackers, virtual reality goggles, augmented reality glasses, wearable cameras (GoPro, etc.), wearable robots (exoskeletons from ReWalk Robotics and Ekso Bionics) and even a wearable drone (the Nixie).
But a close second in terms of buzzwords was “360.” There were action cameras capable of recording 360-degree photos and videos, and surround-sound stereo speakers that project music in all directions. There also were 360-security cameras and 360-sensor arrays for smart cars.

CES buzzwords through the years:

2010: Green
2011: Smart
2012: Ultra
2013: Super
2014: Curved
2015: Wearable

Best keynote speech: Intel

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich gave the best keynote presentation at CES. He kept it lively and informative. He focused on Intel’s role of providing enabling technologies for such things as wearable devices, cyber security, 3D scanning and printing, robots, drones and wireless PCs.
It being Las Vegas, Krzanich also realized that you have to entertain your audience.
His presentation opened with a female cellist playing “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin. She was joined on stage by dancers who were recorded with Real Sense 3D sensors, which created artistic images broadcast on big screens. They were joined by a beat boxer and a group of vocalists performing a cover of “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons. (CES posted some photos to Twitter here and here.)
Intel’s keynote also featured fun product demos, including smart unmanned aerial vehicles flying in a “Game of Drones.”

Worst keynote speech: Samsung

Boo-Keun Yoon, president and CEO of Samsung’s consumer electronics division, gave a super dull keynote that featured a parade of boring guest speakers.
The presentation was too much speechifying about the Internet of Things without any showbiz pizzazz.
Making matters worse, Yoon was the opening-night keynote speaker. CES deserves a better speaker to kick off the show.
For years, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was the opening-night keynote speaker. His presentations were always must-see events. Last year, Intel’s Krzanich gave the opening speech. And in 2013, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs had the honor. Both gave worthy keynotes.

Best press conference: Toyota

Toyota Motor held the best press conference at CES. The company focused on its efforts to commercialize hydrogen fuel-cell cars. The event was enlightening, newsworthy and important, explaining why hydrogen fuel-cell cars are important to the planet.
The Toyota press event featured compelling introductory remarks by noted futurist Michio Kaku, a regular on TV science shows.

Funniest corporate failure: Panasonic

Panasonic’s communications staff needs a good proofreader.
At the company’s press conference, Julie Bauer, president of Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company, was introduced on stage with a big-screen slide that misspelled company as “comapny.” Whoops.
At Panasonic’s booth, a wayfinder map misspelled adventure as “advernture.”
I wasn’t looking for typos. Those two just jumped out at me.

Worst android at CES 2015: Toshiba

Toshiba’s creepy robot hostess Chihira Aico made her/its debut at CES 2015. She/it sang songs and spoke to the crowd at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Chihira Aico is a prototype for an android that could be a companion and personal assistant to the elderly, Toshiba said. The robot is designed to look like a 32-year-old Japanese woman. (See articles by the News Hub, International Business Times and MSN.)

Best android at CES 2015: Elektrobit

Humanoid Cylon Number Six from “Battlestar Galactica” made an appearance at CES 2015.
Actually it was actress Tricia Helfer who played the sexy Cylon on the science-fiction show.
Helfer, a motorsports enthusiast, discussed the importance of navigation and driver assistance technologies in motor vehicles, along with executives from Ford and Elektrobit Automotive.
She later hosted an autograph session on behalf of Elektrobit in the Ford exhibit.
On a related note, CES 2015 was lacking in star power, compared with previous years that were packed with celebrities.
In addition to Helfer, other notable celebs at the show included music artists Stevie Wonder, Neil Young and Tiesto and sports stars Shaquille O’Neal, Clyde Drexler and Tony Hawk. Marshall Headphones sponsored a concert featuring Tenacious D.

Incoming HP CEO has odd pronunciation

At Intel’s keynote, Dion Weisler, executive vice president of Hewlett-Packard’s Printing and Personal Systems group, came on stage to talk about his company’s new 3D printing business.
The Australian-born Weisler is the future CEO of HP Inc., the PC and printer business being spun off from enterprise-focused Hewlett-Packard this year.
Weisler pronounces the H in HP as “Hay-ch.” It’s a little odd, kind of like how Nick Cannon pronounces singer with a hard G.

Most entertaining CES booth: Nikon

Nikon let visitors take 360-degree images using 48 connected Nikon D750 cameras.
It was part of the company’s Nikon 360-degree Project. Participants could share their images on social media or via email.
Check out this doofus trying to do a flying karate kick.

Most uplifting view of the coming robot apocalypse

Paolo Pirjanian, chief technology officer at iRobot, said public discussion about a robopocalypse warms his heart.
Speaking at a panel on robotics, he gave his unique perspective on the possibility of a robot takeover.
“From a scientist’s perspective, (the idea of a robot uprising) is a very optimistic perspective … to think that robotics will advance to the point where they will take over the world,” Pirjanian said. “We are far away from that. We are at a very early stage of robotics currently. There are still decades, if not centuries, of technology development that has to go into robotics to get close to human-type intelligence.”

Other roundup stories on CES 2015:

CES 2015: The final word (CNet; Jan. 10, 2015)

12 Best and Worst Things We Saw at CES 2015 (Rolling Stone: Jan. 9, 2015)

A glimpse into the future: 5 top trends at CES (USA Today; Jan. 10, 2015)

CES 2015: Why I’m disappointed that drones, wearables and TVs dominated this year’s show (The Inquirer; Jan. 9, 2015)

4K Ultra HD TV sets on display at the Hisense booth at CES 2015 (CEA photo)
Smartwatches on display at the LG Electronics booth at CES 2015 (CEA photo)
Ascending Technologies drones fly at the Intel keynote at CES 2015 (CEA photo)
Futurist Michio Kaku discusses a hydrogen-power future during the Toyota press conference at CES 2015 (Toyota photo)
Panasonic slide with misspelled company name (Screenshot)
Panasonic booth map at CES 2015 with misspelled word adventure (Patrick Seitz photo)
Toshiba android Chihira Aico
Actress Tricia Helfer as Cylon Number Six in “Battlestar Galactica”
Nikon 360-degree Project photo from CES 2015
Cover of “Robopocalypse” novel by Daniel H. Wilson.

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