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What a difference a year makes. One year ago, those of us who cover and attend CES were going from one press conference to the next; this year, we are at home going from link to link. Confusing and challenging, yes, but there are some advantages: no masks, only five steps to get to a restroom, being able to have three of four events or more displaying on your screens at the same time and being able to download press kits as needed. So far, many new devices are being introduced, but of course, they are all online, so you wonder if some of them really exist or are truly operational as yet.
With so many new devices and technologies being introduced, I am sure we will only be able to cover a moderate number of them. Over the next few weeks, we will review many interesting topics and devices from CES 2021 but for now, I’ll briefly list and comment on the more impressive ones I saw on the first day.
I begin with a FarField Wireless Charging System (two-minute charge) from Verge Technologies, empowered by blockchain technology. This system downloads the charge wirelessly into the device and saves the charge in reserve; when needed, it can re-charge your device in two minutes or less. It then reverts to building up the reserve for the next charge while the previous one is being used.
We’ve been hearing that autonomous driving is right around the corner, and it may be closer than you think as autonomous deliveries and transportation are starting to show up. It has taken longer than what was projected five years ago, but an announcement on January 11 should greatly speed up those advances: Energy Systems Network (ESN) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), organizers of the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC), unveiled an official race car autonomously driven by scores of university teams in the world’s first high-speed, head-to-head autonomous race at the Indianapolis Speedway, on Oct. 23, 2021.
“The primary goal of the IAC is to advance technologies that can speed the commercialization of fully autonomous vehicles and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), leading to increased safety and performance,” state Paul Mitchell, president and CEO of ESN, and co-organizer of the IAC “The Dallara-built IAC race car is the most advanced, fastest autonomous vehicle ever developed.”
On Monday, CES announced its own list of the most interesting advances at this year’s event. I look forward to reviewing them and sharing more in the next few weeks.
The keynote started with a discussion on the impact of the pandemic, and how the work-from-home environment will make great use of the 5G ultra-wideband technology that just happens to be coming online. The speed of 5G is enabling the use of real-time virtual reality for entertainment, sports, work, remote surgery, immersive learning, even the ability to tour places like the Smithsonian virtually. You can very realistically explore things such as the Apollo 11 crew capsule, and do it 10 times faster, in real 3D, and in any order you wish. Verizon states that 5G is the platform on which the future will be built.
UPS, for example, is using Verizon 5G to rapidly accelerate its drone deliveries.
Intel showed its new laptop chip, named Alder Lake, that should be faster when you want performance and provide more efficient battery life. This chip was demonstrated online but very few details were given. In the past few years, Intel has been feeling the heat from AMD, so at least know that the new Alder Lake laptop chis exists, and that Intel is now providing chips using 10 nm geometry after staying with 14 nm for quite a long time. On Tuesday, AMD will be giving its keynote address and we’ll get a better feel for what Intel is up against. AMD has been using 7 nm technology for over a year now and is giving Intel quite a challenge.
Sony Press Conference
Sony showed some very interesting devices and processes, particularly a 360 VME sound mixing room all in a headset, called BRAVIA XR TVs. The new BRAVIA XR is equipped with Cognitive Processor XR, delivering intelligence that reflects human cognitive characteristics. It detects the viewer's focal points, and cross-analyzes numerous image quality elements to produce a picture which is more natural and closer to human memory. It also upscales sound to 5.1.2 channels to encapsulate the viewer in surround sound from top to bottom, and left to right, to deliver a realistic and immersive experience, close to the sensation of images and sound that people feel in real life.
Of course, the Playstation 5, which launched a few months ago, is equipped with an ultra-high speed SSD, integrated custom I/O, DualSense™ Wireless Controller and 3D audio technology that enable it to realize revolutionary next generation gaming experiences and deliver a new feeling of immersion to players.
On the automotive front, in addition to the progress with autonomous driving progress Mercedes demonstrated the newest version of its intelligent infotainment system. The screen is a single surface stretching from the driver’s side to the passenger seat, displaying all necessary functions at once. It is called the MBUX Hyperscreen, and is powered by NVIDIA technology. It demonstrates how AI can create a truly easy-to-use, intuitive, and personalized experience for both the driver and passengers.
“The MBUX Hyperscreen reinvents how we interact with the car,” said Sajjad Khan, executive vice president at Mercedes-Benz. “It’s the nerve center that connects everyone in the car with the world.”
The virtual show opens Tuesday. For those like me, who has attended and covered CES (and COMDEX before it) for a quarter of a century, this new normal is quite a challenge. Stay tuned as we discover and report.