What are the tech trends for 2020 and the decade to come? Read on and watch the video for all the gadget goodness that catches a HW engineers’ eyes at CES 2020! This year’s show in Las Vegas expected over 170,000 attendees and took up literally millions of square feet of exhibit space. That’s a lot of ground for one enginerd to cover. Luckily, I was able to pull in more vantage points from some other hardware pros.
The Talk: 2020 Tech Trends to Watch
AR and VR
In this talk before the show, it was mentioned that AR is expected to overtake VR in quantity of useful applications. AR hardware is also trending toward more sleek, streamlined form factors.
In terms of viable products, social robots are dying out and robots built to fulfill specific tasks are seeing an uptick. Consumers aren’t buying bots just because they’re novel anymore. Robots are practically commonplace! Today, they need to do a thing today to earn their keep.
Yes, 8K was all the rage this year at CES. However, in this talk, the more notable trend was in screen size, not resolution. In U.S. households, consumer demand is continually driving screen size up larger and larger.
For those of us creating games, that could mean that offline multiplayer games can expect a growing platform in American homes. Screens keep getting bigger, and that makes entertaining a group on a home display ever easier.
From an electro-optical standpoint, that also means expensive, high energy-consuming screen formats are not the most sensible platform for display technology. It will be more difficult for a panel of electrified semiconductors to grow with this super-sizing trend, than, say laser projection technology. Plus, projectors like the Hisense L5 Laser TV (shown off at CES 2020) have the added benefit of not frying users with as much radiation, because they use reflective systems. Typically, these types of optics can more easily achieve high viewing angles with less energy.
This is just my view as an optical engineer, but electronic tech is a wild animal, and you never know what “impossible” advances are just around the corner.
Trends on the Show Floor
Endless Rows of Smart Home Devices
If there is a thing in your house that could be made connected, it was probably in one of the many smart home booths at CES. There were so many things that this may actually be a coup instead of a trend.
Holographic-type displays for advertising, decoration and game graphics were everywhere. However, most of them appeared to be more like 2D floating graphics, not a fully 3D hologram. Below is another example — the virtual companion (read: imaginary friend) hologram from Gatebox.
If you’re thinking of getting into a hardware startup that is building a beverage-making machine, you should probably just quit now. I think I’ve seen them all after going to CES 2020.
AMD vs. Intel
During AMD’s keynote, the press was wowed again and again with each new standards-changing product reveal. Their 4000 series mobile processors promised to dramatically boost laptop performance and efficiency. And of course, the thing we all needed but didn’t know yet was unwrapped: the AMD Ryzen™ Threadripper™ 3990X 64 CORE processor. Ok then.
Intel’s keynote immediately followed AMD’s. It notably lacked major announcements of products with cold, hard specs. There was mention of a focus on AI going forward and a peek at a laptop prototype with a flexible display…
When deciding whether to bother going across the hall to attend Intel’s keynote, I checked out Twitter for spectator feedback. Those had me too busy laugh-crying to make the trek.
The winner of this round: AMD. Was there any question?
Core – Wellness Device for Meditation Training
I was happily surprised to see the familiar faces of some of Core’s team at the unveiling. Core makes a “meditation trainer” device, and we’ll be publishing a Behind the Design piece on the engineering of this thing later this month. (There were a lot of hardware engineering challenges in designing this wellness product which contains dry electrodes and natural wood.)
Their gizmo also made it to the CES 2020 Innovation Awards Showcase. Congrats, Core!
Hap2U – Haptic Feedback for Touch Displays
This super-thin haptic technology was able to move a demo display screen, just where my fingers were. Unlike other haptics, Hap4U‘s tech doesn’t move the entire phone — just where your fingers are.
“Multi haptics” are also possible where you have one sensation for one finger on one part of the screen, while another part of the screen delivers a different sensation to another finger simultaneously. This is the kind of thing the next generation will one day think we’re silly for thinking is amazing. But it is!
Cosmo Connected – IoT Helmets
This company develops a few different technologies for safer bicycle and motorcycle riding. Their connected helmets and displays have lit emergency, brake, and turn signals; they can detect if you crash and call an emergency contact; and you can also share your ride with another person so they can watch out for you.
Right now, Cosmo Connected is working on new heads up display/smart glasses, but those aren’t ready for prime time yet.
LiBEST – Flexible Batteries
LiBEST showed off their flexible batteries which promised to be able to power things like iPhones and wireless headphones.
They only flex in one direction, but that still opens up quite a bit of design freedom for hardware engineers – especially in the wearable space.
Anthony Swartz, who has an electrical engineering background, was on assignment from Murata to soak up the automotive vibes at the show. He was kind enough to share some of his vehicle takeaways with us, too.
Ford is using the Mustang name to help them jump into the electric vehicle market with the Mach-E. To Swartz, however, the EV version’s look doesn’t meet his Mustang expectations.
It was interesting to see brands like Jeep, which conjure images of muddy off-roading, also showcase electric versions of their vehicles. If there was any doubt, I’d say this proves electric R&D is becoming mainstream.
Rivian has a fully electric truck and SUV and they’re partnering with Amazon to stick Alexa in their vehicles. So now she can both order your toilet paper at home and open the tailgate on your electric vehicle.
Chinese manufacturers are getting in on the electric vehicle trend and Byton is one of the bigger names in this club. The insides of Byton‘s M-Byte are covered in screens and that’s part of the angle they’re taking to make their EV stand out. Driving is boring, so it’s important to have lots of things to distract you from the road.
Byton expects to start selling in the US next year. Watch out, Elon.
And then SONY was like, “well, I guess everyone is doing it now. Let’s make a car.” This vehicle, the “Vision S“, was a surprise appearance at CES.
Nissan showed off its autonomous driving tech with this golfing demo.
Putt it to get it going, and somehow that little ball would make it to its mark, with a bit of flair at the end. According to this article, the functionality requires an overhead camera, so the ball is not a self-contained system, but we get the picture.
It was also surprising to see John Deere‘s giant AI-based tractor at CES!
Swartz said the idea behind this tech was to make farming more efficient. That includes the ability to keep track of which parts of a field were, say, already sprayed with seed, and then turning on and off sprayers accordingly as the tractor travels.
Uber’s Drone “Master Plan”
Swartz explained that eventually, Uber would like users to be able to order their full journeys from their phone – from an Uber car ride to that Bell Nexus drone sky taxi we’re always using. So in the future, Uber may have fleets of these scary things flying around, too.
A Look at Audio
For even more perspectives on CES, I suffered through dinner with Anthony Mattana, CEO of Hooke Audio (previously featured here), and the delightful Philipp Sonnleitner, CEO of MIKME. Here’s what the show looked like through an audiophile lens.
I have not seen anything interesting for audio.
Great, Philipp, thanks so much for that.
Audio aside, he did mention that the Neon reveal of their virtual human project was pretty weird.
These video-like avatars generated a lot of buzz before spectators saw them, but then afterward, many visitors were left underwhelmed. It’s still not clear if the demonstrations were simply videos of normal human-type people with canned responses to predetermined questions. They did come with disclaimers, however: “For demonstration purpose only. Not final product.”
Anthony Mattana had some more time to scour the audio tech at CES and so he had real sound bites.
Things Mattana found of note included a new trend with audio HW factories to advertise themselves as authorities in making true wireless technology. That’s weird because it’s a relatively new thing…but if nothing else, it’s proof true wireless audio is becoming mainstream.
Mattana found Shure’s true wireless earphones to be well-designed. He thought they seemed sturdily built and he liked that they are IPX certified. They weren’t new, astonishing tech; they were simply true wireless made well according to more traditional standards.
Over at Logitech’s booth, we could see very clearly what Mattana explained as Logitech’s interesting jump into streaming technologies. He mentioned they recently purchased Streamlabs and it was clear from the booth art they are taking aim at the vlogging generation.
Weird And/Or Neat Things to Catch My Eye
Hyperfine – Portable MRI Machine
Hyperfine is bringing MRI technology to places it’s never been before by making it both cheaper and portable. Wow!
A lot of this new tech revolves around a permanent magnet they developed themselves. This machine already being used in studies like with daily monitoring of infants to see if there’s any value to derive. A use case like this would ordinarily be cost-prohibitive, but now that it’s not, MRI can be used in so many more ways!
Toyoda Gosei – E-Rubber
This super-thin, flexible material from Toyoda Gosei can be used to create actuators or sensors in a variety of ways. The primary application right now is in creating virtual beating hearts for aspiring heart surgeons to practice on. Before this booth, I’d never thought about how hard it must be to perform delicate operations on something that’s MOVING. It must be like trying to dress a toddler, except someone might die if you mess up.
Another freaky demo used both the sensor and actuator capabilities together to transfer the feeling of shaking a water-filled balloon from one person’s fingers to my fingers. It was SO WEIRD. I can only imagine what Solid Smack readers would use this for.
On the expo floor was a knitting machine capable of embedding hard components into textiles at the same time as the fabric is being woven.
Stoll’s booth also showed applications for this tech – mostly in wearable sensor technologies. I really loved how they took an old-school machine and made it a valuable tool for new tech development with 1 addition. Stoll calls this technology “Technical Textiles“.
BrainCo had a lively demo with attendees driving race cares solely through their power of concentration. They slapped on a headband and then concentrated…on something, on anything. It didn’t matter what they concentrated on, they just needed to concentrate fast. Or deeply. Or…I’m not really sure, but the more they concentrated, the faster their car went.
Lovot – Realistically Useless, Just Like a Cat
It’s not Lovot’s first time at the CES rodeo, but it is the first time for its latest, most improved version of this companion bot. My first thought was, “hey little guy, aren’t you supposed to be dead?”
After the media days talk on trends where the press was told these robots that don’t perform meaningful tasks are going under, it was shocking that this big-eyed thing would still be rolling around. Way to go, you little weirdo.
CocaCola’s New Energy Drink Served By Alexa
To sneak into an expo about tech, CocaCola partnered up with Amazon’s Alexa to show off their new energy drink at CES. Clever. Attendees said some magic words to Alexa and a door opened revealing the drink.
But what did it taste like? Imagine watered-down Coke and watered down Red Bull. Now mix them together. It’s like that. Actually not as bad as it sounds, though.
Startups Climbing Up From the Basement of CES
Muto Labs – Glass 3D Printer
This Korean startup is creating a soon-to-be Kickstarted glass 3D printer.
The sensible use case they’re using to promote it first is with making much more realistic-looking and cheaper replacement teeth. (I imagine it would be mostly for crowns?) You can find out more at Muto Labs.
Plasmics – Multiple Material 3D Printer with Machine Learning
This startup is making a 3D printer that builds designs incorporating multiple materials without requiring the user to physically mess with changing print heads.
Print heads are automatically changed out to switch to different colors or materials. There’s also some machine learning in there to ensure better quality control as the print is happening.
This company exists because of the unfulfilled need in all of us to operate a miniature, armed, remote-controlled tank.
The idea is to not sell these tanks individually, but as a game system like laser tag, because battling is only fun when there are other people playing, whose tanks you can pepper with tiny, plastic “bullets”. You can find out more on Iron Bull’s website or their Insta.
Miomove – IoT Pressure Sensors for Shoe Insoles
I’ve seen this Czech startup virtually everywhere I go in the world, starting well over a year ago. Back then, their prototype was at a stage where you still needed to use your powers of imagination to visualize how their IoT pressure sensor show insoles would ultimately look. They’ve come a long way!
Today, it looks like a real product, and it’s as impressive as my imagination originally hoped. Way to go, Miomove!
These guys are taking pre-orders right now for their wild drone security system. Garden lights create an invisible fence that when tripped tell a flying, camera-laden drone to wake up and patrol your property, sending you video footage.
You don’t need to be Barbara Walters to say to yourself, “THIS is 2020.”
What Piqued Your Interest?
If you attended CES or played along at home, what caught your eye? There was surely more going on that I couldn’t fit here. Please comment below!