At the beginning of every year, the Consumer Electronics Show is held in Las Vegas, and towards the middle of the year, its Asian counterpart is held in Shanghai. CES Asia found itself being held across five football stadium sized exhibition halls at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre and multiple ballrooms at the Kerry Hotel in Pudong, the urban half of Shanghai.
There’s a marked difference between the CES in Las Vegas and the CES in Shanghai, and most of it stems from the techno-cultural differences of the two halves of the world. While Facebook, Amazon, Google dominate the west, China shuns them, fostering and nurturing its own companies like Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent. This so-called dividing line isn’t as crisp as you’d expect, with technological advancements in both the east and west taking off at the same pace (AI, AR/VR, Drones, Self-Driving Cars, Robot Assistants are all found in abundance in both hemispheres), but… but there’s a distinct cultural difference between the two. Asia is much more receptive to robot assistants, for example, since Terminator’s Skynet never really made a cultural impact on the east as much as it did on the west (let’s also not forget recent Chinese government projects and the Black Mirror episode titled Nosedive). This results in quite a few differences between CES Vegas and CES Asia, resulting in unique flavors in both ‘cuisines’, but make no mistake, both pack a massive punch. CES Asia is every bit as chaotic as its western counterpart (if not more).
Below are a few interesting takeaways from what CES Asia had to offer this year. Some incredibly cool, others awkward, funny, and borderline creepy.
THE INCREDIBLE HALF OF CES ASIA
smart’s EQ vehicle was all about stealing thunder from the Mercedes Benz stall right next door. It did so with its rather intelligent looking family car that could communicate with you via a display panel where the car’s grill is supposed to be.
You can’t help but drool at Lenovo’s WINBOT, easily their most monstrous machine ever built with an Intel Core i9 7980XE ( 18 core 36 thread) processor, NVIDIA’s GTX TITAN X GPU, an impressive liquid cooling rig to keep this beast at working temperatures, and an absolutely to-die-for design complete with red LEDs and a transparent spherical housing.
XROUND’s XPUMP silently sat in a corner of CES, but everyone who walked past this unsuspecting stall pretty much had their minds blown away. A simple device that sits between your playback machine and dual-speaker-setup, the XPUMP can make your two speakers sound exactly like a home theater, as it restructures the sound in a way that makes a 2.0 layout seem like a 5.1 surround sound system. They say that technology that’s sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic, and the XPUMP felt a lot like a miracle, with a sound transformation that was so extreme, I couldn’t believe my ears.
Laser robotic arm that can etch/cut/burn pieces of paper, plywood, plastic, or toast for you? Yes please!
ONO showcased their $99 printer technology that literally uses your smartphone to create prints. How does it do that, you ask?? The smartphone sits under a bed of resin, flashing black/white images and curing the resin to create your product. Read more here!
DSeeLabs showcased a holographic LED Fan display that involved multiple two-blade fans with LEDs on them. As the fans rotated, the lights formed images (thanks to persistence of vision) that looked like they were floating in mid-air, as the fans themselves disappeared from view. Much like those USB Fan Alarm Clocks, but bigger, badder, and better.
I admit, pretty old technology that’s been around for a while now, but it still doesn’t fail to amaze me, as a laser projects light onto a surface in the shape of a keyboard while a sensor can pretty accurately register which key you’re pressing simply by plotting which laser key your finger touches. Million dollar idea for an iPad case! (I call dibs)
Chinese company Shadow Creator is spearheading the AR movement in China, with the Action One, a Hololens-killer-of-sorts that projects AR elements in your vision that even react to your hand movements.
THE INCREDIBLY WEIRD HALF OF CES ASIA
Meet BINA48, a humanoid robot based off a real human. BINA48 is basically one of the first attempts to make humans immortal (if that’s what you can call it) by taking the thoughts and thought patterns of a real woman (named Bina) and inputting them into a humanoid robot, effectively allowing a Bina to stay alive long after the original Bina is gone. Interacting with the BINA48, however, is nothing like a real human, since she’s only the top half. But hey, she’s made an appearance on Liquid Science, a TV series currently available for streaming on Netflix.
As you walk across the room, you’re suddenly greeted by ominous music playing on this “smart piano” that not only plays on its own, but also comes with a screen that either lets you view sheet music as you play, or turns into a piano-based version of Guitar Hero as you frantically hammer at keys to score high points. Cool? I’d say so. Necessary? Now that’s debatable.
A robo-dog army? A bunch of weird looking robots dancing to pop music? That’s just your run-of-the-mill regular stuff in China. These are just two of the robot exhibits in a hall that was dedicated to robots and drones. It’s creepy and interesting watching some of these robots mimicking humans, trying to perform tasks, and getting rather frustrated as their microphones can’t pick up audio commands from people because of all the noise around them. As long as they don’t get too frustrated, I think our human race should be fine!
Speaking of frustrating, bone-conducting headphones still failed to impress at CES Asia. They’re still flimsy, treblish, barely audible, and come with more cons than pros, as companies still make the promise of incredible audio that plays ‘inside your head’ as your ears stay open to real-world sounds. Read more on it here.
With its feet on the ground but eyes affixed upward, the Vestaboard is a beautiful combination of past and future. If you’re the kind of person who’s tired of seeing pixels and displays everywhere you go, Vestaboard is honestly the best-aboard (I couldn’t resist). Literally a massive flip-board display, the Vestaboard has 161 individual flipping modules that can iterate text and even color.
Connecting to your smartphone, the Vestaboard becomes the enchantingly dynamic display that shows you everything from tweets to texts, to the weather forecast, to even your scheduled appointments. It can even allow you to set your own messages, giving your guests something to talk about. What’s beautiful about the Vestaboard is its interactive, mechanical movement as well as the nostalgia that it brings out from within us. There’s something incredibly timeless about technologies from the past, for instance, flipboard displays and nixie tubes, and no matter how small pixels become and how incredible screen resolutions get, there’s nothing that engages curiosity and delights more than things of the past!
It appears as though the days of just walking into Best Buy and buying a simple speaker might just be up. Smart speakers are popping up all over the place, and this is no surprise with how advanced Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are becoming. So what happens when the market for smart speakers becomes densely populated? Stick a screen on it.
This may or may not be the design thought behind the LG ThinQ Google Assistant Touch Screen Speaker, but I kind of like it. The ThinQ boasts a high sound quality from Meridian Audio’s advanced technologies on either side of its 8-inch touch display (with built-in Chromecast) and accompanying front-facing camera. Ideal for video calls through Google Duo, this smart speaker’s functionality is really determined by the room/activity you need it for. For example, if you’re cooking and want to see the recipe step by step, the ThinQ would be perfect – it would be even more perfect if you needed to hear it at full blast in ultra high-quality sound… With pricing and a release date yet to be announced, it should be interesting to see where this will fall in regards to the competition.
It seems as though getting a good night’s sleep is somewhat of a dream these days, which is ironic. I find myself tossing and turning, trying app after product after app to “track” my sleep pattern in an effort to enhance it – but to no avail. Maybe Dreamlight’s Rechargeable Sleep Mask could be the answer to my troubles. Using light technology, Dreamlight helps you sleep and experience optimal rest.
Like all good sleep tech, this sleep mask tracks your sleep patterns each time you use it. Considering it’s a sleep mask, it really does prevent any interference both visually and auditorily. That being said, the user has the option to play their own music through the embedded speakers, or they can use the preinstalled playlists that are in the accompanying app. Like any good app, this guy can learn from your pattern to find the optimal time to wake you up and to use the same lights to put you into a deep sleep, can be used to softly wake you up at the right time. Albeit the claims being made by Dreamlight seem somewhat perfect, you are wrapping a pillow around your head before you go to sleep, so I do wonder how that feels.
CES brings out the best in us all, and when I say that, I mean it showcases products that could probably make us better individuals. Take Soul Electronics, for example, debuting two in-ear headphones (the Run Free Pro-Bio and Blade) at CES with built-in gait analysis specifically for runners. Soul Electronics boasts having built-in sensors and a kickass accompanying app that can you tell you, while you’re running if your strides/form is off and how to correct it.
Being a long distance runner myself, these nifty headphones could have prevented a long list of injuries. Tracking a mixture of data sets such as; cadence, step length, step width, vertical oscillation (the up and down bounce of your body), head tilt angle, stance/flight time, shock, maximum leg force, balance, and consistency – the Run Free Pro-Bio and Blade have the potential to be a real game changer. And of course, it goes without saying that these guys are sweatproof given their application.
Designer: Soul Electronics