What major announcements can we expect from companies appearing at CES 2017? We’ll be updating this post with the news of the day.
LAS VEGAS – About 165,000 technologists, marketers and journalists are descending here for CES, the technology trade show that kicks off the industry’s year.
The exhibit halls don’t officially open until Thursday, but companies try to get their news out ahead of the chaos with a full day of press events on Wednesday. Presenting companies include BMW, LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Intel. We’ll be updating here with the news of the day.
Here are some things to look for:
The areas of focus are likely to include self-driving cars, virtual reality, so-called “smart home” tools to manage appliances and electronics, and a standby of the 50-year-old trade show: giant TVs.
The semi-official CES kickoff occurs Wednesday evening with a presentation by Nvidia Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang, filling a role held by Microsoft and Intel in years past. The chipmaker is soaring, thanks in part to its bets on hot corners of the technology industry, including artificial intelligence and self-driving cars, untethered from devices like smartphones and PCs.
Because companies want to get out ahead of the pre-show news, there were a few highlights on Tuesday, too: Security software maker Symantec is making its first foray into hardware with a router designed to protect increasingly connected homes. And chipmaker Intel and computer builder Dell introduced new tools targeting the healthier corners of the beleaguered PC market.
Update, 7:24 p.m.
Surging Nvidia introduces on-demand, cloud-based gaming
Nvidia Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang took the stage here and quickly rattled off some skills computers picked up in the last few years.
Driving. Recognizing voices. Identify artists’ painting styles.
“What we thought was going to be science fiction for years to come is becoming reality as we speak,” Huang said.
The common thread in those advances, Huang said, was machine learning software powered in part by the graphics chips built by his company.
Dressed in a high-collared black leather jacket and jeans, Huang looked the part of the tech industry insurgent, a role his company is playing. Nvidia builds graphics processing units, the formerly niche processors used primarily to help computers display video games.
The company is on a roll now as GPUs seem poised to play a major role in providing the horsepower behind machine learning, intense cloud-computing operations, and autonomous driving.
On Wednesday, the company announced Xavier, an auto-focused supercomputer designed to serve as the brains behind self-driving vehicles. A separate piece of software, called AI Copilot, short for artificial intelligence, can call out hazards inside and outside the car, included distracted drivers.
Huang also introduced a couple products closer to the company’s traditional core.
The first, GeForce Now, essentially rents a powerful gaming computer, beamed over the Internet to a customer’s presumably less-powerful computer. An early version of the service is scheduled to launch in March, and costs $25 for 20 hours of gaming.
The company also introduced a new, $199 version of its Shield video streaming box. The device comes capable of playing the videos in high definition, 4k resolution available on the streaming platforms owned by Amazon and Netflix, as well as beaming content from a gaming PC to a television.
Nvidia’s presentation marked the unofficial start to CES, held the night before the trade show’s exhibit halls open. The slot for many years was held by Microsoft, and, more recently, by Qualcomm and Intel.
Update, 3:05 p.m.
Samsung plans for a less fiery, more connected 2017
Samsung wasn’t about to hide that it’s had, um, a difficult run in the past few months. Just sit down on any air flight to hear the warning about Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 – a phone that had an explosive presence on technology trends in 2016.
It was a “challenging year,” Samsung executive Tim Baxter said in his opening lines at the company’s press conference at CES on Wednesday. Reports of the Note 7 catching on fire started in September. Samsung allowed exchanges, but the replacement models caught on fire as well.
The phone was recalled in October, and Samsung pushed an update to all remaining Note 7s in December that basically disabled them.
“We continue our intensive efforts internally and with third-party experts to understand what happened and make sure it will not happen again,” Baxter, president and chief operating officer of Samsung Electronics America, said. Samsung will release findings soon on the root cause of the defect, he said.
With that out of the way, Samsung went on to announce a laundry list of new products and features. One actually involved laundry – Samsung announced a unit with two washers and two dryers that fit together in a pretty-close-to-standard size set of machines. The idea is that you can do more loads at once – the washer and dryer each have room for a regular load and a load of delicates at the same time.
Everything in the presentation focused on connectivity and Samsung’s dedication to the growing Internet of Things trend, which enables devices to talk to the internet and bring all aspects of your life to one screen. A new iteration of its smart fridge can see inside your refrigerator, compile electronic shopping lists and play music.
The biggest cheer came around Samsung’s new QLED TV, which uses Samsung’s Quantum Dot technology to get a crisp picture. The excitement surrounded a small, thin cord used to connect the TV with other devices without a mass of tangled cords.
The TV also can be used with a wall mount that places it essentially flush against a wall. Samsung’s promotional videos show the TV almost as a piece of artwork inside a living room, part of Samsung’s push to make its devices part of home décor.
The TVs will begin shipping next month.
Samsung’s final demo involved its Odyssey laptop, specifically made for heavy-duty gaming. The laptop comes in 15-inch and 17-inch screen sizes, and has a built-in ventilation system to keep it cool during hours of game play.
– Rachel Lerman
Update, 1:36 p.m.
Toyota looks ahead with AI-filled Concept-i
Toyota debuted a futuristic concept car, the Concept-i, that includes software designed to learn from its driver, and, if needed, drive itself.
The car, which looks a bit like a Prius mixed with a golf ball and some futuristic curved glass panels, won’t hit the road any time soon, though the company says tests of its capabilities will take place in the next few years in Japan.
The idea behind the car is to envision what an infusion of artificial intelligence-like software, named Yui in the Concept-i, and automated driving might mean. The car is designed to present information to its occupant on a variety of surfaces, from the dashboard, to windshield, windows, seats, and door panels.
CES has grown into an automotive show in recent years, mirroring a shift in the auto industry from horsepower to fuel efficiency, in-car entertainment systems and self-driving vehicles. Fiat Chrysler on Tuesday unveiled its own concept car, the Portal, an electric, semi-autonomous concept aimed at millennials.
“Cars have become our home on wheels,” said Bob Carter, a senior vice president at Toyota. Of the ideas inside the Concept-i, and the broader mission of safe, self-driving vehicles, Carter added, “We still have an awful lot of work to do.”
Toyota used much of its time on the stage here for a discussion of the march toward self-driving cars. People have accepted a world where tens of thousands of people perish every year in auto collisions on U.S. roads. They almost certainly would not tolerate that same level of risk with fully autonomous vehicles.
The company also suggests that the media coverage of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles paints with too broad a brush. There is a wide gap between software that drives on its own, and tools designed to aid humans in certain situations.
The Japanese company’s researchers have broken their work down into two pools: Guardian, an effort focused on making human operators safer, and Chauffeur, which might someday handle the work of driving.
– Matt Day
Update, 10:49 a.m.
Panasonic (with Mickey Mouse) pushes beyond TVs
Samsung and Apple make world-class phones. Sony leans on PlayStation consoles and televisions. Lenovo makes PCs.
Panasonic is among the companies that typically wears the vague “electronics maker” moniker, with interests ranging from cameras to toaster ovens, projectors and televisions.
The Japanese company would like to avoid that, kicking off its presentation here by highlighting ambitions to become an “integrated technology solutions company” that focuses on sales to businesses and government clients.
The reasons for that are economic. Building consumer electronics is a cutthroat business, with low-cost Chinese manufacturers helping erode the profits companies can expect for producing electronics bound for the mass market.
Panasonic trotted out a set of partners on stage, from a costumed Mickey Mouse to the mayor of Denver, to underline an ambition to bring the company’s experience to bear in more lucrative fields.
Panasonic, which already provides the projectors and other electronic goods that power the Olympic Games, says it plans to create a U.S-based subsidiary focused on entertainment events. It also touted a partnership with IBM that put Panasonic’s car infotainment systems into Fiat Chrysler’s Portal concept car.
The company is working with the city of Denver and the state of Colorado on pilot energy efficiency projects and an effort reduce highway fatalities on a stretch of Interstate 70.
After that foray into technology utopia, Michael Moskowitz, the company’s U.S. consumer electronics chief, tacked hard back to the consumer electronics wheelhouse, introducing a countertop induction oven, a turntable dubbed the SL-1200GR, and the Lumix GH5 camera.
The company’s CES-staple giant TV (in this case, a 65-inch, high-definition OLED display) was announced overnight.
– Matt Day
Update, 8:30 a.m.
Piloting superfast wireless
Many of the gadgets on display at CES are speculative, things consumers can’t get their hands on today, and some that won’t arrive on store shelves at all.
One of those forward-looking technologies is 5G, the fifth generation wireless standards that are expected to pack a lot more data into the airwaves and make smartphone wireless connections faster than the typical tethered broadband connection is today.
That could enable huge improvements in video resolution and open up new applications for virtual reality, drones, self-driving cars and other technology that relies on shipping or receiving data quickly.
Some companies announced early steps in that effort here Wednesday.
Intel introduced its first 5G modem, code-named Goldridge, and said it expects the device to ship to customers in the second half of this year. The chip maker largely missed the mobile revolution, but analysts say the arrival of 5G — and its demand for the kind of processing prowess Intel amassed from powering personal computers — gives the company an opportunity to grab a bigger slice of the massive mobile market.
AT&T said Wednesday that it had reached speeds of up to 14 gigabits per second in lab trials, and would roll out a test of that kind of high-speed capability for some of its DirecTV customers in Austin, Texas, this year. The company has partnered with Intel, Qualcomm and Ericsson for other trials.
Most consumers still have a while to wait for the wireless fast lane. Widespread use of 5G isn’t expected until 2020.
– Matt Day
Update, 7:02 a.m.
Amazon infiltrates the home
A key battleground coming into focus at CES this year is the fight to control the connected home.
If the first round of press events before the show here is any indication, Amazon.com, with the Seattle company’s Alexa voice-activated digital assistant, has a big head start in that race.
Lenovo, the world’s biggest computer maker, on Tuesday introduced the Smart Assistant. The cylindrical speaker tower, powered by Amazon’s Alexa, is designed to use voice commands to control lights, thermostats or kitchen appliances.
Appliance maker Whirlpool, says its latest suite of products will be compatible with Amazon’s Alexa. Customers will be able to ask Alexa to turn on their washing machine, or change the temperature in the stove with voice commands.
And Alexa will also soon be able to change channels on a DISH Network-powered TV, as well as set alarms made by security company ADT.
The “smart home” has been an obsession of the consumer technology industry for more than a decade, at times showing up at CES in the form of ill-conceived prototypes that found little use.
Amazon’s technology, and the companies imitating it, are among the most promising effort to come around, analysts say.
“Going back to probably the late 1990s, everybody has focused on what’s going to be the hub of the home,” said Mark Hung, an analyst with researcher Gartner.
Apple’s brain trust envisioned the Mac computer as a hub for families. Sony and Microsoft tried to rule the living room with multipurpose video game consoles. TV builders pitched set top boxes, and the smartphone revolution spurred bets that handheld devices would control appliances. Those efforts didn’t gain much traction.
Enter Amazon’s Echo, the voice-activated cylinder powered by Alexa, software designed to learn from the speech input of its users. The speaker, released in 2014, became a hit last year, with the company claiming sales of “millions” of Echo-branded devices during the 2016 holiday season alone.
Key to its success, analysts say, is its open platform that allows other companies to link their tools to Alexa’s set of voice command skills.
Amazon has plenty of competitors.
Google’s Home voice-activated speaker, which functions much like Amazon’s Echo, hit the market in November. This week Hyundai announced the device would be able to start its cars, unlock doors, and handle other applications in the automaker’s connected car interface.
Samsung, the South Korean conglomerate that builds smartphones, appliances, and home electronics, is marketing its own smart connection interface.
Even Comcast, the cable giant, is getting into the game. The company Wednesday announced a software dashboard for its routers that shows which smart devices are connected to the network, and offers tools to set limits on their use.
The smart home still comes with a set of hurdles, from the complexity of securing those devices from bad actors, to ensuring that devices built by rival companies can talk to each other in the first place.
“A lot of credit has to be given to Amazon,” Hung said. Alexa, he says, “really became the Trojan horse to let [Amazon] be a very innovative player, to the point where now really every major technology company is starting to emulate the strategy.”
– Matt Day