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Virtual CES

By Rob Enderle
Jan 11, 2021 4:00 AM PT
2021 CES is an all digital virtual event

Like a lot of folks, I'm torn about CES this year. It is a show I've attended for decades and hated for nearly as long. One year I ripped the soles off of both my feet from walking so much on concrete, and, trust me, that made for a memorable trip.

Typical problems are folks having meetings all over the Las Vegas Strip, which is tied up with gridlock, and never enough time to walk the literal miles between meetings. There were some fun things like going to the Whisky Attic or shooting automatic weapons at the local range, but this was a show I dreaded every year.

This year, due to COVID restrictions, the show is all digital. Though it's a showcase that folks haven't wrapped their heads around how to make a show like this virtual. Some events, but not all, can be streamed after the fact. Many events are scheduled at the same time, and they started as early as 4 a.m. Pacific Time today.

Let's talk about what you'll see at the show, and what might go into making an event like CES work better virtually. I used to teach a class on how to put together tech events, and I'm pulling out my old notes for this.

We'll close with my product of the week, a monitor launched by Dell focused on video conferencing in the new normal -- and supporting one of CES's trends.

Car Tech

It is kind of unique to me that CES has become a car show. But for some time, it has been a decent showcase of what the car companies are planning to bring to market in terms of technology. One of the most exciting things to see is a new door-to-door display from Mercedes Benz, which turns the entire dash into a display.

With the world going electric, look for a lot of electric car tech, including an electric car platform from REE. It reminds me a lot of a concept GM showcased years ago where you have what looks kind of like a large skateboard that has all of the drive components (motors, batteries, control system) in a flat module, and then you can build whatever you want on top of that. It's a bit reminiscent of early gas cars where the frame and drivetrain came from one company, and then the cabin of the car was built by a coachbuilder. It could open the potential for a more sustainable (in terms of reuse) automotive industry.

Finally, there will be tons of autonomous car demonstrations and related technology to approach the rollout of next-generation autonomous cars, trucks, and custom delivery vehicles.

This year I do not see much on the flying vehicle front, which is a little disappointing, but there is hardly a shortage of exciting things to see.

Transparent TVs

More transparent TVs arrive this year, and while I think they are a niche product, they tend to show very well -- and for someone who needs a TV where a window currently is, these TVs could be a godsend given you can see right through them when they are turned off.

One major brand will be showcasing these things this year, moving the concept away from smaller vendors. I still think the concept would work better for monitors. Particularly for parents who are home and need to keep their eyes on kids or pets, and for offices with open plans, which would seem far more open when the monitors are turned off (assuming we ever go back to working in offices).

PCs

Remember when the market was saying that PCs were dead? Well, the pandemic sure turned that around by generating far more demand for the category than most thought possible.

Most of the PCs I've seen in pre-brief have updated internals with more power and battery life, but there are some foldable and multiple displays that could better address this new COVID normal than those early form factors.

It is still too early for the likely coming complete work-from-home design pivot. Still, you will see some early attempts to design for the new normal that focuses less on battery life and more on providing flexibility -- and better camera and microphone features for our new WFH normal.

5G

We talked a lot about 5G last year, but we'll see a ton more products that support this new high-speed wireless standard this year. Many of the phones will likely wait until later in the year to launch publicly, but we'll see a number using the new Snapdragon 888 chipset.

One of the first released is pretty amazing. It is from Xiaomi. Its Mi 11 5G phone uses technology from BlinkAI to turn night into day. I've seen this in action is. The nighttime videos are amazing! BlinkAI is also working with auto companies, so expect to see this technology appear in next-generation cars.

Another area being improved by 5G is telemedicine. There will be an impressive amount of connected technology at the show, including one of the most advanced remote medical monitors I've yet seen. We'll also have 5G laptops, 5G IoT devices, and there will likely be at least one 5G surprise implementation at the show.

Medical Technology

Speaking of medical technology, there will be an impressive amount of it, including:

  • A device that goes in your office and tells you about localized COVID risk;
  • advanced air cleaners that don't need filters and can block viruses;
  • disinfecting robots that travel around your office at night killing viruses (robotic virus assassins should be the new name for these, but isn't); and
  • exercise technology that builds on the idea that you won't be going to a gym again any time soon.

Peloton is going to get a lot of competition this year. Finally, some exciting sleep technologies will be showcased again this year, and given what happened last week, a lot of us need that new sleep technology now.

Wrapping Up: Improving Remote CES

All-digital CES is an impressive work, but it still seems to operate like an in-person event. This practice isn't unusual; when changing to a new format, producers of an event often build off what they used to do. But an in-person event has limitations that a streamed event does not.

Besides, CES is a showcase for advanced technologies like AI, which could be used to select sessions and build an agenda to automatically resolve scheduling conflicts between events that an attendee is interested in -- based on interest priority -- and then filling the schedule with the recorded version of the lower-priority events.

Over time, by surveying attendees properly, you could improve the data selection process to favor speakers that an attendee would prefer (even on the same subject), based on what they are presenting and how they present.

You could also do things like automatically provide written summaries of what was presented, which would lead to more substantial articles and better retention of the content for those that don't write.

Eventually, I expect this process to improve, and I increasingly think it likely that large in-person events are a thing of the past -- giving us a ton of time to make these things as good as possible.

Rob Enderle's Technology Product of the Week

Dell's New Video Conferencing Monitors

I'm watching for products that have been specifically redesigned for the new normal. One of the first announced is the Dell 34" Curved Video Conferencing Monitor. This is part of a new family of monitors, which includes a 27" and a 23.5" version.

What makes these monitors unique is that they have built-in enhanced speakers, a noise-canceling microphone, and a 5MP camera designed for video conferencing. The smallest monitor is a penny under $520, the middle one is $720, and the largest is $1,150.

Dell 34 Curved Video Conferencing Monitor
Dell 34 Curved Video Conferencing Monitor
Unique features include a dedicated Microsoft Teams button, a Microsoft Hello compliant camera (which also helps with digital backgrounds), hands-free Microsoft Cortana support, and Dell's ComfortView Plus that reduces blue light emmissions (which damage eyesight and inhibit the body's ability to prepare for sleep because it blocks melatonin) while maintaining color accuracy.

Available mid-February, these monitors represent the beginning of a change in thinking concerning where people work, and what applications define their workspaces. We will see more and more vendors showcase products specifically designed for home offices that once were the exception and now are the norm.

Because I expect a large number of products will be coming out this year reflecting this change in product design and priorities, Dell's new line of Video Conferencing Monitors is my product(s) of the week.

Until next time, stay safe!

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.


Rob Enderle has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2003. His areas of interest include AI, autonomous driving, drones, personal technology, emerging technology, regulation, litigation, M&E, and technology in politics. He has an MBA in human resources, marketing and computer science. He is also a certified management accountant. Enderle currently is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, a consultancy that serves the technology industry. He formerly served as a senior research fellow at Giga Information Group and Forrester. Email Rob.


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