Next week at the CES 2023 trade show in Las Vegas, we’ll once again be able to see and hear about the latest tech trends in person.
This year, the organizers of CES 2024 expect more than 130,000 attendees through January 12, with hundreds of speakers, 3,500-plus exhibitors and 2.4 million square feet of exhibit space, according to Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, the trade group that stages the event.
That’s a reasonable step up from last year’s event with 118,000 people, 3,200 exhibitors and 2.1 million square feet. And it means showgoers will have to pay attention to how to avoid crowds in Las Vegas. If you’re a veteran of the show, make sure you don’t go to the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) because it’s closed this year. I’ve done my tips and tricks for attending CES 2024 already and this story is about what to expect beyond the bigger crowds.
Last year, there were 4,800 media at the event. Like me, they will start showing up at the event on Sunday for a tech trends talk at 4 p.m. and the CES Unveiled press event at 5 p.m. Sunday. That’s always a good place for me to spot some trends among the award winners displaying at the event.
On Monday, the press conferences will start at 8 a.m. with LG and finished up at 5 p.m. with Sony, with others like Bosch, Panasonic, Samsung, TCL and others vying for the press attention during the day. Most of these affairs will likely be livestreamed in case you can’t be one of the lucky press jammed into a room elbow to elbow with other press. I’m quite fearful I’m going to run out of battery power on this day.
By Tuesday, the main show floors will open with nearly 3,500 exhibitors across more than 2.1 million square feet of space, Shapiro said. That’s down from 4,500 exhibitors and 2.9 million square feet in January 2020. But it’s still a sizable show and it runs through Friday.
And while CES is still a place for the giants Samsung in the Las Vegas Convention Center, the show will have tons of small exhibitors, with about 1,100 of them — many organized by region such as France or the Netherlands — in the traditional Eureka Park startup space in the Venetian.
The big trends
I like to reminisce about old trends as I think about new ones. Back in 2010, I remember that 3D glasses were the big deal at the show. In 2008, Steve Ballmer touted Microsoft’s Zune player that was going to bring death to the iPod, and digital TV was still an exciting development.
This week, PR Newswire announced it has studied its 8,600 press releases issued in November and December 2023. The company said there were 800 press releases that mentioned generative AI in those months, or nearly 10% of the total. It noted there were 1,100 press releases during the past two months that mentioned “cybersecurity.” A year ago, words such as metaverse, NFTs, sustainability and robots were hot topics. Sadly, we didn’t get much more detail out of PR Newswire this year to give us more trends.
The U.S. consumer technology retail revenues will grow 2.8% in 2024 to $512 billion, according to the forecast from the Consumer Technology Association.
The revenues will be up $14 billion from 2023, and it signals an uptick in consumer spending on tech products and services, according to the CTA, the trade group which will put on the CES 2024 trade show in Las Vegas next week. In the previous two years, the numbers dropped from past years.
Gaming, AI, digital health, smart electric vehicles, sustainability and streaming services are among the categories expected to grow.
I asked Tim Bajarin, analyst at Creative Strategies who has attended 49 CES shows over the years. He said AI will be the major trend, of course.
“Just about every keynote and most new products will have some sort of AI theme or connection. While VR and the Metaverse were big themes last year, AI takes center stage this year. however, I expect to see at least two new VR headsets and some innovative smart glasses introduced at the show,” Bajarin said in an email to GamesBeat.
He added, “CES also has themed areas for smart homes, health and fitness, and even food tech, these areas have become must-see sections to get a glimpse of how tech is becoming deeply integrated into all aspects of our lives. One other section is the new hall where the smart cars, boats and tractors are located. The auto industry has embraced CES, and it has become a showcase for showing off their tech-savvy vehicles.”
Bajarin also believes smart glasses will introduce the idea of “face computing.” An example already in the market is Meta’s Ray-Ban Meta sunglasses where you will be able to ask AI questions through the microphone in the connected sunglasses and get answers back from conversation AI.
AI is still a kind of invisible product, but its presence will be visible everywhere at the show.
Generative AI is finding its way into the announcements of both startups and big companies. Microsoft said it will be adding a dedicated Copilot AI key to Windows PCs, making it the “the first significant change to the Windows PC keyboard in nearly three decades.”
The CTA said over 230 million smartphones and PCs shipping to the U.S. this year will be able to tap the powers of generative AI through mobile apps, browsers and on-device software.
AI is getting into everything, or at least marketing is catching on that it needs to get into everything. Seergrills’ flagship product, Perfecta, is billed as the world’s first AI-powered grill. It’s debuting at the CES Unveiled on Monday. Perfecta uses proprietary NeuralFire technology to deliver chef level results at the touch of a button, in as little as 90 seconds.
I’m happy to be part of the generative AI and games trend. I’ll be able to moderate a panel on AI and the Democratization of Games Design at 1 p.m. on January 10 at LVCC West Hall — W218. Our panelists include Jani Penttinen, CEO, of Bitmagic; Latoya Peterson, CXO at Glow Up Games; Jonathan Stringfield, Vice President, Global Business Research and Marketing, Activision Blizzard; and Ike Nnoli, Senior PMM, Graphics & Simulation at Nvidia.
eVTOLs on the rise, but not in the air yet
Of course, we’re going to see a lot of electric vehicles from the likes of Honda and John Deere and such. Sony and Honda are no doubt going to give us another revelation about their Afeela electric car coming in 2025.
But we’re also going to see a fair amount of unusual EVs too. I’m talking about the drive-and-fly electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft/car hybrids, which have been showing up for a few years.
Supernal – Hyundai Motor Group’s Advanced Air Mobility company – is returning to the show to reveal its eVTOL product concept and much more. Supernal is building a “vertiport” exhibition in front of the West Hall entrance to the Las Vegas Convention Center so you can see it. Of course, it’s kind of hard to demonstrate experimental aircraft in the city, so don’t expect to get a free ride.
HT Flying Car, an affiliate of XPeng, will have a booth in the West Hall of LVCC promoting its X2 eVTOL flying cars, which have received a flight permit in China. It’s also showing off a two-seat X3 model.
Brunswick will be back with modern designs for its boats. And by late 2024, you won’t necessarily have to be a billionaire or an astronaut to see Earth from the stratosphere.
You could make a reservation on the Space Perspective vessel, a space balloon that transports a capsule to the heavens – safely, slowly, sustainably and in style. With financial backing from Base Ventures, Space Perspective wants to fly more of the general public to the stars.
Wherever AI gets mentioned, the metaverse can’t be far behind. And where the metaverse gets mentioned, Web3 will come up as well.
We saw this week that Ernest Cline, the author of Ready Player One, a bestselling book that was turned into a Steven Spielberg blockbuster movie, has created Readyverse Studios in partnership with Futureverse, a Web3 metaverse company that has raised a lot of money. Just like author Neal Stephenson, who coined the term “metaverse” in his novel Snow Crash, Cline aims to create the products and infrastructure for the open metaverse.
Blockchain has had a tough year and there has been backlash against the metaverse. I asked the CTA about whether this will affect the presence of these trends at the show.
Brian Comiskey, CTA director of thematic programs (and one of the two CTA staff who will be presenting Tech Trends at the upcoming CES 2024) weighed in on the answer.
“A good way to think of tech advancement for later stage hype-cycle technologies like metaverse and blockchain is as a balancing act between consumers and enterprise. Those groups often have different sets of expectations around technology,” Comiskey said in an email to GamesBeat. “While metaverse and blockchain may have fallen out of news headlines after huge initial consumer hype, we’re seeing innovation in both from enterprises, and you’ll see those innovations driving a range of sectors forward at CES 2024.”
Comiskey added, “For blockchain, great examples at CES 2024 include a secure voting system from Zkrypto, Lordystem’s Trip. PASS mobile passport and tech from Galeon designed to help hospitals and caregivers securely share medical data. For metaverse, expect innovations like Dassault Systemes’ Living Heart, which opens new doors to R&D focused on the human heart, innovations from Siemens my in the industrial metaverse and a range of auxiliary hardware designed to support a more immersive metaverse experience.”
And Husson at Forrester said, “Contrary to the metaverse hype where innovation is still happening behind the scenes in the industrial space, AI has indeed the power to reshape consumer experiences much faster and across many different verticals. This is one more reason for top consumer-facing brands like L’Oréal or Walmart to keynote CES. The pervasiveness of technology in consumers’ lives will increasingly force brands to innovate faster and to get a glimpse into the pulse of tomorrow’s technology landscape.”
The internet of things
U-tec will be the latest to launch a smart home ecosystem at CES 2024. GE is debuting a smart in-home smoker for the kitchen with a lot of pre-set cooking features. Just about every major tech giant has its own ecosystem. We’ll see how interoperable all of this stuff is going to be in the end. Samsung always has SmartThings announcements at the show, and LG has its own too.
But it’s always fun to see the different twists these companies come up with to entertain consumers with the internet of things. There are plenty of smart home gadgets like smart pet doors or pet cameras.
Forrester analyst Thomas Husson observed that some things you don’t see will be a big part of the technology at CES.
“CES will continue to be about eye-popping connected 8K or microLED bigger TV screens, next-gen gadgets, previews of smarter computers, and showcases of new EV prototype cars from Honda, Hyundai, and the likes. However, over the past few years, CES has been less and less about hardware and devices and more and more about AI, software, and new integrated experiences,” Husson said.
VR and gaming gear
Qualcomm and its partners will make some news at CES with a new generation of virtual reality and augmented reality chips. Those chips will arm device makers with the means to come up with the next generation of XR hardware.
At least five companies (Samsung, HTC Vive, Immersed, Play for Dream and one unnamed firm) will be at the show talking about their tech based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 platform, which has 2.5 times the GPU power and the ability to handle spatial computing with 4.3K resolution per eye at 90 frames per second. This is the kind of tech that the metaverse advocates will need to get rid of concerns about underwhelming VR experiences.
Xreal will be at the show to push the augmented reality glasses that it has been working on for years. Intel, AMD, Nvidia and Arm haven’t spilled any beans yet, but you can bet they will be showing off cool stuff that gamers will get excited about.
There will also be a refresh of gaming gear such as gaming monitors. Samsung already revealed a trio of fast OLED screens that refresh screen images in a matter of milliseconds. Razer is taking some of those fast screens into its Razer Blade family of laptops. If you’re looking for big screens, LG has a 97-inch OLED TV for you to gawk at during the show.
We just ended a pretty tough year in games marked by 11,000 layoffs, even with lots of high-quality games on the market. Consumers didn’t spend as much as the game companies wanted, and so there was a mismatch in expectations.
But the CTA believes gaming will see a return to growth in 2024. Product refreshes in tablets, augmented and virtual reality headsets and gaming will boost gaming revenues in 2024. Gaming will also be amplified by a 12% growth in subscription services (growing to $3.5 billion in 2024). And AI is expected to improve the gaming experience while also helping developers bring games to market faster.
On the enterprise side, I believe we’ll see a lot of talk about digital twins, which are virtual versions of real-life designs such as factories. Siemens’ CEO is giving the opening keynote talk, and Siemens is one of the big believers in digital twins, which can simulate how a factory will work before a company spends all the money necessary to build it in the physical world.
And, reinforcing that not everything is about games when it comes to VR, Ocutrx is showing a mixed reality headset aimed at restoring vision for patients with Advanced Macular Degeneration. The headset also has applications in manufacturing, surgery, enterprise tech and more.
Health tech will be elevated to a new level as Gail Boudreaux, CEO of Elevance Health, will be the first from her industry to be able to give a major keynote talk.
For years, the Venetian expo has been the place where you could find could digital health products like smart blood pressure monitors, glucose monitors, connected toilets — and yes sexual wellness gadgets too.
Withings, a pioneer of connected health that did the urine analysis lab in your toilet last year, will be back with more digital health gadgets, which are a category that consumers are embracing in the connected gadget realm, according to Capgemini.
I’ve been getting a number of product pitches that target elderly people and their caregivers, as tech has finally woken up to the demographic trend of the baby boomers get older. Some of these use radar systems to detect whether a senior has fallen in their home or not. Tech isn’t going to be just for the young anymore.
If you’re not into all this new stuff, you can see old stuff too. RCA will be among the retro brands coming to the show, and it will show off home automation, e-bikes, scooters and retro-style electronics. For some of us, that brings back some memories.
As usual, I’ve been pitched some oddball things that I didn’t expect see. Clicks Technology has a product that is an homage to the Blackberry, as its Clicks case enables you to type on a physical keyboard on your iPhone. Shift Robotics has zany Moonwalkers X robotic shoes.
Meanwhile, Osim is once again going to show off another generation of its uLove 3 Well-Being Chair, which uses AI to help give you massages. The chair is designed to measure, monitor, and manage stress while giving you a full-body massage.
After picking up a video from your own library or by using a YouTube link, you can add scents on the timeline to set up the perfect smell, timing, and duration for a scent to go with your video.
What’s missing from CES
Some common CES events won’t happen. Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices don’t have major formal events, but they will have a presence at the show. Apple doesn’t exhibit at the show, as it always does its own events.
I expect we won’t see as many masks either. But I suggest everybody be extra safe with so many people concentrated in Vegas. There are still going to be 41,000 fewer people than there were at the peak show in January 2020. The CES is trying to make sure qualified people get into the show and we’ll see how it looks overall.
If you’re expecting COVID not to show up, I’m guess that is going to be a bad guess. The CTA is not requiring masks or vaccination proof this year, though it recommends vaccination to everyone. I still wear a mask in crowds and I have seen COVID going around in my personal circles. I still managed to get a non-COVID illness during the holiday break and I will be doing fist bumps instead of shaking hands.
If you’re really not into CES, you can check out Worst In Show, which is backed by Repair.org, PIRG, EFF, and iFixit. The Worst in Show highlights the least sustainable, least secure, least repairable, and overall just plain awful gadgets on the show floor. And if you want to learn about flops at CES throughout its history, check out the Gallery of Flops at LVCC North Hall Booth 9577.
Like many people, I feel CES is still a useful barometer to tell us what the year in tech (and sometimes games) will be like. And I still enjoy seeing people face-to-face, or mask-to-mask, at a trade show. Hopefully it will feel like we’re all getting back to business.
I’m looking forward to seeing the Goodyear blimp at the show for the first time, and it will have news at the show. It’s been talking for a while about Sightline, which is about tire intelligence.
I’m curious what’s going to be showing up on the Sphere. Just kidding. Of course, for a nerd like me, CES is kind of like Disneyland for adults. I’m sold at the start. But we should never underestimate the broad reach of tech and CES and its relevance to broader society.
As Chris Helsel, senior vice president of global operations and CTO at Goodyear, told me in an interview, “Tech is everywhere.”
Tech for the rest of us
I have some hope that there will be some interesting technologies from non-tech companies. It’s interesting that one of the major opening keynotes will be Nicolas Hieronimus, CEO of L’Oréal, a fashion company that is making its way into the digital realm. Another keynote will be Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart. This is getting into the topic of tech for the rest of us, not just for nerds.
My favorite CES talk about tech from non-tech companies was a few years ago, when Arnold Donald — the CEO of the world’s largest cruise company, Carnival Cruises — unveiled the Ocean Medallion wearable. That was interesting because it was an example of how technology was infiltrating a non-tech business, where the technology faded into the woodwork and the woodwork itself got smart. Carnival is now outfitting its 100-plus cruise ships with the technology.
In recent years, Procter & Gamble has also showed up with cool uses of tech in ordinary products, such as putting sensors and AI into products such as skin advisers, heated razors and more. It will be back this year with more products that promise the same kind of creativity as last year’s products, which included a blemish remover that worked well on my face. After it launched, P&G pulled that one off the market.
But I could still use more of that, and I think we could all use tech that makes the current products that we use every day even better.
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