South Korea's LG is expected to unveil new ultra-high-definition televisions in Las Vegas. Photo: AFP / Tobias Schwarz

Welcome to the future. The screens will be bigger and bolder, the cars will be smarter and some of the technology will be up-close and personal – even intimate.

The 2020 Consumer Electronics Show opening in Las Vegas will be crammed with the latest in connected devices, from light bulbs to underwear, along with the newest technology for automobiles, health and wellness, smart homes, retailing and more.

Billed as one of the world’s largest trade shows in the world, it will run from January 7 to 10.

Overall, there will be 4,500 exhibitors, an estimated 175,000 attendees, and 1,000 speakers in exhibit areas equivalent to more than 50 football fields.

Small startups and large tech firms from dozens of countries will be angling for a slice of the trillion-dollar-plus global consumer electronics marketplace.

The show, organized by the Consumer Technology Association, will see a large presence from tech giants such as Google and Amazon, vying for leadership in providing the “brains” or digital assistants for many smart products.

With improvements in artificial intelligence or AI, digital voice assistants are becoming smarter and more like humans, opening up new possibilities.

“We can see devices that can now sound happy if your favorite football team has won and … dejected if your mother is at the door,” said Simon Forrest, of Futuresource Consulting, said.

While the long-sought goal of “emotional intelligence” in computing is still far from reality, he pointed out that advances are allowing more computing power to be packed into smaller spaces including smart eyeglasses, in-ear “hearables” and other devices.

“We can imagine the voice assistant in the ear which can do a lot more than it does today,” Forrest said. “Maybe the restaurant across the street can read you their menu, or you can get turn-by-turn directions in your car.”

Manufacturers, including South Korea’s LG, are expected to unveil new televisions with the latest ultra-high-definition standard known as 8K, even if little or no content is now available in the format.

Folding smartphones

Analyst Patrick Moorhead, of Moor Insights & Strategy, said he expects to see “higher-resolution, lower-price 8K televisions,” extending a trend.

Innovation around the small screen may lead to more folding smartphones and other adaptations.

“Imagine an iPad device you can fold and carry around with you –  I think we will see a lot more of those,” Moorhead said.

Fully self-driving vehicles may not be ready to go mainstream, but that is not stopping innovation.

“There’s a deepening understanding that the companies have a big hill to climb” before deploying fully autonomous cars, according to Michael Ramsey, an analyst at Gartner.

China-based Futurus Technology will launch what it claims is the first “mixed reality interactive windshield” to give motorists real-time information about a vehicle’s status, performance and surroundings.

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Others will use 5G technology and AI to help cars detect pedestrians, bicycles and other vehicles.

California’s Xperi is unveiling an in-cabin system using iris identification, facial recognition and other biometrics to unlock vehicles and detect driver fatigue.

Amazon is revving up its auto efforts with a booth showcasing its cloud-computing AWS division aimed at “intelligent, personalized products and services.”

And a new Fisker Ocean electric car is set to be unveiled, in one of the latest challenges to segment leader Tesla.

In the smart-home space, more devices will connect to digital assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, or their rivals.

These will include smart screen command centers, smart mirrors, and kitchen gadgets and appliances.

Avi Greengart of the consultancy Techsponential expects more smart home devices like security-focused video doorbells.

“It isn’t exactly clear people want to live in the Jetsons’ home,” he said, referring to the cartoon series about a futuristic family.

Human body

Wearables are reaching more of the human body in the quest for improved health and connectivity.

German-based Bosch will be showcasing smart glasses designed to help motorists with heads-up navigation assistance, with other smart eyewear to be revealed.

“Hearables” represent another emerging category including advanced earbuds, translators and AI-boosted hearing aids.

The textile computing firm Myant will be showing smart clothing – starting with connected underwear – with sensors that monitor a wearer’s heart and breathing rates, temperature, movement, posture and sleep.

“It is time for technology to morph around people as opposed to the other way around,” Tony Chahine, the founder of Myant, said.

Other CES exhibitors will be showing robots for health and security, artificial intelligence for food, airborne devices including a “flying gondola,” and technology aimed at improving the retail experience.

Sex tech will be officially part of the show, a year after a flap over the disqualification of one innovation award winner.

A sexual wellness marketplace promises products that show organizers said, “must be innovative and include new or emerging tech to qualify.”

Rob Lever in Washington also contributed to this story


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