The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) typically sets the tech agenda for the year ahead. It’s a glittering gathering of the world’s tech companies, many seeking bragging rights with gadgets that are the ‘first’, ‘biggest’, ‘smallest’, ‘fastest’ or ‘thinnest’ of their kind. Others will showcase the weirdest tech (not always on purpose), the offbeat, the laughable (again, not on purpose) and the downright, got-to-see-that again magical.
A show of technology firsts
CES prides itself on being a show of ‘firsts’ and CES 2016 had plenty of them. LG showcased the 98-inch UH9800, the world’s first 8K TV with High Dynamic Range (HDR). Asus turned heads with the MB169C+, the world’s first portable USB-C monitor, while Acer’s new TravelMate P648 was the first laptop to feature multi-band 802.11ad (WiGig) networking.
Elsewhere, the Origin Omni packed a 3K curved display into a slick, Intel Core i7-powered AIO PC with a 128GB Nvidia GeForce GTX TITAN X graphics card, proving desktop systems are far from dead.
How small or thin can technology get?
Technology companies are obsessed with making things smaller and thinner, so there was plenty of miniaturisation on show at CES 2016. Seagate, for example, introduced the 9.6mm-thick 1TB/2TB Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim portable hard drive and Axis impressed with its palm-sized Axis Vidius, the world’s smallest FPV drone.
Lenovo bagged the “World’s Thinnest Convertible Laptop” prize with its new 13-inch YOGA 900S machine. Built with carbon fibre and powered by an Intel Core m7 processor, the versatile Windows 10 portable is only 12.8mm thick and weighs only 999g.
As for the thinnest technology at CES 2016… That honour probably goes to L’Oreal’s My UV Patch, a wearable skin sensor designed to monitor your exposure to UV light and warn you (by changing colour) when you’ve been out in the sun too long.
The fastest technology in the West
A technology’s worth is often measured by its speed. The LaCie Chrome portable hard drive can squirt data at 940 Mbps, while the Razer Blade Stealth laptop (see video below) combines the latest 6th generation Intel Core i7 chips with a clever desktop graphics enclosure that enables you to add a PCI graphics card to the system via USB-C.
But for pure speed, the Faraday Future FFZERO1 concept car could potentially deliver 1,000 bhp and a top speed of over 200 mph (going from 0-60 in less than three seconds), powered by four electric motors. Sadly, the FFZERO1 will never make it into production. But the lessons that Faraday Future learns from it could be invaluable.
The coolest technology at CES 2016
Every company wants to have the coolest technology at CES — a product that makes those ‘best of CES’ lists (of which this is obviously one).
Several products stood out at this year’s show, including: LG’s 18-inch flexible display that can be “rolled-up like a newspaper”, Ninebot’s Segway robot (with Intel RealSense), the HTC Vive VR headset (with new front-facing camera) and the magical SCiO molecular scanner, which can wirelessly analyse the calories, carbs and proteins in your food.
We also liked Phase One’s XF 100MP camera system (but can’t afford its $48,990 price tag), Parrot’s new self-flying Disco Drone (which you launch by throwing it into the air), not to mention Samsung’s Notebook 9 laptops (so gloriously light, said Vlad Savov at The Verge, it’s almost “as if there were no battery inside them.”)
Old tech meets new in Sony’s vinyl-ripping PS-HX500 USB turntable, while private helicopter meets drone in the shape of the Ehang 184 Personal Flying Vehicle (PFV), which can reportedly fly one person up to maximum of 10 miles. If the 184 was one of the biggest gadgets at CES 2016, then the Intel Compute Stick was one of the smallest, a second-generation pocketable Windows 10 PC beefed up by sixth-generation Core M3 and M5 chips.
It’s a fine line between genius and madness
All of which leaves the weirder corners of CES, where you’ll find the more oddball gadgets and those products that walk a fine line between genius and madness. The ski vest with built-in airbags; the Sensorwake alarm clock that rouses you from sleep with six different smells; and the Fisher Price Code-A-Pillar, a bright plastic tech toy that aims to teach toddlers the basics of computational thinking.
Yes, CES 2016 arguably had it all. — Dean Evans (@evansdp)