CES 2021 | Glimpses of the Future

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CES, previously known as the International Consumer Electronics Show, is one of the most beloved technology-focused trade expos in the world, where every titan of technology comes forward to offer the world a glimpse into the future of consumer electronics. While every CES is traditionally held every January at the Las Vegas Convention Center, this year things took a marked turn for the different, as the social distancing protocols brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the event from taking place physically, forcing it to be held virtually instead, for the first time in history.

It has been a while since semiconductor titan AMD has had a bad run at any CES, and their winning streak continued this year with the announcement of the highly anticipated Ryzen 5000 series of processors for laptops. Having been built using AMD’s snazzy new Zen 3 microarchitecture just like their desktop counterparts, these processors offer a fantastic balance of power and efficiency, spelling a world of trouble for rival Intel, which has already lost much of its stranglehold on the CPU market as a whole. The new Ryzen 5000 laptop CPUs claim up to 21 hours of use on a single charge, which would put it right up there with Apple’s new M1 processors in terms of battery life. For power users and gamers who require processing power more than battery life, there are AMD’s new HX processors, which boast much higher wattage, and can even be overclocked to operate beyond their official specs if the OEM provides sufficient headroom for cooling.

Speaking of laptops, Lenovo has come up with an interesting concept device called the LaVie Mini, which appears to be a small laptop at first glance, but one that can transform into a handheld gaming device, complete with accessories that are reminiscent of those of the Nintendo Switch. While its modest specs ensure that it won’t be breaking any records in terms of performance, it can be safely said that it can be an excellent solution for users who would like to have a highly portable machine for office work that can also run retro video game console emulations and stream games from services like Google Stadia. While it’s uncertain if the LaVie Mini will ever make it to the consumer market at large, it does explore a rather whimsical niche of the market that begs to be tapped into.

The LaVie Mini, of course, is far from the only transforming device to show up at CES 2021. LG has confirmed the existence of the Rollable, a new smartphone with screen edges that can extend and become a small tablet – as is the case with typical foldable phones that use flexible displays. However, the Rollable’s design mechanism is markedly different, as is evident from its name. LG has announced that the Rollable is due to arrive later in 2021, but has refrained from confirming any release dates. However, if rumours are anything to go by, it is likely to be priced above USD 2,000, so it’s definitely not for everyone.

On the more outlandish side of things, we have a company called Vanguard Industries, which has created Moflin, a pet AI robot that can successfully emulate emotional responses. Taking a cue from the now-antiquated furbies, Moflin has decided to take the fuzzy and cute route with the robot’s design, giving it the approximate appearance of a shaggy and rotund little rodent. Vanguard claims that Moflin’s AI enables it to observe and learn about its surroundings using its multitude of sensors. Every Moflin is capable of recognizing familiar people around itself, and expressing itself uniquely to each of them through distinct sounds and movements, which would eventually result in each of the adorable robots developing a facsimile of a unique personality that would be shaped by its surroundings and experiences.

The first Moflins are likely to show up in the market around mid-2021, with pledges currently being priced at USD 400 for each unit. They may not be very affordable, but if they turn out to be successful, they may give rise to an entire market for robot pets, some of which may even turn out to be reasonably priced once China gets wind of them.

Keeping up with the pandemic and social distancing trends, hardcore gamigng brand Razer has come up with the first public prototypes of ‘Project Hazel’, a unique smart face mask with a transparent waterproof front panel that keeps the wearer’s mouth visible. As is the case with most Razer products, the mask is ostentatiously decorated with RGB lighting, but, in this particular case, the lighting does serve practical purposes, performing a dual role as a battery level indicator of the built-in voice amplification system as well as an indicator of the mask’s filter integrity. The mask also comes with a face-fitting silicone liner that acts as a seal to prevent air (and viruses) from passing in or out of the mask.

This also has the added benefit of no more fogged glasses for the bespectacled. Razer also has various other interesting products in the oven, such as ‘Project Brooklyn’, a unique gaming chair that boasts haptic feedback, RGB lighting (but of course) and a back-mounted 60-inch OLED display that can be unfurled with a single button press. There are no ETAs yet, but this is definitely somewhat of a gamers’ dream in the making.

One of the most interesting products to make an appearance at this year’s CES is TCL’s NXTPAPER tablet, which combines E Ink technology with traditional tablet displays, creating a full-colour display that offers a unique paper-like experience that is very easy on the eyes, and is essentially a dream device for reading comics on. It is 65% more energy-efficient compared to traditional tablets because of its unique display technology, and it is expected to start retailing for as low as EUR 349 in European markets.

The role of CES in the history of modern technology is by no means a minor one, and even virtually, without much of its usual fanfare and celebration, it continues to remain a rock-solid platform for heralding the future of tech, and 2021 appears to be quite a promising year for it.

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