The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a major expo held annually at Las Vegas, always manages to provide tantalizing glimpses at the technology trends that are likely to make waves in the global consumer electronics industry and shape the future of things to come. CES 2020 was no exception to this, with the world’s biggest names in electronics coming forward with their wondrous (and occasionally whimsical) wares, ensuring that 2020 would indeed be significant in this aspect.
For starters, it seems quite apparent that flexible displays are here to stay, at least for a while. They are very much likely to show up a lot more this year, in a variety of form factors, including phones, tablets and even laptops. While the first barrage of foldable phones and phablets utilizing flexible screens have already been unleashed upon the world by numerous manufacturers, they are still far from hitting the mainstream, and the first laptops to utilize such displays have been displayed at CES 2020 as concept prototypes. Moreover, Microsoft is working hard on Windows 10X, which is being primed as the definitive operating system for such flexible variable-form hardware platforms, built to take full advantage of their versatile nature without sacrificing user experience in the process.
Even aside from foldable displays, ‘regular’ solid screens are also gearing up for war – particularly in the market for televisions. The ultra-high-resolution 4K HDR televisions have become affordable enough to become mainstream, and 8K televisions with svelte form factors are already waiting in the wings to hit the consumer markets properly. Interestingly, prototypes of TVs utilizing flexible display technology have also shown up, which can roll the display up and pack it away when the TV is not in use. However, it is safe to say that although these are exciting developments, it is very much likely that because of the price hurdle, these are going to see adoption at rather slow pace, and they are quite far from becoming even nearly ubiquitous.
Certain parts of CES 2020 did feel as if some of the tech companies out there were trying far too hard to come up with new ideas, and Samsung’s adorable new robot – dubbed ‘Ballie’ – sadly seems to be one of them. While somewhat reminiscent of the famous BB-8 from the Star Wars movies, Ballie, at least in its current basic form, is still very much of a gimmick of very limited utility – essentially a smart speaker (like Amazon’s Echo range of speakers, with the Alexa smart assistant built into them) that is capable of some degree of self-locomotion and independent operation, thanks to its on-device AI systems. It is perhaps our very first glance at a future where robots would serve as household help, but it isn’t a very clear one, because whether it is a step in the right direction is impossible to determine at present.
History has shown that these intermarriages often help to bring together the best of both worlds, and the biggest beneficiaries of such unions are always the consumers.
Meanwhile, on the computer hardware front, the war between semiconductor titans AMD and Intel are heating up even more as both continue to reveal their latest and greatest weapons. On the processor market, AMD is triumphantly trouncing archrival Intel with their new lineup of desktop and laptop CPUs, and Intel is struggling to keep up even with the newest generation of their Extreme lineup, both in terms of price and performance. Although AMD had been the underdog for nearly a decade, their turnabout in early 2017 had sent the overconfident complacent Intel reeling – and the products they had followed up with over the years that followed clearly showed that they were not pulling any punches. To make things worse for themselves, Intel had made strings of terrible product design and marketing decisions in response to the looming AMD threat, the latest of their blunders being their decision to reenter the dedicated graphics card market – a scene that is not only utterly dominated by AMD and their other rival Nvidia, but also a scene from which Intel had been unceremoniously tossed out in the late 1990s with the failure of the i740, their first and only dedicated graphics card to date. Not only is Intel up against two behemoths, but the lukewarm performance of their prototype DG1 Xe GPU – as demonstrated at CES 2020 – all but ensures another flop in the works.
However, CES 2020 certainly hasn’t been all about rivalries, but also about collaborations. Companies from different industries are coming together to bring forth some truly exciting innovations. For example, Uber and Hyundai have announced that they would be working together to develop a flight-capable electric taxi that would be capable of transporting a quartet of passengers over a 60-mile range at speeds of up to 180 mph – all on a single charge. Concepts like these are the best examples of why combining strengths is one of the most amazing ways in which tech companies can grow, and CES 2020 has been rife with numerous other collaborations, such as those between medical entities and robotics firms, as well as retail companies with artificial intelligence researchers. History has shown that these intermarriages often help to bring together the best of both worlds, and the biggest beneficiaries of such unions are always the consumers. And indeed, in a world that is changing as rapidly as it is today, the lines that separate the different industries are becoming rather fuzzy, and in some cases, vanishing completely.
Like every other CES before it, CES 2020 was chock-full of novelty and brilliance, showing the world where the consumer electronics industry is currently headed. While there was no individual groundbreaking product on display which would cause seismic paradigm shifts in our lives the way smartphones and social media did, there were plenty of exciting new ideas being pitched, many of which were brimming with the potential to be considerably greater. It can be said with conviction that technological innovation is far from dead, and 2020 promises to be another exciting year for it to bloom.