Biggest tech trends from CES 2020
For three days in January the consumer electronics industry at large converges on Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, bringing with them their latest innovations and, reflecting the venue, gambling on new ideas.
While many companies were pushing their brand in established categories like televisions and computers, some showed interesting glimpses of the future.
Amid some less than inspiring stalls pushing cheap flat panels, flimsy wireless earphones and even portable CD players (in 2020!), a few exhibitors managed to bring some things worth showing off, giving us a window into quirky gadgets as well as the upcoming trends and technology we'll be using in the future.
Last year Samsung, after a bit of stuttering, managed to release the first foldable smartphone with the Samsung Galaxy Fold.
Many other brands are showing an interest in the new product category, with foldable devices from Lenovo, Dell, TCL and Huawei among those on display.
The technology is decidedly in its infancy, but if you're an early adopter with some deep pockets, there is some seriously cool stuff on the way.
If you're the type who values design and aesthetics as much as you do technological innovation then folding devices will be decidedly up your alley.
There are still a few issues: hinge design is progressing but still needs work, both to ensure the durability of the device as well as provide a seamless experience free of light leaks and discolouration. The plastic OLED screens used by foldable devices don't feel as nice as their more rigid glass counterparts, but there's not much manufacturers can do about that.
Primarily, in order for foldable devices to advance they'll have to be adopted by consumers, and given the prohibitive expense of many of them for most people, this could still take another few years.
While the Motorola RAZR foldable revival didn't show up at CES, the level of anticipation surrounding it could become a watershed moment for the product category, if Motorola pulls it off without hitting the same hurdles as Samsung did.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN EVERYTHING
AI is at a crossroads when it comes to ethics, privacy and consumer acceptance, but that hasn't stopped companies slapping those two letters on everything from televisions to toothbrushes.
It's a tricky topic to wrap your head around, which is probably why brands are so keen to use it as a marketing term as well as a technology.
The idea of using artificial intelligence is to make the electronics we already use smarter, able to anticipate our needs and provide for them more quickly with more insight.
Neutrogena was on the floor spruiking its new AI powered app, which uses facial scanning technology to analyse your skin and provide you a tailored routine (of course reliant on Neutrogena products).
Colgate and Oral-B were the biggest of several brands pushing AI backed toothbrushes that track how well you're brushing your teeth to ensure full coverage.
These will also recommend routines for things like whitening and gum care, which are again a vessel to sell products.
You can't put a price on good dental health (unless you're a dentist, and then it depends on how long it's been since your last holiday).
These toothbrushes are significantly more expensive than their supermarket underlings, and while they do a good job of keeping your mouth clean, it's hard to believe it's all that much better than a stock standard electric toothbrush for the price.
Having to bring your phone to the bathroom every time to make sure you get into every nook and cranny also often falls in the 'who can be bothered' basket.
AI also generates huge amounts of data, meaning it goes hand-in-hand with trackers.
TRACKING YOUR EVERY MOVE
Devices like the Fitbit fitness tracking company - recently acquired by Google - helped kickstart a trend of collecting data on every single facet of your life.
It's also why so much of the wearable technology on display were cheap and nasty imitations of existing products than actual new innovations.
Things like the Mateo smart bath mat, which tracks your body composition, weight and posture every time you step out of the shower, somehow picked up a CES Innovation Award. But if that kind of constant assessment is something you want to bring in your life, you can back the company's Kickstarter when it goes live later this year.
It wasn't the only smart mat to pick up an Innovation Award.
Somewhat paradoxically (given its meditative wellness roots) yoga is now ripe for tracking according to one company.
The Yogifi intelligent yoga mat gives you guided audio instructions with real time feedback to ensure you're meditating exactly perfectly.
The company also boasts VR landscapes so you can pretend you're at an Indian retreat and embedded aroma therapy dispensers to distract you from the persistent funk of most yoga studios.
Tile tags, small stickers and key fob style buttons that help you locate lost items using Bluetooth have also emerged as a favourite among companies pumping out imitations.
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THE ROAD TO THE FUTURE
Mobility was a big trend, with big announcements from several companies.
Sony showed off an electric car - more as a concept to show how their existing technology could be implemented by traditional carmakers - but the automotive industry has likely been given a bit of a wake up call because (unlike most concept cars at conferences like CES), it actually works.
The advanced stage Sony has managed to reach with the Vision-S concept is impressive, and could be another new category for the Japanese company that already has a presence in so many others.
Uber and Hyundai showed off their planned air taxi, which drew big crowds to take part in a VR simulation.
That technology is still not due until 2023, and how comfortable people will be taking one will be interesting to see.
The company also announced Uber Jump, a Lime style bike and scooter service.
Copying other food delivery services with Uber Eats worked out well for the company that is still yet to make a single dollar, so it's understandable why they would try to move into another existing area before all those venture capital dollars run out.
On a smaller scale, many companies were showing off electric bikes, mopeds and scooters designed for quickly moving around an urban environment.
Some also showed off products aimed at making this form of transport safer.
The Cosmo Connected smart light is designed to attach to the back of a bike or scooter helmet and give riders added peace of mind.
Anything that helps riders get seen easier on the road is valuable for rider safety, but the Cosmo lights also add things like turn signals, brake lights and other standard safety tech on automobiles that is still largely missing on far more fragile bike commuters.
The reporter travelled to CES with assistance from LG and TCL.