CES 2017-Day 1: highlights

Alexa is stealing the show

Amazon’s Alexa is everywhere at CES 2017: China’s Huawei has added Alexa to its flagship Mate 9 smartphone; LG has put webOS and Amazon Alexa in a fridge; Lenovo’s Smart Assistant is basically an Echo by a different name; Mattel’s Aristotle is an Amazon Eco for Kids; GE is presenting its LED ring lamp. In addition, Ford is planning to put Alexa in its vehicles from later this year, while Whirlpool is making washers, dryers, refrigerators and ovens that can be controlled with Alexa. Amazon is making Alexa more of a horizontal platform that can easily add voice control with a friendly persona. So while Alexa is not a particularly intelligent AI, she is more than capable of flicking a digital switch. Whether Amazon is able to glean useful consumer data remains to be seen, but we expect that Amazon is more interested in democratizing AI, or at least voice control, in the way that it did for cloud computing. We expect Google to follow a similar path, though with Google it will be all about the user data that flows from any AI incorporation. Google’s chief advantage over Amazon, is that Google’s AI is a lot smarter than Alexa.

LG showcases its speaker-less prototype OLED display

LG has a lot on show, from paper thin to transparent displays. However the most innovative product in our view is a 65-inch OLED prototype display in which the panel acts as the loudspeaker. It can act as a further boost to the ‘thin-is-in’ trend that is following from smartphones to many other areas of consumer electronics. Flat and in-wall speakers are not new; theoretically any surface can be used as a loudspeaker. However this is the first display panel we’ve seen that offers this functionality. Nevertheless, other players are likely to follow LG. Adoption will depend on whether the benefits of superior form factor can offset any issues around cost and audio quality.

Asus unveiled the world’s first 8GB RAM smartphone

Asus has launched the first AR capable phone the Zenfone AR with a triple camera setup at the rear. The phone also sports 8 GB of RAM (a first among smartphones). The 5.7-inch phone has 1 fisheye depth lens, 1 motion tracking camera and a 23 MP Sony IMX318 sensor. ASUS is calling this setup a TriCAM. The company worked closely with Google’s Project Tango team to ensure a good AR experience. The Zenfone AR is also set to handle Google’s Daydream VR. Along with Zenfone AR, the company also launched a second device called Zenfone 3 Zoom, the device comes with a 5,000mAh battery, capable of recording 4K video for over 6 hours on a single charge.

‘Lightest business laptop’ and VR ready compact PC unveiled by ASUS

ASUS launched what it claims as the lightest business laptop. The 14-inch display is fitted in a chassis of a 13-inch laptop with a very thin bezel. The laptop comes with 7th Generation i series Intel processors with up to 16 GB of RAM and a 1 TB SSD. The company also announced a VR ready PC called the VivoPC X. The PC can be hooked to a monitor or a TV easily. The PC is powered by the latest Intel Core i5 Kaby Lake processor, a Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card and 8GB of RAM. The PC is designed to have better cooling to dissipate the heat generated while engaging in graphics intensive activities. Apart from the new PCs, ASUS has also updated most of its product line-up with the new Kaby Lake processors from Intel that offer double-digit percentage increase in web performance and applications and also address some of the performance issues seen in the 6th generation processors.

NVIDIA Partners with mapping companies to power its AI autonomous car developments

Maps are an essential element of self-driving cars. NVIDIA has already partnered with Baidu and TomTom for China and Europe. NVIDIA announced new partnerships with ZENRIN and Here for live mapping of roads and surroundings. NDIVIA missed the smartphone bandwagon and is determined to become a leader in autonomous vehicles.

ZTE announces Blade V8 Pro and Hawkeye

ZTE announces new flagship smartphone Blade V8 with 13 MP dual cameras and 2.5D glass display. In addition it announced a midrange smartphone, Hawkeye – with an innovative twist. It is making it available to pre-order on Kickstarter starting 6th January for $199. Using Kickstarter will allow ZTE to gauge demand before moving to a more conventional demand-supply approach.