The world's biggest tech and electronics trade show is once more upon us.
And though the event will feature its share of gimmicky hardware -- among other things, I've seen pitches for an AI-powered smart wine dispenser and an IoT cat litter box -- it will also feature plenty of noteworthy product reveals and demos from major tech and consumer electronics firms, as well as some compelling innovations from smaller firms.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which this year will see events takes place from January 6th through 11th, is expected to feature 4,500 exhibiting companies and over 180,000 attendees. As was the case the last two years, I'll be on site in Las Vegas to cover the festivities, as well as speak with industry execs. Nvidia kicked things off on Sunday night by announcing some new GPUs for notebooks and cost-sensitive gamers.
Here are a few fields to keep an eye on as CES gets going.
1. IoT Hardware
IoT hardware received a ton of attention at last year's CES, as major electronics and home appliance makers showed off extensive smart home product lines and legions of startups unveiled connected devices (some more useful than others) that could be monitored and controlled via voice assistants and/or mobile apps. Expect more of the same this year.
Some areas to watch: Personal health solutions (getting more attention after the Apple Watch Series 4 launch); efforts to simplify hardware installation and make devices from different vendors play nice with each other; and greater integration of smart home functions within appliances featuring price points close to those of their "dumb" counterparts.
2. The Voice Assistant Wars
Alphabet's Google Assistant made a splash at CES last year, both via Google's own colorful exhibits and efforts to promote Assistant via the booths of third-party exhibitors. Google promises to have an even larger presence this year, as it tries to use CES to gain mindshare relative to Amazon.com's (AMZN) Alexa among hardware makers and the tech press.
However, Amazon is intent on not being left out of the fun this year. After mostly leaving it to hardware partners to promote Alexa at last year's CES, Jeff Bezos' firm will have its own sizable public presence this year. Ahead of CES, Amazon exec Dave Limp disclosed that more than 100 million Alexa-capable devices have been sold to date by Amazon and its partners.
3. Cars, Cars, Cars
There's a running joke that CES should be renamed the Car Electronics Show, given how large of a presence automakers and their suppliers now have at it. While the joke might overstate things a bit, auto exhibits do now cover virtually all of the Las Vegas Convention Center's massive North Hall, as well as much of the Central Plaza across the street.
Self-driving vehicles -- or rather, the progress that companies are making towards one day offering them -- will naturally get a lot of attention. As will solutions that are much closer to being ready for prime-time, such as more advanced driver-assistance solutions and next-gen infotainment systems. Efforts to integrate new radio technologies such as 5G and cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) within cars will also get talked up.
Leading TV makers such as Samsung, LG and Sony tend to use CES to show off cutting-edge sets. Ahead of the show, LG unveiled new high-end LCD and OLED sets that come with Alexa-capable remotes and a processor that (in echoes of Apple's (AAPL) True Tone technology) adjusts screen brightness in response to an environment's lighting. Samsung, which last year demoed a 146-inch microLED display called The Wall, is this year expected to unveil more practical sets relying on microLEDs, which can deliver superb brightness and color accuracy while (like OLEDs) requiring no backlight.
5. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
A slew of startups and smaller hardware makers should be showing off AR headsets at CES. And while these products are likely to be niche solutions aimed at gadget enthusiasts and/or businesses, they could serve as a sign of things to come from bigger hardware players. Ahead of the show, Vuzix (VUZI) announced it will finally ship its Alexa-capable Blade smart glasses, which cost $999 and were shown off at last year's show, in February.
And though the hype surrounding the technology has cooled, there should once more be plenty of next-gen VR headsets demoed at CES, as hardware makers try to address shortcomings in areas such as display quality and processing power. HTC might use CES to announce new hardware for its Vive headset line.
6. Home Robots
The robots demoed at CES in 2018 were generally smarter and more capable than the ones shown off in 2017, and it's safe to assume 2019's show will yield additional signs of progress. Look for more robots that can run a popular voice assistant or two, that can use voice-detection to personalize their interactions and that are more useful for performing household tasks that require more dexterity than, say, a Roomba.
7. Chip Announcements
Nvidia (NVDA) , which last year used CES to unveil a number of new automotive solutions and partnerships, hosted a CES press event on Sunday evening. And on Wednesday, AMD (AMD) CEO Lisa Su will be giving a keynote talk where she's expected to show off new CPUs and/or GPUs that rely on Taiwan Semiconductor's (TSM) advanced 7-nanometer (7nm) manufacturing process.For their parts, Intel ( INTC) and Qualcomm ( QCOM) have CES press events set for Monday. A slew of other chipmakers, including Cypress Semiconductor, Qorvo, NXP Semiconductors and Skyworks, will also be present at the show.