As the first day of CES 2018 unfolded in Las Vegas yesterday, robots and smart devices were everywhere, the CEOs of Intel and Huawei nabbed the spotlight for very different reasons, and the tech industry continued to show signs of its sexist underbelly.
More than 20,000 new products are on display during the annual consumer technology conference and exhibition, which runs from Jan. 9-12. They include innovations in virtual and augmented reality, self-driving cars, smart homes, artificial intelligence, digital health, and many other areas.
In addition to providing hints of cool gadgets to come in the year ahead, CES also offers a showcase for weird concept devices, tech industry rumors, and market trends. Here are some of the highlights from day one:
Intel on the Ropes
On Monday evening, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich presented the first keynote of the conference, with his topic being, "How Data is Shaping Innovation of the Future."
However, before introducing an Intel-powered autonomous , electric Volocopter, augmented reality video, and other innovations, Krzanich acknowledged a couple of the elephants in the room for his company: the recent disclosure of the serious Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities that affect almost every processor from Intel -- along with some ARM and AMD chips from other companies -- produced over the past decade or more.
Krzanich said Intel expects to release patches for the bulk of its newest processors over the next couple of weeks. But industry experts believe the fallout from the Meltdown and Spectre bugs will continue for much longer. And Krzanich didn't address reports that he sold more than $39 million of Intel stock before the vulnerabilities became public, actions that have prompted a securities fraud investigation.
Huawei CEO Goes Off Script
Huawei CEO Richard Yu tackled a different elephant toward the end of his keynote yesterday. After going into detail about the new Mate 10 Pro smartphone (pictured above), he took aim at AT&T, which on Monday made a last-minute decision to pull out of a plan to carry the Chinese company's flagship device.
"Reports indicate that the carrier's decision was driven by political pressure within the US, with apparent concern about Chinese espionage -- and Huawei's particular role in that -- underlying the whole thing," The Verge reported yesterday. However, Yu said AT&T's move will hurt U.S. consumers more than anyone else.
"It's a big loss for us, and also for carriers, but the more big loss is for consumers, because consumers don't have the best choice," Yu said.
LG's Rollable OLED
LG's big attention-getter at CES this year is its 65-inch UHD rollable OLED display, which the company said is a world first.
The rollable display "especially highlights the distinctive technological edges and unlimited potential of OLEDs," LG said in a statement. "It can be rolled up and hidden when not in use, and the small size of the rolled-up screen means that it can be more easily moved and stored, allowing for better space utilization, something existing displays can't deliver."
The company this week is also showing off an 88-inch 8K OLED display, among other new products.
More Signs of 'Bro' Culture
After the past year of multiple scandals involving gender discrimination and sexual harassment, the technology industry continues to reveal signs of its male-focused 'bro' culture at CES.
The problems began even before the show started, when the equality advocacy organization Gender Avenger took CES's sponsor to task for not including more women among the event's keynote speakers. The accusation drew a mea culpa from the Consumer Technology Association, which said it "must do better."
Like many such conferences in the past, CES has featured its share of scantily clad female "booth babes" to promote various products. However, this year's show is also generating attention thanks to a demonstration of pole-dancing robots, sponsored by a Vegas strip club.
There's more to the story, though, as Recode reported yesterday. Designed by British artist Giles Walker, the robots were originally intended as a commentary on the prevalence of surveillance in the U.K. And Walker said he worries about the potential for robotic sex applications in the future. "I didn't build these to get involved in the sex industry," he told Recode. "They weren’t about sex, they were about voyeurism."
Solutions Searching for Problems
Also as usual, CES 2018 is proving to be a showcase for technology solutions in search of problems to solve. The Guardian today accused the event of being "less about real innovation breakthroughs solving unmet needs and more about incrementally improved nice-to-haves for the 1%."
Among the gadgets meeting that description are a device for folding clothes, a smart mirror, an intelligent robotic suitcase, and a WiFi-enabled, Internet-connected shower designed to "solve the apparent problem of having to manually turn the faucet," the Guardian noted.
Lots of Wireless Chargers
One product category generating a lot of buzz at this year's show, however, was inspired by a real-life device need: wireless charging. As The Verge noted today, multiple companies are launching wireless chargers to support the Qi-based charging capability Apple introduced last year with its iPhone 8 and iPhone X.
"Apple jumping on board meant two things: tons of new customers looking for Qi pads, and the effective end of the other main wireless charging standard, PWA," The Verge reported. "In fact, PowerMat, which created PWA, announced this year at CES that all of its future chargers will include Qi."
Smart everything is certainly a trend at CES 2018: smart fridges, smart mirrors, smart robots, smart lights, and more. For example, ahead of his keynote, Ford CEO Jim Hackett took to Medium to discuss his company's approach toward using data, automation, and device intelligence on a wide scale for smarter cities and transport.
"With the power of AI and the rise of autonomous and connected vehicles, we have technology capable of a complete disruption and redesign of the surface transportation system for the first time in a century," Hackett said in his Medium post. "Everything from parking, traffic flow and goods delivery can be radically improved -- reducing congestion and allowing cities to transform roads into more public spaces."
CES recognized a number of new smart city technologies with innovation awards, including Poly's artificial intelligence platform for autonomous stores, Texas Instrument's mmWave radar sensors for the industrial Internet of Things, and Monkey Factory's MyBus mobile ticketing app.
No S9 News from Samsung
One new device that won't be making its debut in Las Vegas this week is the latest flagship update from Samsung. Instead, the company revealed that it plans to unveil its Galaxy S9 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona late next month.
Expected to hit the market in March, the Galaxy S9 is likely to feature an updated version of Samsung's intelligent digital assistant Bixby and could add iPhone X-like features such as facial recognition biometrics and animated emoji, according to Business Insider.
Image credit: Mate 10 Pro smartphones courtesy of HUAWEI; iStock/Artist's concept.
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