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Smart screens that can double up as splashbacks: the latest tech release from CES

As the haze of New Year subsided, everyone who is anyone in the tech world had one destination in mind. Not Aspen for skiing, not Bondi for the beach; they were all off to Las Vegas for the three-day juggernaut that is the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES. There, in the mecca of all things bright, shiny and new, attendees were witness to the world’s latest and greatest gadgets at an exhibition spanning almost three million square feet – all coming soon to a smart home or office near you.

This year’s CES was the biggest and brightest in the event’s history, with 180,000 people in attendance as 4,500 exhibitors showcased their wares. Among those leading the charge were innovators in the smart home, with a range of new gadgets and new technology set to hit the market this year.

So what are the major trends emerging, and which smart tech is likely to make it into our homes, offices and cities courtesy of CES 2019?

The smart home is growing up

If one thing was clear at CES 2019, it’s that the smart home is growing up. Now it’s not so much about individual appliances and the tricks they can do but how they interrelate and, importantly, how the consumer communicates with a product.

Voice activation was a major theme at this year’s event, with two players vying to own this space – Google with Google Assistant and Amazon with Alexa.

Between them they have ensured voice activation is available in almost any imaginable smart home product, from smart mirrors that display your schedule and emails as you groom for the day to robot vacuum cleaners that clean your home on command.

Often these products are now also operating as part of scenes and routines, allowing smart home users to awaken in the morning to a smart alarm that automatically tells you what’s on the agenda and then sets the house in motion, opening blinds, turning on the shower to the pre-required temperature and kick-starting the coffee machine.

Smart speakers and displays

Last year smart speakers truly arrived in Australia, with Amazon Echo and Apple Homepod joining Google Home in the local marketplace. 2018 also saw these manufacturers go beyond just speakers to incorporate smart displays. As a result, smart speaker adoption Down Under increased to an estimated 1.35 million devices in Australian homes and workplaces.

CES revealed more innovation and offerings in the smart speaker and display niche. Now there’s smart speakers and displays for specific purposes. For example, KitchenAid unveiled a splash-proof benchtop display that lets you make video and voice calls while also searching your favourite recipes, controlling your other smart home gadgets and seeking out local restaurants.

GHSP (ghsp.com) went a step further, showcasing a concept kitchen with smart screens as splashbacks.

Digital Trends explained: “The display can do a lot of the same things a smart assistant with a screen can do – play music, show you the view from your smart doorbell camera, let you add items to your shopping list –  just on a much larger scale.”

Robots, robots everywhere

Once a futuristic fantasy explored in cartoons like The Jetsons, robots are now becoming commonplace. CES saw new robots revealed and old favourites fine-tuned.

There was Temi, the three-foot-tall personal butler, who rolls about the house behind you and offers a hands-free way to help you with daily tasks while accessing information using Alexa.

Then there was Trifo, the robotic vacuum cleaner, who uses GPS positioning, 3D mapping and AI to create a detailed plan of the home and a corresponding cleaning routine. Admittedly, robot vacuum cleaners are far from new, but the growing supply of smart cleaning aids is indicative the market is taking off.

In addition to helpful robots, there were also some just to keep you company, including Lovot, a little number designed to cure loneliness.

Looking somewhat like a cross between a Teletubby and your favoured ‘blankie’ from childhood, Lovot moves about on retractable wheels and interacts with you based on the stimulation of sound, touch and physical movement.

On the business front robots took a more practical turn, a highlight being the unveiling of LG’s CLOi SuitBot. A wearable robot that acts like an exoskeleton, SuitBot is designed to offer additional support and strength for people engaged in heavy lifting.

The weird and the wonderful

CES is nothing if not a deep dive into truly imaginative tech, and there were some stellar innovations on display.

Moen unveiled a shower that activates via voice command and sets itself to the desired temperature. Foldimate was looking to take care of all that extraneous laundry folding by enabling users to feed their clothing into the machine and see it emerge, neatly folded, 10 to 15 seconds later.

Meanwhile, Haier was keen to clean shoes. They unveiled a modular sneaker cleaner that uses airflow, ozone, UV light and carbon to keep your sneakers disinfected and prevent discolouration.

Even the humble toilet and toothbrush were not immune to a rethink. Plumbing giant Toto unveiled a toilet that opens and closes using sensors and also has a self-cleaning feature, while Kohler previewed a loo with voice control and the ability to play music.

And French company Fasteesh believes two minutes brushing your teeth is one minute 50 seconds too long. They revealed a toothbrush like a mouthguard with bristles built-in.

Oh, and the televisions – how far they’ve come! Some took up entire walls, others unfurled from cabinets, but all were crisper, sharper and offered greater resolution than ever before, because 4K is no longer enough. Now it’s 8K and nothing less, in a world where success is defined by the size and resolution of the TV plastered on your wall.

The big issues

Gadgets might be the drawcard of CES, but there’s also major innovation up for discussion and the big topic of the conference this year was 5G.

This latest incarnation of cellular communications will replace the 4G mobile network and is set to roll out in many nations, including Australia, throughout this year. And yes, it’s a game changer.

“5G will change everything – 5G is the promise of so much more than what we have seen from wireless technology,” CEO of Verizon Hans Vestberg explained during his keynote address.

Why? Because it’s fast, efficient and allows more devices to be connected, offering a potential speed of 20Gbps. To put that in context, it means you could feasibly download a full HD movie within seven to 40 seconds using mobile internet.

5G is tipped to be the catalyst for the next wave of smart technology, impacting everything from self-driving cars to smart cities and the smart home.

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