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CES24 - a quick roundup

It’s no surprise that CES this year had mentions of AI in every direction you looked. But other things have stood out to us in spatial computing and beyond. Here’s WAM’s quick take on everything at CES 2024 in 4 points:

1 - Yes AI.

Right let’s just get this out of the way. Every type of consumer good you can think of has been given the AI treatment. And some you wouldn’t. Cat flaps, vacuum cleaners, robot assistants. It feels a bit like we’re still rapidly ascending that first gartner hype summit.

Video with a circled highlight
Google's Circle to Search breaks cover

Out of all of these, we’re taking Samsung’s AI announcements with both Microsoft and Google completely seriously. Firstly, Samsung’s S24 phones are going to incorporate multiple Google’s Gemini models. Think summarising a voice recording as text or using AI image editing within the gallery app. This is an important step for Google in widening the use of their AI models beyond their own Pixel phones.

Also announced - these phones will allow a user to circle anything on screen and trigger AI assisted search - e.g. circle part of a video as it plays and ask what that animal is. Demo here.

And separately, the Samsung Galaxy Book4 laptops are the first released devices we’ve seen with Microsoft’s new Copilot AI key on the keyboard. A small step towards pervasive AI assistance. But more importantly, Copilot can seamlessly pull information from and control your Samsung phone from the laptop - and that goes beyond just sending text messages.


2 - Spatial.

You what now? Spatial Computing or just Spatial is a broader term to describe all the developments in Virtual Reality, Mixed Reality and Augmented Reality. Basically any form of computer interface that inhabits our 3D world rather than being inside a screen. It’s a term that Apple is pushing and is hopefully clearer than VR/XR/MR/AR which have started to overlap a lot.

OK definitions covered - what happened at CES that was notable? Well Apple's Vision Pro still seems to be sat out on its own in terms of mixing the real and virtual worlds at high resolution for consumers. That said, plenty has happened at cheaper price points and for business users. Our top picks:

Zapbox headband
Zapbox comes with a phone holder and wands

Zappar's Zapbox is an incredibly cheap £80 mixed reality experience which essentially lets you strap your iPhone to your face. No we’re not joking. At the moment there aren’t many apps available given it’s just launched, but we do actually think this could gain some traction at the bottom end of the market.

Monocle device - glass with embedded circuitry in a hand
Brilliant Lab's Monocle

Brilliant is a startup taking it's own path. They're combining a $358 monocle which can be added on top of your own glasses with an open source approach to software, encouraging a wider community to test and add features. At the moment their app incorporates ChatGPT although it is aimed squarely at developers.

XREAL is still making waves - they’re probably the most consumer ready apart from Meta who have been conspicuously quiet at CES. Amongst their growing range, the Xreal Air 2 Ultra was an attempt to move in Apple's direction with hand and room tracking although the results are yet to be seen and they may struggle with a shortage of apps once Apple get's traction.

BMW and XREAL demonstrated a concept car in one of the best current use-cases for mixed reality glasses - cars being a place where you’re sat immobile and a bit bored. Their demo features both driver aids and also passenger entertainment. Check out a short video here.

Sony's new industrial XR headset
Sony's new industrial XR headset

And finally, Sony joined the growing number of industry-focused XR headsets (think Microsoft HoloLens, MagicLeap, Varjo) with the announcement of a yet-to-be-named headset in collaboration with Siemens. Early reviews are positive.

3 - New human machine interfaces

Sounds grisly. But startups continue to explore form factors for computing in what seems like an inevitable search for a much closer connection between humans and our technology. The holy grail is surely being able to “think” to your device and receive instant data back, privately and continuously?

Way back in 2018 a team at MIT showcased a device called AlterEgo which was able to detect subvocal commands - words you think in your head. Since then we’ve been scanning to see where that project went. Well at CES this year, the Naqi Neural Earbuds seem to use much the same technology, and are close to production.

Other interesting interfaces:

  • Rabbit R1 - a small handheld AI assistant (but wouldn't you just use your phone?)

  • Humane AI - a wearable AI pin which sits on your chest spying on everything

  • Augmental - control your computer with your tongue. Actually incredibly useful for paraplegics

  • TranscribeGlass - see your real life conversations with real-time captions - great for the hard of hearing or translations

4 - Trends

What other trends struck us this year?

Well there were a wealth of new health-focused consumer devices including BeamO which is a 4-way health checkup device for home use (temperature, stethoscope, heart rate and blood oxygen). Now I can hear you saying that those devices are already available separately for not much money. Yes, but are they in a single nicely designed package with app integration? 😅 We’re holding our breath on this one (and watching our blood oxygen plummet).

Also on display, was a transparent LG screen which might help that 77" screen be less conspicuous when it's turned off. The technology will also be useful for more interesting applications if the cost starts to fall. And Samsung showed off all the ways it's screens can be bent and rearranged.

Looking to a more sustainable future - LG showed off a hand powered mouse and keyboard combination. Unfortunately it's not powered purely by typing and moving the mouse - small hand cranks are hidden on the devices!

And finally, a prediction

What will be on display at next years event? If we had to make one big prediction it'd be that a single device combining AI assistance with headphones and smart glasses in a consumer and fashion-friendly wearable device still won't have happened! But a lot of people will be frantically working on it.

That's it for our CES24 digest. Which of these announcements did you find most notable?

Which of these 5 caught your eye?

  • Samsung adopting Google's AI for their phones

  • The Rabbit R1

  • BMW and XREAL's augmented reality concept

  • Naqi Neural Earbuds


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