CES 2018: Expect to See Lots of AI, AR, HDR, UHD & VR

Those attending the 2018 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), taking over Las Vegas Jan. 9-12, can expect to see lots of artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), High Dynamic Range (HDR), Ultra High-Def (UHD) and virtual reality (VR), from members of the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) and beyond.

AI is already being used in tech devices including smart speakers and refrigerators, and we can expect to see the number of devices and types of devices using the technology only grow at CES.

“As they become more ubiquitous in homes and in various consumer electronics products,” AI and digital assistants are “likely to be two of the major overarching themes” at CES, IHS Markit said in a news release Jan. 5. “Accelerating growth in both of these markets underscores their surging role in the overall consumer electronics landscape,” it said, predicting: “More than 5 billion consumer devices supporting digital assistants will be in use in 2018, with almost 3 billion more added by 2021.”

The integration of voice-assistant technology will soon “move beyond major white-goods home appliances, to small appliances and personal- and hygiene-care appliances,” IHS analyst Dinesh Kithany predicted. He added: “We even expect some appliance makers to embed microphones in their premium appliances, complementing smart speakers in digital assistants within the smart home,” Kithany said.

IHS Markit also predicted 39 million smart speakers will ship globally in 2018, up from 27 million in 2017. “The smart speaker surge is only just beginning,” IHS Markit analyst Paul Erickson predicted. He added: “2018 is the year competition in this market truly begins – and the year true mainstream adoption accelerates. We expect numerous third-party smart speakers built around one or more digital assistants, so consumers will have more choices, when it comes to price, form factors, style, and audio quality.”

MESA members planning to tout AI at CES include Accenture, IBM and Veritone.

We can also expect to see more 4K TVs featuring HDR — be it Dolby Vision, HDR10 or Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) — and other premium features from manufacturers including Samsung, LG, Sony, TCL, Hisense and Funai/Philips at CES. We may see more of them jump on the OLED TV bandwagon. We may also even see one or more of them finally announce a specific timetable for the rollout of the first consumer 8K TVs, after several years of just showing them as part of future technology demonstrations.

What’s likely is that we’ll see more TVs similar to the wallpaper-thin models that LG introduced at CES in 2017, NPD analyst Stephen Baker told MESA Jan. 5.

Also of interest will be where LG goes next with the Technicolor Expert Mode that it introduced on its line of Super UHD LED-backlit LCD TVs for 2017.

In TVs, we may also see “some speculative kind of products,” including rollable and transparent displays,” Baker said, but predicted those won’t hit the consumer market until 2019 or 2020.

“We’re getting to a point where some of those premium technologies are going to be marketable, but we’re not quite there yet” – especially when it comes to affordable price points, Baker told us. He predicted: “In the next couple of years, you’re going to see a lot of those products come to market because of how the TV market is changing.”

As the TV market, “like other businesses before it,” moves away from a focus on selling more units to a focus on selling more profitable models, manufacturers will see more of a need to offer TVs with new designs and other premium features to maintain profitability, he noted.

Several companies will also be spotlighting AR and/or VR at CES.

The two technologies are “positioned for record growth” in 2018, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). U.S. sales of AR/VR headsets and eyewear will grow to 4.9 million units in 2018, up more than 25% from 2017, it predicted in a Jan. 4 news release. U.S. revenue in the category is expected to grow nearly 10% to $1.2 billion this year, it said.

AR and VR will have a “record-setting footprint” at CES this time, it said, noting the Augmented Reality Marketplace at the show will expand to 10,900 net square feet, up 10% from 2017, while the Gaming & Virtual reality Marketplace will expand to 34,000 net square feet, up 18%.