The best of CES 2018: VR, giant TVs and floating dinosaurs
The Consumer Electronics Show, the year's biggest tech expo, has been running all week in Las Vegas, and the biggest names in the business have been showing off their new gadgets and hardware for 2018. Now that the dust is settling, we'd like to present some of the highlights.
While a short list like this can't really do justice to several days of non-stop announcements and demos, it should give you a flavor of what CES 2018 was all about, and where consumer technology is heading in 2018. That's really what CES is all about, providing a barometer for what the tech world is currently obsessed with.
The Wall by Samsung
CES is always packed with previews of new television sets, but few of this year's models made quite the impression that The Wall by Samsung did. This huge 146-inch modular TV is virtually bezel-free, which means you can stack several sets side-by-side, should your living room wall be bigger than 146 inches diagonally.
Of course this isn't primarily aimed at your living room – it's for public spaces and business rooms, while also showing off the kind of technology Samsung is working on that might filter down to more consumer-friendly sets. In the case of The Wall, that's the new MicroLED tech, with super-small LED lights for improvements in brightness, contrast, color volume, and color gamut.
Samsung didn't attach a price to The Wall, or say when it might go on sale to those who can afford it, but it shows that TV makers are ready to go bigger and better than ever in 2018.
Nvidia Big Format Gaming Display
Nvidia's first BFGD follows a growing trend in the industry for premium gaming displays at a premium price, and the Nvidia BFGD shoots straight to somewhere near the top of the pile. It offers 4K resolution, a huge 65 inches of screen space, support for HDR, a 120 Hz refresh rate, and ultra-low latency.
In other words, all the specs that gamers are going to take notice of. Nvidia isn't actually making any monitors though, just supplying the panel tech – so look out for hardware launching from partners including Acer, Asus, and HP in the coming year, making use of the Nvidia BFGP technology.
Prices will vary depending on the model, but Android TV comes built in as well, so once you've finished your gaming session, you can kick back and watch something from Netflix, Hulu or another of your favorite streaming apps.
LG 65-inch rollable LED TV
Part of the appeal of CES is getting a sneak preview of technology coming down the pipe, and this year we got treated to a 65-inch OLED TV from LG with a very special party trick – at the push of a button it can roll down into its base, giving you an easy way to limit your screen time or just impress visiting guests.
The 4K screen can also unfurl part way to provide an information display with weather and calendar details as well. This is still very much a prototype – there's no word on if or when you'll be able to buy one – but considering LG showed off an 18-inch version back at the 2014 CES event, you can see how quickly the technology is moving forward.
LG had plenty of other, more conventional televisions to show off during the event, which should cover a whole host of customer needs over the next 12 months. The company also demo'd a monster 88-inch, 8K set.
HTC Vive Pro
We've yet to get to the stage where there's a virtual reality headset in every home, but companies continue to push out variations on the tech to tempt us into joining the VR revolution. One of the biggest announcements at CES 2018 was the HTC Vive Pro, with an improved resolution for sharper graphics, and integrated headphones.
What we didn't get was a completely wireless Vive, but the Wireless Vive Adaptor is the next-best thing, enabling users to free themselves of cables with minimal latency along the way. As yet, we don't know any details on pricing and availability (this is CES after all), but VR looks set for a serious upgrade in 2018.
In amongst many other VR and AR-related announcements was the Lenovo Mirage Solo, a standalone mobile VR headset with full movement tracking, based on the Daydream View (but with no need to slot in a smartphone).
The Volocopter passenger-carrying drone that hails from Germany isn't completely new, but it did take to the air on US soil for the first time at CES 2018, proving that we're closer than ever to a future where we're all getting transported around by stripped-down helicopters that can think for themselves.
The aircraft can be run in autonomous and semi-autonomous modes, and uses the same flight controllers that Intel has put inside other, smaller drones. The technology is still being developed and refined, and as yet there's no word on when the rest of us will be able to clamber inside a Volocopter – but that day is getting closer.
Among the many, many other drones spotted on the show floor at CES 2018 was an upgraded version of the AirSelfie, with longer flight times, a better integrated camera, and extra on-board storage.
LG Smart Display
You can split CES tech into two categories: The far-out, super-cool, concept technology, and the slightly more dull but much more useful devices. The LG Smart Display, and other upcoming products like it, fall firmly into the second category, and highlight the continuing march of smart assistants, this time with screens attached.
Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa were everywhere at CES 2018, and the LG Smart Display is one of several products coming in 2018 that will match Google Assistant with a screen (like the Amazon Echo Show does with Alexa) – in other words, you're going to be able to see recipes made, rather than just have them read back to you.
The Smart Display is going on sale soon, with other similar devices following, and will set you back US$199.99 for the 8-inch version or $249.99 for the 10-inch model.
Razer Project Linda
From the soon-to-be-available and the practical to the more outlandish: Razer's Project Linda is a concept device put together by the gaming firm that transforms the Razer Phone into a fully fledged laptop. The phone acts as the brains of the whole device and also doubles up as the trackpad, slotting in at the bottom of the unit.
Besides adding a bigger screen and a full keyboard for users to interact with their Android apps, the Project Linda chassis also provides extra storage, an on-board battery (so the phone charges while it's docked), and some useful USB ports. It's not a completely new idea, but it's one of the best implementations of it we've seen.
For now, Razer is just experimenting with the technology, though it seems keen to eventually put Project Linda on sale. When that will be, and for how much money, remains to be seen.
Blocks modular smartwatch
Perhaps not the flashiest of CES gadgets, or the one that made the most headlines, but a real success story for the team behind Blocks – the modular smartwatch started as a Kickstarter concept in October 2015, and is finally going on sale to anyone who wants one.
The central idea is a good one, which is perhaps why it originally raised some $1.6 million in crowdfunded cash. You can add in extra modules as you need them, including a GPS unit and a flashlight, which make up the strap around the central smartwatch. The software is based on Android 8.0 Oreo, but the watch works with iPhones as well as Android devices.
Prices for the Blocks smartwatch start at $259, with extra modules available for $35 each. Preorders are open now, with shipping in the first quarter of 2018.
Augmented reality has a lot of potential, but to really get the best out of it at the moment, you need some kind of headset – and that's not ideal when you've got a lot of people inside a space like a museum or an art gallery. Enter the DeepFrame One, an AR experience that works with two screens, no headsets required.
As long as you're peering through the DeepFrame unit, you can see an AR effect that can potentially appear to go on for miles. Imagine customizing your car in front of your eyes in a showroom, or watching a dinosaur come to life while touring around a science exhibition. That's the kind of potential DeepFrame has.
The hardware isn't on sale yet, but it's going to run to tens of thousands of dollars – maybe not for your living room, but look out for it at a public exhibition near you.
Sony LSPX-A1 4K projector
Sometimes during CES we like to imagine what our ideal, high-tech home would look like if we had an unlimited pot of cash to dip into – and the LSPX-A1 4K projector from Sony would definitely be a strong contender from this year's selection of technology. It's capable of throwing up a 120-inch projection from just 9.6 inches away from the wall.
Add to that the superior sound system that's built into the coffee table-like frame, support for HDR visuals, up to 2,500 lumens, and a 2.5 millisecond response rate, and this begins to look like a very fine projector indeed. Just connect up any HDMI source – like an Apple TV – and you're up and running.
Ready to make a purchase? It'll set you back a cool $30,000, so just a few thousand dollars short of the cost of a Tesla Model 3. But who needs to travel with home cinema like this?