The year’s just begun, but we’re already getting a glimpse of the coolest (and weirdest) tech that’s coming our way in 2024 and beyond. That’s right, we’re talking about the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
CES has always been a place for brands to showcase not only the most cutting-edge products they have on offer, but the most out there, pie-in-the-sky, maybe-they’ll-make-it-maybe-they-won’t gadgetry known to man.
This year was no different, with some stellar display tech, laptops, and even connected braais. And AI was everywhere you looked. But there were also some truly wonderful oddities, like a toothbrush with a touchscreen. And AI.
The show featured big reveals on smart home tech from the likes of Samsung (Ballie’s back!), and we haven’t even touched on how big an impact AI made. It was everywhere, from the connected grills and smokers that Weber showed off, to the TVs and the cars. There was a mobile AI device – the Rabbit R1 – that’s designed to essentially interface with your smartphone and other devices for you through a voice interface. It’s cooler than it sounds, and also sold out at the show. Twice.
Let’s dive right in, shall we?
One of the most interesting releases wasn’t at CES itself – it was a few days before. Yes, Apple went ahead and stole everyone’s thunder by announcing a release date for their extremely high-end VR and augmented reality headset, the Vision Pro. Pre-orders for the device start in just a few days, on 19 January, with the headset getting a full release on 2 February.
The headset is impressive, and aims to bring the idea of ‘spatial computing’ to life. Essentially, its combination of VR and AR allows you to fill your view with virtual screens, giving the impression that they’re hanging in the empty space of your room or office. It also ships with the capability for Apple’s own 3D video playback (which only the latest iPhones can record thus far), and the ability to display your eyes on its external screen if you want to talk to someone. Which looks just about as creepy as it sounds.
Even more impressive than the headset? Its price: The Vision Pro is retailing at $3 500 – more than R65 000.
On to the show itself: CES has increasingly played host to car makers over the last decade, and this year saw that reaching its logical conclusion as big tech companies and car makers joined forces to show off what may well be the future of cars as we know them.
Probably the biggest splash? Sony’s partnership with Honda, which was on full display as Sony Honda Mobility president and COO Izumi Kawanishi used a PlayStation 5 controller to ‘drive’ the joint venture’s (stunning, if you ask us) Afeela concept onto stage.
The EV – with futuristic, if conventional, styling – is a bit like the automotive equivalent of those gaming PCs with lots of lights all over them. It’s got a ton of screens, an infotainment system designed by Fortnite creator Epic, and an actual screen on its bumper that you can put the Fortnite logo on, if that’s what you’re into.
Elsewhere, Kia debuted a genuinely smart idea based on a modular van platform that offers huge potential for flexibility, and Honda’s unveiled their own car separately to their partnership with Sony: The Honda 0, one of the coolest looking EV concepts you’ll see maybe ever.
Like the rest of the show, AI popped up all over the place, too, with VW revealing an upcoming ChatGPT integration in its cars. This was promptly and effectively mocked across the web.
Big Screen Presence
Of course a show like CES is going to have tons of TVs and displays, but there were a couple of standouts.
LG’s display managed to stand out by, uh, not standing out, as the South Korean giant unveiled a beautiful home-ready version of its previously-shown transparent OLED TV (Samsung brought one too, but it’s only a concept for now). Because of the way OLEDs work, when the display shows black, it’s actually just turning diodes off completely, which is why OLEDs have such great contrast.
This quality is exactly what lets you see through a transparent screen: Colours show up, but blacks literally disappear. And it’s incredible, allowing for unique 3D effects not possible on a regular TV. We want.
But we also want what Hisense and TCL are cooking up. Both manufacturers showed up to CES in a big, big way. Hisense brought along its brand new, and gigantic, 110 inch mini-LED TV. It’s more than three times the size of a 55 inch TV. And TLC outdid them, with a 115 inch display that until now has only been available in China. Surprisingly, these TVs aren’t all talk – thanks to mini-LED tech, they’re extremely capable, too.
Bigger, apparently, has never been better.
I See You See PC
Just like TVs, laptops and PCs are a big part of the CES experience. This year’s conference saw a trend away from the big beefy units of years past, towards utility and comfort.
Our favourite? The Asus Zenbook Duo, a laptop with two screens – one of which sits under the keyboard. It’s an awesome way to squeeze more utility out of the common form factor, and ranks among the best implementations of the dual screen laptop idea we’ve seen.
Elsewhere, Nvidia showed off a new graphics card certain to sear your eyeballs with the intensity of its graphical excellence, and there were faster, better, stronger screens from just about every manufacturer; now that resolution seems to have peaked, refresh rate is the new battleground.
The Electronic Playground
Unfortunately, we can’t cover every cool thing that happened at CES in just one blog – we didn’t even get to the e-ink toilet (seriously, look it up)!
CES really is a playground for the techy nerds among us. But it’s also a glimpse of the future. It’s a map of the possibilities of tech, many of which will never be seen beyond the neon glow of its displays.
For the stuff that does make it? Pay attention, you might just see it pop up on Rentoza.co.za one of these days.