CES 2016: Here Comes A Human-Carrying Autonomous Drone

Last year at CES, a couple of drone-makers wowed the crowd with autonomous drones. But this year, self-driving drones are no longer that surprising – until EHANG came out with a giant autonomous drone that can fly one human passenger around without manual piloting.

The Chinese drone manufacturer yesterday unveiled its Ehang 184, an electric-powered drone can be fully charged in two hours, and fly for 23 minutes at sea level. Passengers can set a flight plan, and then only need to give two commands, “take off” and “land,” using a Microsoft Surface tablet mounted on its dashboard.

For more of the Lab’s CES coverage, click here.

Photo credit: Matt Lehrer

CES 2016: The Next Big Thing Conference On The Future Of Interfaces

As part of CNET’s “The Next Big Thing” conference series at CES 2016, the “Is Typing Dead?” session on Wednesday afternoon captured our attention because of its focus on debating what’s next in human-machine interaction.

The actual voice behind Siri, Susan Bennett, took stage at the beginning of the session, and hearing her talking in her highly recognizable “Siri voice” made for an oddly interesting experience. She told the audience a brief but funny recap about her involvement in the creation of Siri, kicking off this simulating session on what will come after typing and touchscreens in the continued evolution of digital interfaces.

The four-person panelists consisted of industry thought leaders on interface designs, including Wendy Ju from Stanford University’s Interaction Design Research unit, Pattie Maes from MIT Media Lab, Marcus Behendt from BMW’s user experience department, and Vlad Sejnoha, CTO of Nuance Communications. Together, they discussed the state of voice command and gesture control, and casted their predictions for the future of user interfaces.

Voice command has been taking off in recent years with the likes of Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, and as we have seen at this year’s CES, more and more devices has added support for voice command and will start talking with users. But because of the inherent ambiguity in natural languages, as MIT’s Maes pointed out, speech is not always the most efficient way of communications, and therefore will be relegated to controlling only certain applications.

Moreover, the panelists agreed that sometimes voice command may misunderstand user intent because it is not picking up on all the non-verbal cues we use in conversations. And it would become a much more powerful tool for human- computer interaction if it is combined with personal data to learn about user’s preference and interests.

Gesture control is also a UI trend that is growing in popularity, whether it’s X-box’s kinetic gaming features, or the in-car gesture control that Volkswagen just added to its Golf electric model. BMW’s Behrendt sees gesture control mostly as communication enhancement, while also reminding everyone that some gestures may vary from culture to culture, which hinders universal adoption. And the panelists agrees that the bottom line here is that gesture control should be intuitive and shouldn’t be like a sign language that users have to learn to use.

In addition, the panelists also quickly ran through some emerging technologies that may one day power mainstream digital interfaces, such as gaze control (commend with sight), proximity-based control (such as beacons triggering actions), as well as biometric-based control that responds to the changes in your physiological stats. While all these may still be decades away from ready for mass adoption, they nevertheless points to a future where our devices will no longer just passively waiting for our commands, but rather actively uses contextual data to anticipate our needs and serve us before we even lift a finger.

For more of the Lab’s CES coverage, click here.

CES 2016: Delphi To Bring Car To Car Connectivity To Aftermarket

There has been a number of connected cars in market now, but soon your smart car will be able to talk with other cars as well, thanks to Delphi’s V2E™ “Vehicle to Everything” technology. Based in Gillingham, U.K., Delphi will be launching its industry-first Vehicle to Vehicles (V2V) tech on the 2017 Cadillac CTS, called Super Cruise.

Beside enabling cars exchange data for traffic planning and other real-time information, Dephi’s V2E technology will also enable  Vehicle to Pedestrians communications to allow drivers to send an alert to a pedestrian’s smartphone if they’re looking down at their devices and not watching the traffic. It can also communicate with traffic lights to anticipate the change of signals , as well as getting real-time road information to avoid blind corners.

For more of the Lab’s CES coverage, click here.


Header image courtesy of Delphi’s press release kit.

CES 2016:  Withings Go Brings E-Ink To Fitness Wearables

As with last year, the CES has no shortage of wearables, especially the fitness trackers. Among this year’s new crops, Withings Go stands out with its simplistic design and a super-long battery life – it can go as long as eight months after a full charge, according to the company. The reason is can last that long is because instead of a battery-draining LCD display, it opts for E Ink, the kind of mono-color display that Kindle uses. It does what most activity trackers do, including step counts, calorie intake tracking, and measuring travelled distance. Selling at only $70, it makes a strong case for competing in the lower-end of the wearable market previously dominated by FitBit, who just unveiled at CES yesterday its first smartwatch Blaze that sells for $200.

For more of the Lab’s CES coverage, click here.

CES 2016: GM Introduces Chevrolet Bolt EV, An Affordable Long-Range Electric Car

During its CES 2016 keynote session, GM CEO Mary T. Barra unveiled the Chevy Bolt EV on stage. It is a compact fully electric car with a promised range of over 200 miles after a single full charge. More importantly, it will be selling for around $30,000 after tax incentives, making it an affordable alternative for Tesla’s Model S offering. The Chevy Bolt EV will go into production this year, and will also feature a 10.2-inch touchscreen on its center dashboard that runs GM’s MyLink infotainment system.

For more of the Lab’s CES coverage, click here.

Header image courtesy of Chevrolet’s press release.

CES 2016: Samsung’s Smart Fridge Ushers In A New Era For Home Appliances

On Tuesday, Samsung introduced a new “Family Hub Refrigerator” during its press conference at CES 2016. Easily the highlight of the event, the new smart fridge comes with a 21.5-inch touchscreen built in. It can display your family photos, show your calendars, and even has a TV-mirroring feature that can let you stream your Samsung TV content right to your fridge door. The fridge also comes with 3 cameras so you can remotely check your stockings inside via a smartphone app while you’re in the shopping aisles.

Moreover, the refrigerator also comes with a built-in function for grocery shopping. Working with MasterCard’s Groceries app, it will allow users to shop for groceries right on the touchscreen on its door, truly combining the connectivity of smart home devices with the convenience of ecommerce.

For more of the Lab’s CES coverage, click here.

Header image courtesy of Samsung’s press release video.


CES 2016: The Oculus Rift Finally Reveals Pricing And Ship Date

Back in May last year, we learned that Oculus was getting ready to ship its first consumer-facing VR headset in early 2016. Now, we have a ship date and pricing. The Facebook-owned company just announced at CES that its Oculus Rift headsets will cost $599 and start shipping on March 28th.

We here at the Lab are always looking out for new developments in the VR space, and currently we have two VR headsets—an Oculus Rift and a Samsung Gear—ready for demo in the Lab. And of course, we have pre-ordered two more Oculus Rift headsets this morning to add to our collection. VR is unlikely to hit mass adoption in the next few years, but it is increasingly becoming a great tool for brands to employ in event activations. A number of brands, such as Marriott Hotel, Birchbox, JCPenney, and Target had already started developing their own branded VR content to entertain and connect with their customers.

For more of the Lab’s CES coverage, click here.


CES 2016: Netflix Goes Truly Global, Adds 130 New Countries

The lab attended the opening keynote of CES 2016 featuring Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, who announced near the end of his presentation that this morning Netflix launched in 130 new global markets, including some major ones such as India and Russia. With this radical expansion, Netflix’s service is now available in almost every country in the world, with only China as a conspicuous hold-out.

Reports have also noted that Netflix has stricken a partnership with South Korea-based TV manufacturer LG to include its subscription as a prepaid service in LG’s new smart TVs, as part of Netflix’s global expansion plan. But there was curiously no mention of this partnership during the keynote presentation. Mr. Hastings also shared a few first-look trailers for some of its upcoming new series, including Baz Luhrmann’s hip hop musical The Get Down and new British royal drama The Crown, which focuses on the early life of Queen Elizabeth.

During the keynote, Reed Hastings proudly recapped Netflix’s rapid development into today’s leading OTT content provider, citing stats such as 70 million household users clocking up a total of 42.5 billion viewing hours for 2015. As a streaming services, Netflix’s “all-episodes-at-once” approach gives viewers more control in their content consumption and ushered in a new on-demand “binge-watching” era. TV is now no longer linear and restricted to a programming grid, but instead full of choices and quality content free to be consumed on any devices. In this new era of Internet TV, brands needs to start figuring out new ways to reach today’s audiences, especially with product placement or sponsorships in ad-free environments like Netflix.

For more of the Lab’s CES coverage, click here.

Fast Forward: CES 2016 First Look

This is a special edition of our Fast Forward newsletter, highlighting the major trends we are seeing so far at CES 2016. A fast read for you and a forward for your clients and team.

The 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show is set to open tomorrow in Las Vegas. The Lab team has arrived in advance and scouted the venues to bring you a sneak peek at this year’s CES.

More Gadgets Start Talking

This year at CES, we are seeing more and more devices that can talk with users with a conversational interface. Instead of forcing people to learn how to use it, new devices are as easy to use as talking to or texting with a friend. For example, Sengled unveiled a smart LED bulb that responds to voice commands. It has a built-in speaker and microphone, as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections. Intel showcased a pair of Oakley sunglasses that can give you advice as you work out via a set of attached headphones. The new pair of fitness-focused sunglasses can report your stats, coach you through your workout, and be controlled entirely by your voice.

Similarly, Ford teamed up with Amazon to use virtual assistant Alexa to connect smart home devices to your smart car. With Ford’s Sync Connect and Amazon Echo, users can ask Alexa to start their car from their living room, and drivers can talk to Alexa and control their house while inside their car. Conversational interfaces are showing some serious momentum in both applications and adoption. In the near future, devices that don’t support voice commands might seem broken in the same way that non-touch screens have started to.

Video Cameras Expand Their View To Create 360-Degree Content

Ricoh cameras

While most news surrounding the VR space in the past year has been about hardware for viewing content, a lot of news at CES this year centers on hardware for creating content, and capturing 360-degree views. These videos can be viewed in VR headsets or in new spherical video viewers on Facebook, YouTube, and elsewhere.

Whereas established camera-makers like Samsung and Nikon are joining in the trend and coming out with their own 360-degree video cameras, upstarts are still pushing the boundaries, adding 360-degree viewing experiences to new use cases like the Vuzix iWear VR headset and Vozz smart helmet. Ricoh’s Theta S 360-degree camera comes with an impressive 8 GB storage and is a consumer-grade 360-degree camera for $350. And if you don’t have hardware that will do it for you, Videostitch can help video creators assemble 360-degree videos in real time.

Cars Are Getting Cleaner And Smarter

Last year at CES, self-driving cars made their debut and took the spotlight. This year, driverless cars are getting closer to reality with major automakers such as Ford, Volkswagen, and Audi (working with Nvidia) all stating their commitment to developing autonomous cars.

But the real hype this year belongs to the electric cars. Faraday Future unveiled its first concept vehicle, the FFZERO1. It’s a sleek, single-seat, all-electric supercar that could produce as much as 1,000 horsepower. Ford announced plans to bring 13 electric vehicle models to market by 2020. Similarly, Volkswagen also introduced a couple of new electric car models in their press conference on Tuesday. GM CEO Mary Barra summed it up best when he said that the car industry is going to change more in the next 5 years than it has in the last 50. Cars are well on their way to becoming more computer than machine.

Smart Home Appliances Get Smarter

You can assume that there is a connected version of every product now. And as more and more devices and appliances get connected to the Internet, they are also getting a lot smarter. For example, Samsung introduced the Family Hub Refrigerator that comes with a 21.5-inch touchscreen built in. Working with MasterCard’s Groceries app, it will allow users to shop for groceries right on its door. Similarly, Whirlpool added Amazon Dash service into the smart appliances in its new Smart Kitchen Suite to enable simple re-ordering of household supplies.

Soon, those smart home devices may help develop smart cities. Panasonic has started working with the city of Denver to develop its first smart city project. Using Panasonic’s Internet-connected cameras and other technologies, Denver’s citizens will be able to access real-time information about utilities and mass transit.

The bad news is that not all connected devices work together. Some of the most heated competition is over which IoT smart home standard will rule them all, with entrants ranging from the major smartphone players to plucky startups. Until there is a clear winner or two, early adopters will face confusing choices and frustrating connections.

TVs Dazzle With Ultra HD Displays And New Interfaces

LG Flexible displays

Every year at CES, the TV manufacturers pretty much have the same narrative – TVs are getting bigger, thinner, and better picture quality. This year is no different. One of the main stories this year is increased contrast and more colors based on technology called High Dynamic Range or HDR. Sony introduced three new TVs with crisp 4K HDR and ultra-thin bezels. Similarly, LG is set to debut a giant 98-inch 8K display and a new OLED 4K TV with HDR. LG is also showcasing a prototype of a flexible 18-inch display you can roll up like a newspaper. However, the very limited supply of 4K content to date is no doubt hurting the mainstream adoption of those ultra HD TV sets.

Perhaps more importantly, we are also seeing TVs get new interfaces to reflect changing viewing behaviors. Instead of focusing only on live TV’s rigid programming grid, we are seeing some new TVs integrate OTT content services with live TV, such as Samsung’s new SUHD Smart TV and TCL’s first-ever Roku 4K TV. Samsung’s new interface will make switching inputs as simple as switching channels and allow searching for content across live TV, Netflix, and soon YouTube.

Game of Drones

As with last year, drones are everywhere at CES. Some are getting bigger and steadier. Others are getting smaller. Most are gaining autonomous features. This year, the competition among dozens of drone-makers are pushing the UAVs into new heights. Among them, the fixed-wing Parrot Disco, which can fly at 50 MPH and whose shape resembles a paper airplane, and Fleye, which operates in a protected nest design for added safety, are the two early favorites.

What You Can Do

If you happen to be in Vegas now, make sure to check out some of the exhibitors we mentioned above. And stay tuned for more CES coverage.

Please contact Client Services Director Samantha Barrett ([email protected]) at the IPG Media Lab if you would like more detail or to schedule a visit to the Lab.