As CES 2018 begins to wind down, several themes have begun to emerge for the year ahead in consumer technology. From self-driving cars and virtual assistants galore to new TVs and an abundance of new gaming hardware, CES 2018 was awash in a broad spectrum of gadgets and gizmos.
We scoured the show floor, fought our way through the more than 150,000 attendees and waited in hour-long cab lines to find the most important trends of the largest technology convention in the world. Here’s what we found.
Self-driving cars and smart assistants
It’s no secret that CES has turned into its own small-scale car show. Automakers from around the world attend the convention to debut their latest tech and explain how they’ll offer a superior experience on the road.
The biggest theme from the automotive side of the industry, though, was the continued improvement of self-driving technology. We saw Nvidia (NVDA) announce a new processing platform designed specifically for robotaxis, spoke with Ford for its plans to begin work on bringing autonomous cars to cities and saw Toyota’s vision for how self-driving vehicles could revolutionize commerce by bringing your favorite stores directly to you.
In fact, automakers are so sure the self-driving revolution is nearly at hand that they’re putting an increased emphasis on how you’ll be able to interact with your car when you no longer have to pay attention while behind the wheel.
CES 2018 also brought us continued expansion of the smart assistant movement. It seemed like everywhere we looked Amazon’s (AMZN) Alexa and Google’s (GOOG, GOOGL) Assistant were popping up. Of particular note were the large number of speakers and sound bars taking advantage of these artificial intelligence-powered helpers.
But not every implementation of Alexa and Google Assistant appeared entirely necessary. In fact, it seemed as though some manufacturers were simply shoehorning Alexa and Google Assistant into any device they could. Do we really need bathroom mirrors with built-in voice assistants? Probably not.
Between Amazon and Google, though, it was Google that seemed to have the largest presence at CES 2018. Not only did the company announce direct competitors to Amazon’s Echo Show, it even constructed massive outdoor displays for Google Assistant and splashed the product’s logo across nearly every digital billboard in Las Vegas. The company even covered the tram that runs around the city with Google Assistant signage.
Seemingly nowhere to be found in all of this, though, were Apple’s (AAPL) Siri or Microsoft’s (MSFT) Cortana. There were certainly products announced that are compatible with both, but none that were exactly mind-blowing.
TVs and gaming
The one constant at CES for years has been the steady, sometimes massive, improvements in the quality of televisions. From HD, to 4K and HDR, TV makers are always working to one-up last year’s models. Thankfully, 2018 didn’t see nearly as many major upgrades to TVs than previous years.
No doubt, there were some sets that offered better picture quality, but by and large the updates for this year’s TVs shouldn’t give consumers who just purchased new sets prior to CES any kind of buyer’s remorse.
Finally, there was the industry’s continued move into the gaming space. We saw new gaming PCs from a variety of manufacturers, including a face-meltingly powerful desktop from Acer with wheels so you can roll it to gaming parties and monster gaming displays from Nvidia (NVDA).
It makes sense that tech giants would jump into gaming, though, as it’s a space for consumers who have deep pockets and are willing to open them for great products.
No one big product
Interestingly, though, there hasn’t been a go-to product that managed to separate itself from the incredibly crowded pack of devices and services on display at the show. Most years, you’re able to pick out one single gadget that stood head and shoulders above the myriad products unveiled for the public.
Instead, every company seemed to introduce their own version of a similar device. Sure, there were some outliers, but nothing that grabbed your attention. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and certainly doesn’t mean the show was a bust. In fact, there were a variety of gadgets I can’t want to test on my own.
And what we might have missed in a single device that took our breath away, we gained in larger trends that will help us develop a better understanding of where the industry is going in the years ahead. And that, in a sense, is far better than a standout device.
Now if you’ll excuse us, we need to get some sleep.
More from Dan:
- CES Day 2 roundup: From breast pumps to robots
- Google’s smart displays bring the power of search from home
- The Blade Shadow turns your phone into a gaming PC
- The best streaming devices you can buy
- There are reasons to be skeptical about Magic Leap’s long-awaited AR headset
- Samsung’s Windows-powered VR headset is a winner
- The best tech gifts under $100
Email Daniel Howley at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.