So You Want to Go to CES? Nah, No You Don’t. Really, You Don’t – Here’s Your CES 2018 Guide So You Don’t Have to Go

During the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) each year, nearly every big consumer tech company debuts something new — and many of them will declare it “disruptive” or “game-changing” or “innovative” or one of a dozen or so other self-congratulatory adjectives that mean nothing. And all the while, the city for Las Vegas commences to ripping people off like no other city can do quite as well. Drinks go up 20 to 30 percent. Hotel rates more than double or even triple from the week before. Taxis gouge riders, Uber drivers no-show riders not going “far enough” and everyone is grumpy by Wednesday.

Trying to navigate the Las Vegas Convention Center halls, filled with 184,000+ souls trying not to miss the “next-big-thing” (another over-used moniker by many for the booths) is a horrible experience. Just horrible. The food lines are 45 minutes long, minimum. The bathroom lines are longer than the entire time would would spend inside a bathroom at home on a normal week and the show’s aisles just aren’t wide enough. It’s like sitting in traffic on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday. Bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Don’t get me wrong. Everyone should experience it. Once. But after that, you won’t want to go back — but you might have to, if you work for one of the 4,000 or so companies that will exhibit their new gear and software this year.

There will be some big news out of CES and we’ll be covering it at — or, at least the truly big news. But, in the meantime, so you don’t feel like you missed anything, here’s the most important things being launched there this week:

8K, 8K, 8K: Did I mention 8K? Yes, Sharp, LGSony and a few others will be showing 8K TVs, monitors, cameras and players. Some are LCD and some are OLED. But all of them are 7680×4320 resolution. (Editor’s Note: In all fairness, Sharp debuted an 8K TV back in 2017 here). You can’t use them with anything, yet, as there’s no content. But, there will be after the 2018 Winter Olympics — so if you want to watch that over-and-over then there will be some in March. But, don’t expect any of the big content companies to serve-up 8K content via your set-top box in 2018. However, if you want to watch 16 NCAA basketball games side-by-side on one screen in native 1080p in April during the annual tournament, you’ll love 8K!

Health-Tech: Now, this is, actually, the next big thing. There will be well over 300 companies debuting new DIY or self-management healthcare solutions that leverage your digital leash (i.e., smartphone). We’ve already seen some biggies over the past year: You can now manage (some types of) diabetes without pricking a finger; there’s a continuously-measuring heart-rate monitor through phones and the Apple Watch; and real-time personal monitoring can connect to your online medical records that your doctor (or EMS) can use to help you. But at CES 2018, we will see a new generation of heath-tech that will become a new economy for the world. A big economy — potentially like tech was back in the late 1980s. And, as Steve Jobs once said in his famous Stanford grad speech, “No one wants to die.” So, everyone will be willing to spend money on anything that is even remotely proven to help you save your life or make you healthier. Things as simple as hearing aids connected to the infamous cloud to things you swallow and monitor your body for anything that’s not normal. CES 2018 could forever be remembered as the year health-tech exploded on the scene.

Smart Cars: Let’s be honest here, we already have smart cars. A BMW, a Mercedes and even a Honda are all computers on wheels. Google and Apple entered that space with its on-board entertainment systems made for cars a few years ago. Heck, I wouldn’t even consider buying a car that doesn’t have Apple’s CarPlay. But, the self-driving car is nearly a reality and will change our lives forever. There will be a handful of them at CES — all prototypes, of course, but they will truly wow and amaze people. And, as Elon Musk and Google will tell you, we’re less than a half-dozen years away from seeing them in the showroom for us to buy. The only thing that could slow this down has nothing to do with technology, ironically. It’s the government. They might decide that the impact on the economy that self-driving cars would have may not be sustainable, yet, economically, so they may find a away to regulate its debut until they address the economic (i.e., job elimination) impact. But, expect to see companies like FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service as some of the first to use them.

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Ugh, More Smart Speakers: For me, enough is enough. I love my Amazon Echo and Alexa. And, even though I’m probably an Apple fan boy, it’s going to take mind-blowing experience with Apple’s HomePod smart speaker to make me switch. I mean, I’ve not only trained Alexa to know what I want — in many cases before I even ask her — but we’re on a first name basis. At CES, there could be at least three major new launches of smart speakers from the likes of RokuVizio and even Microsoft, who I hear is going to take another try at it. Enough is enough. This will be a short-lived phenomenon as peer-recommendations will dominate here and the big three will likely shake out to be Amazon, Google and Apple, eventually. The rest will be also-rans or will license one of those (like Sonos did, integrating Alexa into the new Sonos One speaker). That said, what could eventually help Apple and Google against Amazon will be the seamless use of their technologies in their car entertainment systems — so you can have the same personal digital assistant in the car as you have at home (with all its expert knowledge of you).

VR & AR: You can’t have a review nowadays without saying Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. So, there you go. It’s said. It will be everywhere as it’s not only the buzz-term of the times but it’s also a way to attract VC (venture capital) funds. So, they’ll be plenty of it. Nothing earth shattering yet, except better gaming.

Fast Connections Everywhere: That’s the holy grail, right now, of technology. To be able to remain connected all the time with a fast connection was the promise of 3G, 4G, LTE and now 5G. But, even Wi-Fi has issues. Heck, in my 35’ x 35’ classroom at UNC  there are places in the room where you can connect with blazing speed and places where students can’t even connect. It’s crazy. So, imagine doing that all over a town, a county or a state. That’s what AT&T, Sprint and Verizon have been trying to do for over a decade and, well, have failed to do. They just can’t keep up. CES will be all about 5G but it won’t fix our issues. I promise you that. But attendees will be impressed with the claims and the carefully-orchestrated demos.

OMG, I Almost forgot About AI: Artificial Intelligence, or AI, has actually been around for years — and we’ve been using it for years. It’s what makes Siri sort of recognize what you are asking her on an Apple device. And, AI is that feature where, when you’re Googling something, the search box fills out what you were going to Google before you finish typing it. Yes, that’s AI. AI is what’s making the device, the machine, the cloud and big-data aggregate your current device usage, instantly, with what everyone else in the world is doing right now and AI automatically figures out what you wanted. The ultimate in AI would be something that predicts what you want and need 100% of the time — but that would be terrifying, especially if someone else you knew got to see inside that, like reading your mind. But it’s coming. And at CES 2018, there will be no fewer than 200 companies showing AI stuff. And, all the biggies will, for sure.

Robot Fun: I have always wanted a robot. I would love to have a robot. Please, finally, come out with a robot. It doesn’t even have to be as cool looking as BB-8 from Star Wars. It can be square and flat — I don’t care. But I want it to be able to cook and clean. I love my Roomba (robot vacuum) but it’s lacking. I still have to clean behind it. And, it can’t cook. I want a robot that can cook. Seriously! Alas, the robots, and there will be a few of them, that will be at CES will be demos. Like the self-driving car, they are a few years away from anything substantial. They need that AI thing I talked about, above, to be better.

Hey, I have a great idea: How about a robot that can drive and I can talk to — or, better yet, a robot that knows where I want to go, will entertain me while going there and will feed me along the way?!