CES 2018 preview: VR, voice, transformed transport, TVs galore and more

What can we look forward to at this year's CES? VCCP's innovation lead offers up some pointers.

From AR to VR and bots to bitcoins, in 2017 we saw our fair share of emerging technologies and trends that were either discussed, experimented with, or adopted by brands. As we head into 2018 all eyes shift to the largest technology show of the year, CES (Consumer Electronics Show), with nearly 200,000 people descending upon Las Vegas in the hope of finding out what the next 12 months has in store.

Since I first attended seven years ago the show has seen a shift in focus. It has evolved beyond a showcasing of gadgets and gizmos into a digital compass for the year ahead. This year organisers have allocated a dedicated conference space that is specifically for the advertising, entertainment and content providers to get together and discuss the changing landscape.

Recently, CES’ relevance and role in the industry has been questioned. This is in large part due to manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony and GoPro opting to do launches at their own standalone events. In my opinion, however, CES last year was a crucial one, because we began to understand and discuss how emerging technologies and trends influence and eventually populate everyday culture.

With CES officially kicking off this week, here are some of the key things to keep an eye on for this years show:  

The Three R's

VR seemed to be one of the key talking points from last year’s show, and throughout 2017 in fact, but it doesn’t seem to have achieved the mainstream consumer adoption people were expecting.

If anything, VR has served only to pave the way for both AR and MR (mixed reality) to make a big splash in 2018. Indeed, the much hyped MR start-up Magic Leap finally revealed its super secret headset in the last week of December, while more established companies like Microsoft and Lenovo also released a number of their own headsets at the close of the year.

Building on this, the number of AR toolkits released to developers in the 2nd half of last year, like the Apple ARKit and Google’s ARCore, means we will definitely be seeing a large AR presence.  

Expect the lines between these three realities spaces to be heavily debated.

Contextual interfaces

Interestingly, one of the most talked about products at last year’s show didn’t even have an official presence: Amazon’s smart assistant Alexa.  This was supported through a number of partnership announcements and support from the many hardware manufacturers that were integrating the virtual assistant into their products - anything from lights and fridges to cars.

This year I’m expecting to see a good battle between the assistants, as both Amazon and Google’s Home products have official stands for the first time. Driving the ongoing debate around whether voice-activated devices even have a place, and whether we really want to talk to our products?

Transport Transformation

The last five years has seen an increasing number of car manufacturers on the show floors and in the programmed talks. This year will be no different as we begin to see the true potential of semi-automated to completely driverless cars: with a range of live demos for attendees to try out around Vegas.

Transportation network Lyft recently announced it will be operating a fleet of driverless cars for people to request during the week-long conference and experience first-hand.

Could we see the real future of the transformation of transport?

And lot of TVs

One thing we won’t be short of at this year’s show is displays, as our screens become bigger and the resolution higher. Indeed, it continues to challenge content producers and service providers as they scramble to have libraries and channels in place to support the higher resolution 4K HDR formats that are being adopted across the industry. We will inevitably see a number of unbelievably high resolution 8K displays, but the ones to truly watch are the content providers that will by using these displays.


William Harvey is the innovation lead at VCCP. He’s attending CES and will be tweeting from the show at @WilliamEdHarvey

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