Las Vegas showcases innovations in the technology world.
It is a brand new year, and at the start of every year comes the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas: a show full of light, sound, and electricity showcasing the various projects that the top companies in the world are working on in 2014. This year’s CES wasn’t the most surprising, innovating, or even one of the more interesting ones compared to previous years, but that does not mean that there aren’t amazing devices currently in development. Between the gargantuan televisions, a sea of wearables such as smartwatches, and the thousands of iPhone accessories, there were some really great innovations in store. Here are some of the highlights of CES 2014, which include innovations in gaming, health, and even driving technology.
PlayStation Now was not a surprise to anyone, as Sony’s acquisition of the company Gaikai made fans expect a major announcement. The announcement of streaming PlayStation 3 games to other PlayStation devices through cloud gaming was as expected. However, what caught the crowd off guard was the announcement that it would also work on televisions, smartphones, and tablets. The games that were demoed at CES ran very smoothly. When Sony rolls out this service in the summer, you can be sure that it will be a progressive step toward the future of gaming.
Also major in the gaming world was Valve showcasing its thirteen hardware partners for its Steam Machines. Attendees got a chance to try out the many different prototypes and provide input on how it should be configured. It is still unclear of how PC gaming’s move into the console space will pan out, but fans are anxious to discover what will become of this project. The controllers showcased were insanely light (some say they felt like a feather), and were uniquely creative and precise. But the question remains: will it ever match a mouse and keyboard?
Every year, Oculus Rift brings a newer and better prototype as it continues to develop. They are currently developing a headset that has an all-encompassing virtual reality. With the head-tracking system this year being capable of letting you lean over ledges and peer around corners without causing motion sickness, we await the final version of the Rift. Oculus was able to bring together an immersive world of a fast-paced space-fighting game, which felt extremely legitimate and could lead into how video gaming might be in the future.
With the immense ocean full of wearable technology, there was one company that stood out beyond the others. Ekso created a highly functional wearable exoskeleton, which will allow paraplegics to walk. During its demonstration, Ekso brought forward former professional snowmobile racer Paul Thacker, who fractured his fifth thoracic vertebra during an accident. He first walked using the exoskeleton within eight months of his injury. Currently, it only moves forward, and turning at sharp angles seems to be the highest technical and physical challenge for the walker. The battery lasts about four years, and the promise with this innovation is that there is a lot more that they can do. With the motorized assistance from the exoskeleton, this innovation can impact the lives of those with physical disabilities significantly.
One of the biggest hits of the showcase came from the car company Audi. It is a system that feeds traffic light data directly into your cockpit. For example, if the suggested speed is sixty km/h while driving, the system tells you if you will make the light travelling at that speed. When the light is red or about to turn red, the system shows how many more seconds until it turns green. The goal is to help you make more green lights while driving, and when you can’t, alert you to how long you will have to wait. However, this might be a few years away from officially getting into cars, as getting the traffic light data from cities is extremely difficult in the first place. Various cities such as Berlin have run trials, but it has been a long and tiring process according to Audi. During the event, the car was hooked up to the Las Vegas system where people were able to give it a test ride accompanied by a police escort, just in case anything happened. After a few normal tests, the driver closed his eyes; ten seconds later, a loud buzzer rang through the cabin to get his attention, and if that didn’t work, the car automatically stopped itself in the middle of the highway (hence the escort), and turned on its emergency signals. In future developments, the car will also instantly call 911 and use a series of cameras to make sure the driver is awake. However, only two countries (the United States and China) do not have specific provisions that prohibit self-driving, which will make this transition much longer.
The biggest surprise for the whole event had to be the bendable television, which both Samsung and LG revealed. The gigantic 4K OLED televisions actually bend and unbend with a press of a button, and creates an immersive and lifelike picture. Those that may think that it will be a while for this technology to become perfectly functional would be mistaken. Samsung announced that it will start selling them this year. It will be expensive, but if you can afford it, you will be able to own a TV that is a lot more futuristic than whatever you are watching on it. Another surprise came from the company FLIR, which has a case that will turn your iPhone into a thermal camera. Remember the heat vision in the movie Predator? Well now you can have those same powers, where the case contains a heat camera. You can use it to check your home insulation for leaks, to check your temperature for a fever, or to cheat at hide-and-seek. The FLIR One will launch this spring with the iPhone 5 at the price of $349, which is a far cry from the original $1000 most people predicted.