ojo talk CES 2018

Tom Passmore

ojo discuss the highlights and possible lowlights of the show this year


CES is now 50 years old. Established to showcase the latest cutting-edge technologies of the day, and now firmly on the January Las Vegas calendar, it can prove useful to consumers, many of the products migrate to enterprise, some eventually revolutionising the way we do business, but has it had its day? Is it still relevant?

ojo discuss the highlights and possible lowlights of the show.

CES is quite often demonstrating prototype tech. This can come with its hazards, as the robot Cloi (pronounced Chloe) demonstrated live on stage at its launch, failing to respond to commands and prompts. Robotics and AI are still very much in their infancy and R&D is about getting things wrong. If the tech concept is good enough, people will forgive an unsuccessful early demo. We shouldn’t read too much into these early failures. But it is a balance, if manufacturers bring a product too early to the party consumers may lose confidence in the tech and then it may be harder to get these sort of products into the mainstream. Ultimately CES is about showcasing future tech.

Fingerprint tech was demonstrated by various manufacturers, including HP demonstrating their HP Spectre laptop, at the show. In theory, for tech security, this is a great thing, making ease of access and authentication to devices much quicker and streamlined. However, unless the underlying tech improves it could just lead to more problems than benefits. It needs to be of good enough quality before it becomes trusted and mainstream. But we use it to access doors in buildings so why not a laptop?

Tap ‘n’ go and finger print tech is revolutionising how we work.  The quick and easy means of authenticating as part of a natural process of working is great. The iphone works well because you have to press the home button to login.  On a laptop touching the pad as you would naturally, to wake it up and authenticate makes sense.  Removing the need for people to remember passwords and using stronger encrypting via a fingerprint will be the success of this type of technology.   

Voice Assistants and start speakers were everywhere at CES from Amazon’s Alexa, to Cortana, Google Assistant and Siri. The tech was being used in light switches, showers and mirrors so it is only natural that this technology should be applied to the workplace.

In the workplace, Alexa can be used for tasks such as minute taking during meetings, organising and adding to calendars and even helping people prioritise their work for the day. Having an Alexa in the corner of the office that plays the radio is great, but when it can control the lights, heating, power off devices and lock/unlock doors then it becomes a great addition to the office environment.

Why not walk into a reception area and be greeted by a chat bot? Why not gain personal assistance in a meeting room too?  Most of us in business at some point have to talk to an IT service desk, raise a repair job or ask for something. Chat bots can do all of this and most likely better than us humans.  The success of voice assistants will come with considering customer experience within the workplace.

‘New’ educational tech products were launched at CES this year, from Botley the toy robot, designed to teach the youngest aspiring programmers, to the Alpha Egg providing language instruction. Whilst this tech is not necessarily revolutionary it is evolutionary. Writing this as children of the 70’s era we were brought up with basic electronic toys. We learnt by taking them apart and putting them back together. Programming is not much different to this and although not necessarily new in tech, we should embrace these digital educational aids to help children gain the skills they need to explore, question and investigate tech and the world in general, however it is presented.

200 leaders in digital health came together for a health summit at CES this year. Many big  companies are trying to enter the growing health arena for tech. People are being given more autonomy over their own health care with rising health costs, and products are being created which seem like real break-throughs for those who need them. Digital health is growing at an astonishing pace, with innovative solutions for diagnosing, monitoring and treating illnesses. Having just talked about forgiving emerging prototype tech, Digital health is an area where human intuition needs to still be very much present. When we make a piece of technology into a medical device our relationship with it changes and the technology needs to be completely robust. There is a world of difference between having a fit bit tracking your steps and Nima, an app which tells you if there are traces of peanuts in your food. The responsibility on the tech is enormous so, as with Sat Navs, we cannot lose our ability to use our own common sense. GPs could soon be prescribing technology for people and their role in the community could change but tech will not be replacing them for some time, a human has instinct from experience which is, currently, very hard to replicate in a robot.

The ojo directors let us know what caught their eye at the show:

Kevin: The HTC Vive Pro headset. The original Vive was very good and this upgrade looks fantastic. Not just for gaming but for VR in general. The gaming world often steers and dictates which tech is successful prior to it becoming really mainstream and I think it’s starting to show that the potential for high quality VR in all industries is huge.

Tom: A simple one I quite liked was Travis translator – a portable device that uses AI to translate speech in 80 languages all in less than 2 seconds.  Just imagine a universal translator that can fit into your pocket and we are boldly going into Star Trek territory!

Nathan: For me it was more of a surprise of disappointment.  In many respects, there wasn’t anything that new. I was expecting to see a lot more on wearables and automation. The biggest surprise felt like the lack of advancement and reality that robotics is still really in the R&D phase and AI is currently more hype than reality.  


CES 2013 saw VR, wearable and smart homes starting to gain some traction in the tech industry. As CES 2018 closes are we any further forward with these technologies and is there anything new being introduced? We would like to see more disruptive consumer tech at the show next year, rather than add on technology which seemed prevalent, let’s take some risks, and see where it takes the world of tech!



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