CES 2017 Highlights: Wednesday 4 January

Our Picks from the Las Vegas Technology Show

In our second round-up of news from CES 2017, we highlight more connected devices with integrated voice assistants, Intel’s plans for virtual, augmented and mixed reality and its work to connect cars, and a new development platform for BlackBerry’s QNX operating system.

Voice Assistants and Machine Learning Come to White Goods

Samsung and LG have announced that their new lines of smart refrigerators will integrate voice assistants. The voice control will operate with other smart home devices, as well as providing entertainment functions like music.

Samsung is using its own system in its new line of four Family Hub 2.0 appliances. Few details of the voice system were given, but it is likely to draw on Samsung’s recent work to develop assets from its acquisition of smart assistant company Viv in October 2016.

For Samsung this heralds a complex picture of support for voice assistants, with deep integration of Google on its Android devices, support for Cortana in smart speakers through new acquisition Harman, and its own Viv-based system.

LG announced partnerships with Amazon and Google, and launched an Alexa-powered Instaview smart fridge that runs its webOS operating system and builds on its SmartThinQ appliances launched in 2016. LG hinted at a broader range of devices with Alexa integrated to come during the year.

Both companies talked about using their machine learning systems to enhance functionality. LG’s DeepThinQ system is used in its washing machines to adjust for the hardness of water and dust levels in the local environment, and in air conditioners to learn cooling patterns and to match users’ behaviour. Samsung announced it is investing billions of dollars into artificial intelligence and machine learning, but gave fewer details of how it will be used.

LG’s integration of Alexa reflects wider adoption of Amazon’s voice assistant. At least 10 devices with Alexa built in have already emerged from CES 2017, and half a dozen new products can be controlled by Alexa. In November 2016, CCS Insight predicted that this year’s trade shows would see a slew of new products powered by smart assistants from Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

Intel’s Vision for Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality

Intel’s presentation was a spectacle in its own right. Although light on announcements, the event showcased a series of virtual reality experiences to 260 people; two of the experiences were live streams. The technical logistics of presenting virtual reality on a mass scale can’t be understated — they offer a clear indication of where Intel sees the technology moving to create captivating experiences and capabilities in play and work and travel.

The message was clear: Moore’s Law is alive and well and Intel is positioned to succeed. The company aims to deliver its Project Alloy mixed reality hardware platform in the second half of 2017 following an enthralling demonstration that turned a living room into a video game environment. In our view, this remains an ambitious schedule.

With Nvidia and Qualcomm shaping up to be formidable competitors in virtual reality, Intel will be relieved that Nvidia, its Santa Clara neighbour, opted to focus on the connected home, PC gaming and automotive applications in its presentation at CES 2017.

Virtual, augmented and mixed reality are emerging as central themes of this year’s CES. For example, Samsung revealed it has shipped more than 5 million Gear VR headsets. Our team in Las Vegas will continue to monitor announcements and test the latest products. We expect more news in this area in the coming days.


George Jijiashvili trying ODG’s R8 augmented reality glasses


George Jijiashvili wearing Lenovo holographic headset

Intel Sharpens Automotive Strategy

Intel made a number of automotive announcements at CES, setting out a clear statement of intent. With the automotive market representing a hugely lucrative opportunity thanks to the amount of silicon in next-generation vehicles, autonomous or otherwise, Intel cannot afford to repeat its missteps in smartphones and tablets.

This thinking underpins its recent acquisition of a 15 percent stake in Here. Similarly, the newly announced Intel Go brand gives definition to its automotive efforts, which span development platforms, chips and modems. Its collaboration with BMW and Mobileye to deliver autonomous test vehicles by the second half of 2017 suggests tangible progress in the face of significant competition from Qualcomm, Nvidia, NXP Semiconductors and a host of others.

Further Daily Insights from CES 2017 will focus on Nvidia’s automotive announcements and several other developments in this field.

BlackBerry Unveils New QNX Version

The Internet of things is an important theme of CES 2017. BlackBerry’s QNX real-time operating system powers many connected devices, particularly vehicles. Version 7.0 of its software development platform is aimed at automotive and mission-critical applications. It offers a range of new or improved features, including a new 64-bit version of QNX, to support high-performance computing environments, and enhanced security at various levels, from the kernel up to higher operating system functions.

BlackBerry continues to develop QNX to cope with evolving architectures, as domain controllers start to take over from dedicated specialist chipsets, and as software complexity rises rapidly with on-device machine learning. Although this latest version is targeted at automotive applications, we expect it will find use in high-speed trains, surgical robots, industrial controllers and other more-demanding connected “things”.

Tomorrow’s Daily Insight will feature more CES 2017 highlights from the official opening day of the event.