CES is a babble of conversations – some selling, some speculating, and some just complaining about the traffic. What was a rumble of noise last year – with Alexa devices first appearing outside of the Amazon brand – this year was a cacophony, with both Alexa and Google Home pretty much neck and neck in new product offerings.
In design terms, Alexa speakers seem to be following a basic cylinder model to take advantage of 360° mics, which makes a lot of the offerings (e.g. 808 audio’s XL-V) look very similar to an Echo; but there were variants, such as soundbars, too.
Google Home, while probably in about as many products as Alexa, looked to be the buzzy audio assistant of the show, aided by literally massive Google advertising on the monorail, billboards etc.
Today, most audio assistants work on the ‘listen for watchword then head for the Cloud’ model, but Imagination’s PowerVR 2NX neural network acceleration technology is designed for adding neural network processing to edge devices, enabling a wider range of commands to be processed on the device.
And what about Siri you ask? Good question, she was nowhere to be seen; and Cortana was pretty much just in PCs.
TV wise, there was something impressive about the fresh look of Samsung’s new TVs, which seem to mark another step in TV evolution. For me though, the best booth of the show was not one of the mammoth TV churches in the central hall – the hubris of which was shown up when the power went down spectacularly on day two of the show – rather, it was Ring’s sweet little homestead in The Sands, which perfectly fits their brand. I like Ring, with its impressive HD camera, but of course look forward to next-generation door-access devices, where intelligence could be added behind the image sensors.
4K, 8K, big TVs… meh. What mattered at CES was not the size of the screen (though production trends do suggest that 65 inches is going to become the new normal), but rather the quality of the pixels with High Dynamic Range (HDR) the new battlefield. It makes sense: HDR is a technology that can be applied across a range of screens, not just in UHD, and is a highly marketable technology for content-delivery companies like Sky or Netflix.
OLED was still the best screen technology this year, and new screen technologies like MicroLED seemed like a stopgap on the way to photo or electro-emissive quantum dots becoming a more manufacturable technology.
I absolutely love my Chuwi tablet, a cheap but robust 8-inch Intel-based device that I can carry anywhere, so I was delighted to see the new Chuwi Hi9, which includes a PowerVR GPU. The Hi9 is a 64GB Android 7.0 Nougat Tablet PC (Oreo to come later this quarter) with an MTK8173 quad-core processor and 2560 x 1600 pixel 8.4-inch display. Expect to pay $150-180, depending on where you buy.
The Chuwi Hi9 tablet features a PowerVR GPU.
Every CES has a couple of products you just weren’t expecting. For me, this year the big surprise was Sunflower’s remarkable robotic sun-shade, which moves with an almost balletic precision to keep you in the shade all day as the sun moves (a far cry from my struggle with my mechanical shade!).
Sunflower’s robotic sun-shade moves automatically to keep you in cool all day
What was Imagination doing this year at CES? Our focus was on the latest solutions for graphics, vision & AI, and communications. For graphics, this meant upcoming Furian-GPU products aimed at the automotive market (we pre-briefed at CES so expect the full announcement later this month).
In vision & AI, we showed the final RTL of the first PowerVR Series2NX NNA core running in an FPGA and accelerating various neural networks for image recognition and classification, including of course face recognition. The Series2NX is not only highly performant, being designed from the ground up to accelerate neural networks, but it also offers a unique feature set, with integer precision modes ranging from 16-bit down as low as 4-bit, with remarkably little tail off in accuracy.
Our Ensigma technology has made big strides in 2017, with a presence in Wi-Fi for computer devices sewn up and tablets and drones coming soon. Interest continued at CES on the strength of our compelling IP connectivity offering and proven delivery in a very complex and challenging market.
In 2018 then, we’re confident that we can ride above the noise and be part of the conversation in graphics, AI and connectivity.