As we do every year, earlier at the start of January Imagination attended the CES 2018 show in Las Vegas. Here we take a look back at some of the overall trends that we saw coming out of the show.
With the rise of car-tech and autonomous driving, many believe that CES is now an automotive show before anything else. It makes sense then to start with the thoughts of Bryce Johnstone, the Director of Ecosystems, Segment Marketing, Automotive, at Imagination.
According to Bryce there were four key trends at CES this year:
- The Chinese are coming
- Advanced dashboard interaction
- Screen, screens, screens
- Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous driving and software!
First, a new automotive entrant from China, Byton, showcased an impressive concept electric vehicle, which it says should be available in late 2019. The key element is the 49-inch (1.25m) display that extends across the entire width of the dashboard. It’s not a touchscreen but instead, a gesture control camera unit sits centrally on the edge of the dash, enabling the driver (or front seat passenger) to manipulate the massive screen, hands-free. Its 4K resolution means it’s crystal clear, and its sheer size means it can display a wealth of information and entertainment all at once.
Aside from the huge display, the cabin of the Byton is relatively sparse, with an uncluttered dash in front of the screen and no physical buttons in sight.
As well as in-car displays tech, the automotive industry is also taking strides with extending the range of electric vehicles and the presence of the likes of Fisker, Volvo, BMW and Byton demonstrates that Tesla is not the only game in town. China is also increasingly becoming a leader in electric vehicle technology backed by the Chinese government initiatives for pollution control.
Also at the show, Baidu was one of three Chinese companies that are supporting an Autonomous Vehicle software platform; in Baidu’s case, Apollo. The company was showcasing a number of hardware SQ platforms covering Level 3, Level 4 and Level 5 driving. It’s looking to create and grow a large developer and third-party community on top of Apollo, which will, over time, be hardware independent.
Another feature of the show was the discussions around how the proliferation of code that will be running on the cars of the future should be handled. The consensus was that cars are becoming software platforms rather than the metal boxes of that we have now. Today, there are already more lines of code in a car infotainment system than an Airbus A380 or an F35 fighter, and with the huge amount of computing required for ADAS functions and fully autonomous driving, it’s only going to increase.
Mercedes meanwhile showcased MBUX – its new user interface, smart multimedia and smart assistant platform.
Mercedes showcased MBUX – its new user interface, smart multimedia and smart assistant platform
MBUX is a GPU-based learning system with a wide variety of Human Machine Interface interaction methods, including voice, which is becoming increasingly prevalent in dashboard systems. To this end, Amazon and Toyota announced that the seemingly ubiquitous Alexa will be deployed in some future models.
In the car park at the show were a range of autonomous vehicle demonstrators, being shown off operating in a simplified urban environment. Aptiv, (a spin-out from Delphi that incorporates its autonomous driving and infotainment divisions) was running a Robo-Taxi fleet on the streets of Las Vegas during CES week and Lyft, Renesas and Byton were also driving passengers around a pre-prepared track.
There was also several companies showing-off technology designed to drive down the costs of some in-car sensors, such as ChronoCam (camera) and Quanergy (LIDAR). The aim is to get the vehicle price-point down to where autonomous cars are more deployable.
So when is this market going to hit?
The Robo-Taxi is absolutely on course for intro in the 2020/21 timeframe. There are many invested parties and joint ventures targeting the introduction of these self-driving vehicles, with the likes of Volvo, Ford, Lyft, DiDi, Daimler, GM and Uber aggressively driving this market forward.
As for the mass market; that time when you’ll be able to walk into the showroom and ‘drive’ out with an autonomous car, the jury is still out. Those with large investments to recoup are bullish, while more conservative elements are seeing the beginning of the S-curve pushed out a few years. All in all, it looks like there will be interesting times ahead in the automotive space and a very dynamic few years are in store for both the industry and potential car/taxi users.
Francisco Socal, Product Manager, Vision and AI
Unsurprisingly, AI was everywhere at the show and after many years of an ‘AI’ winter’ it’s great to see that the industry is now comfortable using the term ‘AI’ to market products to end consumers – as due to real-world benefits from voice assistants and face ID in smartphones, it’s no longer the forbidden word it once was.
Of course, it could be viewed as being overused: the more tech savvy will recognise these devices as not being ‘real’ AI. Many products were not actually implementing any AI functionality but rather just interfacing with an AI service, such as ‘AI-enabled’ TV sets, smart-mirrors, air purifiers, and even smart toilets! My expectation is that most of these concepts and products won’t succeed. The more exciting companies were employing AI for smart cameras, speech processing, vision middleware and SLAM/depth camera modules and it was great to see these.
It was interesting to see an ‘artificial intelligence marketplace’: namely dedicated show-floor space for AI products, as opposed to seeing products that just happened to feature AI.
This ‘artificial intelligence marketplace’ area was dominated by Chinese exhibitors and Chinese visitors. It was interesting to see the booths of the smaller players right next to the likes of Baidu and Alibaba. The smaller companies are still figuring out how to brand themselves to Western customers and one could see them following in the footsteps of these giants in the not too distant future.
There were certainly some interesting uses for AI in general, such as the vision-enabled baby monitors, and smart doorbells, and devices with face and motion detection. It was positive to see neural networks embedded directly into these types of edge devices, making them a good fit for locally-based neural network acceleration using hardware such as our PowerVR 2NX NNA.
There also were a few start-ups that caught my eye showcasing new apps and interesting use-cases for AR, AI and computer vision in retail, such as Amaryllo, who received a CES innovation award for its AR4 AI-enabled camera, and Aipoly, whom we’ve blogged about before regarding its vision-enabled mobile app, and has now moved onto doing camera-based retail analytics. While still embryonic, these types of apps show the momentum behind AI-powered applications.
It was unusual to see a TV show advertised at a hardware show, but also catching my eye was the Netflix promotion for Altered Carbon, its new series exploring AI and augmented reality. It was an interesting move, and though not without controversy – it’s clear that AI is looming large in the mainstream and based on the apps I saw the reality is not far away.
Netflix was promoting its new series exploring AI and augmented reality, Altered Carbon
Simon Forrest, Director of Segment Marketing for graphics, display and communications IP.
Overall, I received the impression that current technologies are “coming of age”. Advancement is taking a back seat, whilst companies work out how to utilise technologies that have already been created. It seems to be a year of consolidation if you will.
Pleasingly, the ‘IoT’ buzzword has become more focused and largely been replaced with succinct vertical markets. For example, IoT in consumer electronics is now “Smart Home”; IoT in automotive is “Vehicle Connectivity” and IoT in medical is “Assisted Living”.
Speaking of Smart Home, after years of promise it appears to be developing steadily. That said, while the TV now defined as the central control point for the smart home, it’s still little more than a dashboard of on/off switches and dials with an IFTTT backend. True “smart” homes will need to be more than this.
Wandering the appliances section and you’ll discover that every dishwasher, fridge, washing machine), are now are connected via Wi-Fi. However, from my perspective, serious useful functions for this have yet to be defined. LG did have a demonstration – showing how the fridge could identify what was inside, recommend a menu, then set the oven temperature accordingly. Then they illustrated how the oven communicated to the dishwasher what had been consumed, so the dishwasher could set an appropriate programme for the cleaning. Were they stretching a little? Time will tell.And unfortunately for the Korean electronics giant, it’s ‘Cloi’ robot assistant kept failing!
On the TV front, Samsung was pushing its micro-LED as a new display technology, and it was impressive, with regards to colour, contrast and ‘modularity. However, many still see it as an attempt to distract from LG’s incremental improvements to the dominant OLED technology. Ultimately, all TV vendors want to use Emissive Quantum Dot screen technology to deliver the best colour depth and brightness for HDR.
Samsung revealed a 146in TV based on its MicroLED technology at CES 2018
And just as 4K takes hold we were treated, inevitably, to the TV industry pushing the Next Big Thing: 8K. And I mean literally, as the screens will need to be very large to justify it. I’d say, there’s nothing after 8K; the race to increased resolution is done.
Perhaps the most exciting technology at CES though was wireless charging. A brand called Cota from Ossia is using beam-forming technology to broadcast power to devices wirelessly and had an excellent technology demonstration. The most innovative element is the claim that they can pack the tech into common household battery cases. Simply replace conventional batteries with their replacement battery-sized charging unit, and any device could be wirelessly charged in future.