Just after the Christmas shopping season each year, the CES trade show in Las Vegas indicates where the journey will lead in the next few months and beyond. Entirely new topics or technologies seldom emerge. The fair shows, however, what companies are currently working on and where they see their future.
Some are skeptical, but digital assistants like Alexa are spreading to an increasing number of places. In one of our stories, we already illuminated what voice assistants mean for marketing. As it turned out, the much discussed smart speakers like Amazon Echo are overshadowed by another use case. Users have already tried Alexa in cars in particular. This is not surprising either in itself. After all, the hands should remain on the steering wheel and the eyes on the road. Amazon has now presented the compact “Echo Auto”, thus officially bringing the familiar assistant into vehicles. In addition to this, the company is partnering with with the map and location data provider Here, in which BMW, Audi and Daimler, among others, are involved. The aim is to create a virtual copilot.
At the same time, Google launched a massive advertising offensive for its assistant at CES. We will be looking at its new features in a separate article. In other words, digital voice assistants are becoming more widespread and increasingly part of our everyday lives.
Speaking of cars: autonomous vehicles are of course still a big topic, even though progress has been slower than some optimists had hoped. There’s still news in this arena, however. Nvidia, for example, showed its “Drive AutoPilot” system which can serve as a basis for “Level 2+” autonomy. Level 2 means that the person behind the wheel can leave many tasks to the car, but must remain focused on driving. Only starting at level 3, can drivers dedicate themselves to other things such as watching a movie, searching for a product in an online shop or reading their e-mails. And only starting at level 5 will the vehicles no longer have a steering wheel.
Even if entirely autonomous cars still seem far away, companies are already speculating about what they will make possible. Kia, for example, presented a system, which is to respond to the passenger’s emotional state during the journey. Mercedes showed the autonomous minibus “Vision Urbanetic that can transport 12 people. The idea is that autonomous swarms of these vehicles could revolutionize public transport. In other model variants, they are also to be used to transport goods. Bosch presented another example of this way of thinking about self-driving vehicles. The company presented its idea of an autonomous four-seat shuttle.
If these and other visions soon became reality, one thing would be clear: Many people would suddenly have much more free time each day, which they still use today to drive their vehicles. Accordingly, generous displays inside are almost always part of the visionary designs. Furthermore, to get straight to the next topic, virtual and augmented reality are integrated.
Virtual and augmented reality
For example, Audi presented its spin-off project, Holoride. A startup of the same name is intended to raise entertainment offers in vehicles to an entirely new virtual level. Passengers will wear a VR headset and the simulated environment corresponds to what is happening in the real world, which is intended to prevent dizziness or even nausea. The startup aims to develop an open platform and make it available to all interested manufacturers. What Uber’s competitor Lyft has stated in several patents sounds quite similar.
Basically, many experts are curious to see how virtual reality will develop in 2019. So far some essential building blocks are still missing to help VR break into the mass market. New devices like the “Oculus Quest” headset could help in this regard. During CES, tech journalists were enthusiastic about the fact that Quest was “exactly what VR needs” and makes people into true “VR believers”. We will see what the end customers say about it. As a general rule, prices are going down, performance is going up and the range of content on offer is growing. At CES, there were also many small but important advances on display: better displays, improved functionality and new, experimental designs. The vision here is that virtual and augmented reality will be the successors to almost all the screens that are part of our everyday lives today, including smartphones, tablets, laptops and televisions.
The bottom line
The power of many small advances is often underestimated. One just has to think of Siri or Alexa. At first, digital assistants seemed like a niche application. They can now be found in many places. And it seems logical that they will be a matter of course in just a few more years. VR and AR are another example. Today’s headsets don’t do enough or are too expensive for the mass market. Looking a few years into the future, however, they will find their way step by step into everyday life. And the sooner we come to terms with these issues, the more time we will have to respond to the associated changes.