If there’s one constant in this world, it’s that everybody wants a bigger television. All human endeavour, the cumulative effort of generations, is geared towards inventing ever larger screens capable of displaying more pixels at higher resolutions and in new, never before seen colours, so that Fiona Bruce looks as good as can be.
This year’s CES is dominated by extremely massive and microscopically thin televisions. The biggest is a prototype belonging to Samsung simply called The Wall. Intended for commercial spaces, it’s a 146-inch display that foregoes traditional OLED technology in favour of new panel tech called MicroLED. Being modular, you can snap a few of them together to replace an entire wall of your living room with raw, unfettered television. Samsung also announced its first commercial 8K television, though at just 84-inches the Q9S QLED TV is positively dinky by comparison.
Taking a different approach, LG revealed a 65-inch OLED TV that rolls up like a giant newspaper, storing itself inside a narrow sideboard and freeing up your wall for playing squash, or whatever else you might be tempted to do with a intermittently empty piece of wall. Like 90 per cent of new tech announced this year, the unfurlable display is compatible with Google and Alexa voice assistants.
Speaking of empty walls, stick Sony’s new short-throw projector underneath one (it’s discreetly shaped like a coffee table) and you can enjoy a 120-inch 4K display, projected from a lens that sits just 9.6-inches out from the wall. So no more shadow puppets during dramatic scenes. The snappily named LSPX-A1 will cost just $30,000.
With Mobile World Congress taking place at the end of February, it’s rare to see many new, big ticket phones announced at CES. That said, some mid-range tiddlers have sneaked out, like Sony’s Xperia XA2 and Samsung’s Galaxy A8. The absence of any word of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S9 all but confirms we’ll see it revealed at MWC.
Chinese manufacturer Vivo showed off the first in-screen fingerprint scanner however, a development likely to find its way to premium smartphones this year or next. And Razer’s delightfully named Project Linda is a concept that plans to turn your Razer phone into a fully featured laptop, by letting you dock the handset into a slot where the touchpad would normally be. That it sounds like it’s been named after your mum’s friend next door is simply a nice bonus.
Razer’s known for high-end gaming hardware, including changing coloured desk lights that dynamically react to in-game scenes displayed on-screen. At CES the company showcased a new integration with Philips Hue, the smart light bulb folks, to extend this ambient lighting setup to encompass entire rooms. So now, if you get your arm blown off by a grenade in Call of Duty, your IKEA standing lamps might start flashing a helpful shade of red. Truly, the onward march of progress is unstoppable.
Graphics chip manufacturer Nvidia revealed a new line of supersized gaming monitors, which it’s calling Big Format Gaming Displays. Unlike televisions, these specialised displays are fine-tuned to play nice with gaming PCs, with processor-synced 120hz refresh rates ensuring no lag or screen tearing artifacts. Nvidia’s partnering with manufacturers to bring the BFGDs to market, at least one of which will be a stonking 65-inch behemoth.
There are now no fewer than two laundry folding robots on the horizon. Laundroid and Foldimate are both about the size of a big fridge. The former appears to be the more competent of the two, and uses advanced machine learning algorithms to detect which way up a blouse goes. Its robotic arms can pluck your mucky grundies from a hamper and then carefully fold your particulars, taking just 5-10 minutes per item of clothing.
Foldimate is cheaper and requires some initial assistance, as you must peg your clothes up individually inside the laundry folding compartment by hand, like a caveman.
This year’s version of Samsung’s smart fridge, still called the Family Hub, adds new features. As well as being able to view a live camera feed of your sliced ham from almost anywhere on the planet, the world’s most pointlessly advanced fridge now boasts premium speakers alongside its touchscreen display, meaning you can watch entire movies while standing next to your freezer.
Renowned for its exceptionally decent headphones, Sennheiser is for the first time turning its attention to home speakers with a prototype, tricked-out 13-driver soundbar. The audio experts at the Sennheiser labs reckon they can even simulate a few additional phantom speakers behind the listener by bouncing soundwaves around the room in just the right way.
And to ensure nobody forgets what Sennheiser is really good at, the company’s also launched an audiophile-pleasing pair of quality, closed-back headphones. The HD 820 are a pricey set of a flagship cans, costing not a penny less than €2,400.
And the weird stuff...
Of course, it wouldn’t be CES without a relentless cavalcade of strange and obscure new technology destined for tomorrow’s landfill.
There’s the clinically dubious Modius headset, which boldly claims to trigger weight loss by blasting your brain with electrical signals. Sony has resurrected Aibo, the loveable electric dog who’s been living in a cardboard box in your attic for 20 years, and will be again soon.
The usually sensible Philips has designed a kind of electronic nappy you wrap around your head to help you sleep better. And Nissan is trialling a new magic driving hat that they say will improve your reaction times in a an emergency. Tomorrow’s world is here again, and it looks as silly as ever.