CES "will and must go on" in person, as well as virtually, according to organizers of the annual technology showcase. Despite a winter COVID-19 surge that caused many major companies to pull out of the event, which kicks off Tuesday in Las Vegas, more than 50,000 people and 2,200 exhibitors are expected to attend.
After the virus canceled in-person activities last year, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) is making some concessions to reality. The group shortened the event and added health and safety protocols, including vaccination requirements, while access to trade show floors will be limited. Despite such measures, attendee numbers are expected to remain sharply lower than before the pandemic. In 2019, 182,000 people and more than 7,000 exhibitors attended the show.
Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Meta, TikTok and others (including CBS News) declined to attend the event in person, citing health and safety reasons, but still plan major announcements this week. U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is expected to deliver remarks virtually on Thursday.
"If we cancel the show, we will hurt thousands of smaller companies, entrepreneurs and innovators who have made investments in building their exhibits," said Gary Shapiro, CEO and president of the Consumer Technology Association. Writing in the Las Vegas Review Journal, he said that "technology will make a better world and solve some of the biggest problems" in health, energy, the environment and other areas, adding that "innovation can come from anywhere."
Consumers are embracing digital technology at an unprecedented rate, while more companies are leaning into digital collaboration and automating work, CTA Vice President of Research Steve Koenig told CBS News.
"The pandemic stomped the gas on digital transformation," he said, noting that 5G and AI will be omnipresent at this year's CES. "These are older technologies, but will be embedded in everything new. Expect gadgets and products to come with artificial intelligence, virtual assistants and other types of machine learning."
These are the trends that will likely impact your life in 2022:
The metaverse and virtual reality
Meta's Oculus Quest 2 VR device was a holiday hit and might foreshadow a glut of similarly . The is still years away, but the components of an immersive VR experience are coming soon. According to CTA, the augmented and virtual reality market is expected to exceed $571 billion by 2025. Apple, Google, Microsoft and other large tech firms are expected to announce VR glasses this year.
Taiwan-based smartphone manufacturer HTC will demonstrate the VIVE Flow, a standalone VR headset, at CES this year. Released last fall, the Flow is a portable VR headset focused on wellness and entertainment. The company's global head of hardware products, Shen Ye, told CBS News that immersion, a top priority for the company's products, requires concurrently developing both software and hardware.
"You might wear VR on an airplane to have an enormous screen away from other travelers, or while doing meditation in a calm personalized environment," Ye said. "Our starting point is to think about what we want the user experience to be like. Immersion isn't just about hardware or software — it's both working together."
Ye said that while today's VR headsets are large and clunky, new devices will be "smaller and sleeker" and focus on "experiences that make it feel like you're in the real world."
CTA said that over a third of Americans already use AR or VR at least once per month and that there will be over 100 million first-time VR users by year-end.
Healthtech and IoT
"The 'internet of things' is now the 'intelligence of things,'" CTA's Koenig said. Expect to see sensors embedded in everyday objects, like mattresses, that use artificial intelligence to extract useful insights from a person's behavioral data. AI adds a layer of information that can help provide a better picture of your mental and physical health, he said.
According to CTA data, the pandemic accelerated the adoption of health trackers. In 2021, nearly 20% of American households tried virtual health care services for the first time. Health-tracking gadgets are also on the rise. Nearly a quarter of Americans now use smart health monitoring devices, and 35% use smartwatches. Nearly 20% now use connected fitness equipment like the Peloton bike and Mirror home gym. Digital fitness devices are expected to earn $3.9 billion, an almost 40% increase from 2020.
Home health devices are also popular this year. A quarter of U.S. homes now have networked air purifiers. Purchases of oximeters and blood pressure monitors are up 23%. The overall health tech industry is expected to hit $13 billion, up 12% over last year.
Pete Buttigieg will address CES on Thursday. The Transportation Secretary is expected to deliver remarks on expanding infrastructure to support electric vehicles, proposals for modernizing digital infrastructure and proposed plans for partnerships with automakers.
BMW, Hyundai Motor Company, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, autonomous-driving company Waymo and other car manufacturers are expected to make electric vehicle and AI announcements at CES.
This year's show will also feature the first-ever speed race between autonomous vehicles. The Indy Autonomous Challenge will feature fully automated AVs programmed by 19 different universities in a head-to-head competition. In a statement, the Energy Systems Network, the group sponsoring the competition, said that the goal is to "advance technology that can speed the commercialization of fully autonomous vehicles and deployments of advanced driver-assistance systems."
Work, learn, play
The future of work might be a lot like the present. Interoperable technologies are converging to facilitate a better experience working and learning from home over the long-term, said Koenig. Zoom's integration with Amazon's FireTV last year is a great example. "Immersive is the keyword to watch for," he said. "We're going to see smart devices to manage time in meetings and more immersive tools for remote learning. Smarter AI in at-home devices."
Companies like LG, Lenovo, Intel Google and others are also developing products to compete with Meta's recently released office collaboration platform Horizon Workrooms and social network Horizon Worlds. Microsoft also creates metaverse workplace collaboration tools for its Hololens devices. The company is expected to release updates to the platform early this year.
"Work, education and entertainment are three obvious uses for VR," Koening said.
The pandemic continues to drive demand for high-quality screens. According to CTA, TVs are still more popular than smartphones. This year, Samsung will announce a number of 4K and 8K displays. LG is set to release two novel organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) screens, a massive curved-screen "Virtual Ride" bicycle and an immersive "Media Chair." LG also announced several new traditional displays that include updated versions of low-power high-performance OLED TVs. It's possible Sony announces an update to its 16K display this week, but don't expect a mass-market product anytime soon.
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