Top trends at CES

Marketeers, engineers, and reporters tend to maintain a love-hate relationship with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The show has gotten too big, its venues are too spread out, and its show floors are a wall-to-wall mob scene. The annual event annually grinds Las Vegas traffic to a grudging crawl, creating a seamless, end-to-end citywide gridlock.

It’s pure insanity.

Nevertheless, CES is important for all of the technology and innovations that are shown, promised, and demonstrated. They provide a perennial bellwether for the global electronics industry in the coming year. Equally important are products, technologies, and business roadmaps left unsaid, fudged, or withheld from public consumption at the show.

If you caught a glimpse of LG’s OLED display — a vast bank of curved screens at the entrance of the company’s booth — you know for sure that OLED is no fad; it’s here for good (or ill?).

LG’s vast bank of curved OLED screens (Photo: David Benjamin)

On the other hand, when you find more than 10 automakers showing off driverless shuttle buses that all look like “toasters on wheels,” you get the drift that “mobile-as-a-service” business is a burgeoning trend. But you can’t help wondering whatever happened to the highly automated cars that were supposed to be overflowing dealers’ lots by 2020. Or the individual robo-taxi that was going to pick you up on your doorstep and zip you driverlessly to the office.

Last year, AI was front and center. This year, AI was background music. Drones were the big draw until a few years ago when we all got bored with them.

As with any trade show, CES trots out the good, the bad, and the ugly. In the following pages, we’ve selected technologies that we think are likely to define trends in the electronics industry in 2019. Additionally, we’re including a few gadgets that surprised us. We think some of them will make you say, “Are you kidding me?”

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