CES 2018 Wrap Up

CES 2018 Wrap Up


Blackfire Research is back from Las Vegas, where we spent the entire second week of January at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This year was packed with productive meetings in our official CES Suite at The Venetian Hotel and Casino. However, we did manage to get down to the Sands Expo and Las Vegas Convention Center to check out all the cool, new tech for 2018 – here’s what we saw at CES this year and our takeaways from the show:


Hey Google

If last year’s CES was dubbed “The Amazon Home Takeover,” this year could be summarized by one simple greeting: “Hey Google.” The search engine giant was everywhere this year: literally. They had a massive 3-story booth right outside the convention center, and at every booth that featured products touting Google Home smart speaker/Google Assistant functionality, a Google representative was there, donning a white jumpsuit fresh out of George Orwell’s dystopian vision of 1984. But Google’s overwhelming presence at the show paid off: this year, all eyes were on them. From Whirlpool appliances to smart speakers with video displays, you couldn’t escape the latest “Google Home Takeover.” Amazon was present at CES of course (Whirlpool also featured appliances with Amazon’s Dash Buttons built-in, which is pretty neat and useful) but if a winner had to be chosen for CES 2018, Google would be voted “Best in Show.” Speaking of which…


All (Robot) Dogs Go to Heaven

Sony has brought back their popular Aibo robot dog and everyone at the show couldn’t have been happier. This very good boy is new and improved for the AI age with a camera on his nose so he can recognize members of his family (awww) and find his bone (awww). He also features a camera on his back to help him navigate the house to find his charging station. With touch sensors on his head, back, and chin, he can respond to touch like any ‘ol dog would: by wagging his tail, moving his head, and stomping his widdle feeties. With his adorable LED-lit eyes, this is by far the best, and most realistic, pet robot on the market. Unfortunately, Sony hasn’t announced plans to sell Aibo in the US anytime soon. Doggonit!


A Picture’s Worth A Thousand Words…

This year, we’ve officially stepped into the world of 8K. But since 4K is barely a thing yet (because there’s hardly any 4K content available still) Samsung has gone around the issue of total lack of 8K content by unveiling it’s Q9S 8K TV with AI Upscaling, meaning, that this TV can convert any content into 8K resolution. And from firsthand experience, we can tell you that 8K resolution is pretty darn good. The picture was so incredibly clear that jaws dropped during the demo. Another Samsung showstopper this year was their enormous, bezel-less The Wall: a 146-inch modular MicroLED TV.


Honorable Mentions & Takeaways

5G cellular technology, the latest and greatest approved standard, wasn’t on display much at CES this year, mainly because the hardware needed for it isn’t quite ready yet. There were a few booths demonstrating it’s super-fast capabilities, but overall, it was all quiet on the 5G front at CES. But don’t expect that to last long: with 5G technology coming to the main service providers fast, it’s sure to be all the rage at next year’s event.


Once again, this year’s CES felt more like a car show than anything, with a plethora of smart, autonomous vehicles on display (some of which seemed to be taken straight from an episode of Black Mirror). Also, Wireless charging was big this year, especially since Apple announced their commitment to the Qi Wireless Charging standard last September.

Overall, between the rain and loss of power, this year’s CES was a bit chaotic. But we still managed to see some pretty neat tech that was useful, inspiring and – we hope – becomes available soon (we’re looking at you, Aibo!)

The Future is Wireless

The Future is Wireless


It’s hard to imagine a world without wires, but that’s precisely where we may find ourselves in the next few years, with 2018 serving as an especially pivotal moment in wireless adoption and breakthroughs. For years, manufacturers have promised an end to “wirey, tangled-mess woes,” but it’s looking as if they are now making good on their promise. With the prevalence of Wi-Fi in homes, cafes, airports, and basically anywhere else you may find yourself needing internet, the need for physical network cables, like ethernet cables, have pretty much become obsolete. And speaking of cafes and airports: many of them now offer free wireless charging stations.


Since Apple unveiled their commitment to the Qi wireless charging standard in their latest iPhones this past fall, the wireless charging industry, which had been plagued by a lack of standardization, seems to be siding with Qi from here on out. Soon after the big Apple announcement, Powermat, who provide wireless charging mats at Starbucks, said that they will add Qi compatibility to their product. But Apple isn’t the only company who has sided with Qi: Samsung (Galaxy S8, Note 8), IKEA, and a plethora of automobile manufacturers have began to support Qi wireless charging. Who else will begin to support this standard in 2018? We expect a lot more manufacturers to follow suite. However, this sort of charging isn’t technically wireless (the charging mat still needs to be plugged into an outlet). But there are a few companies who are creating charging options that are truly wireless, such as Energous, Ossia, and Wi-Charge. (To learn more about these companies, check out this blog post).


To the irritation of many users, smartphones are doing away with the 3.5mm audio jack, paving the way for the exclusive use of Bluetooth wireless headphones (unless you use a dongle to plug your wired headphones into your phone’s Lightning port or USB-C port). But companies like Apple and Google would rather you spend $150+ on a pair of their wireless AirPods or Pixel Buds. And unfortunately for all us audio-enthusiasts out there: the audio quality produced by Bluetooth headphones is worse than a wired headset because audio is re-compressed over Bluetooth. So, the extinction of the audio jack on the smartphone may solve the problem of having to untangle your headphones before each use, but it significantly cheapens the user’s listening experience.  


But there are many things to look forward to in the years ahead: there’s the expansion of wireless charging for laptops and 5G wireless services, just to name a few. And we’re sure to see many more innovations down the road, because wireless technology is essential to the smart home of the future. But one thing we know for sure: with Blackfire technology embedded into a smartspeaker, smart TV, set top box, smartphone and more, the whole home can be wirelessly connected. Combining individual entertainment systems to work together, creating a truly connected smart home is non trivial – it requires precise synchronization, low latency for lip sync, and a general reliability over standard Wi-Fi (the best and most commonly used communication protocol for the home.) Something like this has not been done before – until now.

Blackfire provides the industry’s only wireless and entertainment-centric infrastructure software framework built from the ground up to both overcome the limitations of Wi-Fi when used for media applications, and meet the needs of wireless entertainment-related consumer applications and products. It’s not enough to merely have Wi-Fi connectivity between consumer products. Real-time exchanges of entertainment content require a common framework that can work reliably over Wi-Fi, and has a rich set of features for a broad spectrum of entertainment products. Blackfire technology also supports low latency and multi-channel, which other wireless solutions do not.


It may be hard to imagine a world without wires, but with Blackfire in your entertainment devices, cutting the cord has never felt more seamless.