So much happened at the annual Consumer Electronics Show 2018 at Las Vegas last week that it’s almost impossible to put it all together in one place. But here are the high spots-
Whirlpool announced that Apple (AAPL - Free Report) Watch users will be able to control their Whirlpool home appliances like washing machines, ovens and around twenty other gadgets through their Watches.
Whirlpool smart appliances will also connect with Honeywell thermostats according to a freshly-announced deal between the two.
Moreover, its 2018 range of appliances will respond to voice commands through both Amazon's (AMZN - Free Report) Alexa and Google's Home assistant.
Oculus, the VR company that Facebook (FB - Free Report) acquired in 2014, announced a hardware partnership with China’s Xiaomi. Using a Chinese brand in China should be beneficial for Oculus because the Chinese government doesn’t make it very easy for foreign companies to operate. Making China the manufacturing destination for the device will also help its global launch because China currently leads in both manufacturing cost and skill.
From the looks and appearance of the Xiaomi Mi VR Standalone, it is a rebranding of the $199 Oculus Go announced earlier. Both devices will be manufactured by Xiaomi to run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 SoC, a WQHD LCD screen and Xiaomi’s software and services platform. All Gear VR software and applications will run on the headsets.
HTC announced an upgrade to its $600 Vive VR headset, but didn’t mention what it would cost or whether it would be a standalone device or require pairing with a more powerful computer.
Intel (INTC - Free Report) announced partnerships with a large number of automakers including BMW, Nissan, SAIC Motor, Volkswagen and Ferrari to help them bring their self-driving vehicles (Level 3 to Level 5) to market. Automated driving is a compute-intensive and therefore, necessarily a power guzzling exercise.
So Intel has launched a new automated driving platform consisting of two Mobilieye EyeQ5 sensor processing chips paired with a new Intel Atom 3xx4 CPU that together provide 60% more performance at the same 30W power consumption as Nvidia’s new Xavier chip. BMW, Volkswagen and Nissan will also be deploying the EyeQ4 when it launches in the second half of 2018.
Sample parts of EyeQ5 are expected to start shipping in 2019 with production parts by the end of 2020. Intel estimates that 2 million vehicles from these three automakers will use Mobileye Road Experience Management (REM) technology and knowhow from digital mapping company NavInfo to crowdsource data to build and rapidly update low-cost, scalable high-definition maps this year. Additionally, SAIC will develop L3 to L5 cars in China based on Mobileye technology.
Intel also launched Intel Studios, a state-of-the-art studio for the production of large-scale, volumetric content (Intel True View technology will enable different kinds of immersive media experiences, both with and without VR). Paramount Pictures is its first partner in this endeavor. Intel will showcase its True VR technology capabilities by enabling the VR version of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. Intel and the official Rights Holding Broadcasters will together capture a record 30 Olympic events for live viewing and as video-on-demand.
Intel and AMD have partnered to bring 8th Generation Core Processor with Radeon Vega M Graphics for notebooks and small PCs with the goal of offering high power computing and graphics in a smaller form factor. For the purpose, Intel will be buying custom AMD Vega chips and placing them along with the Intel processor on a single silicon wafer so companies like Dell and HP (which showcased the technology at CES) can create thinner and lighter designs. Intel does make its own integrated graphics, but has missed out on gaming and content creation opportunities. So this is a way for rivals Advanced Micro Devices (AMD - Free Report) and Intel to take a stab at common enemy NVIDIA. PCs using the tech will ship this spring.
Cisco’s (CSCO - Free Report) software-defined network (SDN) architecture for a more connected vehicle will first be deployed by Korean automaker Hyundai in its premium models to be launched next year. First announced in 2016, the highly configurable software-defined vehicle (SDV) platform will enable end-to-end networking, sensor integration, and hardware and software integration as well as multi-layered security. This will facilitate the processing of more data inside the car, enable "over-the-air" software upgrades, and help communicate with smart parking meters, toll gates and traffic lights.
It also launched its Infinite Video Platform, a video streaming platform that optimizes video (in terms of both resolution and speed) for any user device and even when changing between devices. Service providers can use the technology for high quality, secure video delivery to any consumer device from a single source. Cisco’s 20+ beta testers experienced "benefits including the ability to implement private or public cloud deployments that offer capex and opex savings as well as increased agility and time to market."
The new Infinite Broadband Unlocked (IBU) licensing plan simplifies license acquisition and management for its cable operator customers using the Cisco Converged Broadband Router (cBR-8) platform. It is designed to help cable operators compete with fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) systems.
Alphabet’s showing at the CES focused on the Google Assistant, which it is bringing to many more devices. In a separate blog post Google recently announced that it was uniting its Android Pay (for mobile payments and loyalty) and Wallet (for peer-to-peer payments) apps under a common umbrella called Google Pay that would make payments through Google less confusing once you’ve saved your payments information.
Bloomberg speculated that Assistant is being built up to not just to help you with the different pieces of your daily schedule, but also to make purchases. So it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine that Google Pay is also being designed to make things easier for Assistant.
The Assistant for Android Auto is designed to facilitate access to all the third-party Google Assistant services and control of smart home devices from the car. Assistant-based drink orders from Starbucks and parking space reservations through SpotHero are also in the cards.
Assistant for Android Auto will be enabled through the updated Android Auto app and even if you don’t have an Android Auto-powered car. Google is also working with car manufacturers to integrate Assistant within their cars so it becomes easy to check fuel levels or lock the car with your voice, among other things.
Google Assistant is also being integrated into a range of smart speakers through agreements with JBL, Altec Lansing, Bang & Olufsen and Klipsch.
Another new category for the Assistant is Smart Displays, which are priced at $199 for an 8-inch model or $229 for a 10-inch model. The Smart Displays basically allow you to choose between voice or touch commands and do much the same things as Amazon’s Echo Show, such as consulting your schedule, checking the weather or playing music. But it also "googlifies" the experience with things like Google Photos and directions to work, both of which sync with Google’s Voice Match, so the results are customized for different people in the household.
To make a video call, just download the Google Duo app. Search on the device is highly customized with results appearing as interactive graphics. You can also cast content (only from Google Play Movies and TV for now) to the screens the way you do with Chromecast. Current hardware partners for the Smart Displays are JBL, Lenovo, LG and Sony.
The iHome iGV1 is a new $139.99 smart radio with Google Assistant integration and competes with Amazon’s $129.99 Spot. Google Assistant enables voice assistance, the ability to play music from streaming services like Google Play, Pandora, Spotify and YouTube Music, smart home control including compatibility with iHome's own SmartPlug devices and Google Cast support.
The display only shows the current time and alarm and can be turned off at night. You can turn off the alarm by telling Assistant or smacking the alarm button the usual way. The iGV1 also syncs with Network Time Protocol (NTP) for clock accuracy when connected to your home's Wi-Fi.
Google has also partnered with Lenovo to launch the Mirage Solo, an untethered VR headset that will go up against Facebook’s Oculus Go although it’s far more expensive at around $400. The headset is based on Google’s Daydream platform and enables better picture quality than other options, wearing comfort and mobility (allows for six degrees of movement).
Product features include a 5.5-inch LCD display with a resolution of 2,560 pixels x 1,440 pixels and powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 VR platform. It also integrates Google’s WorldSense inside-out tracking software, which translates your real-world movements into digital, eliminating the need for additional sensors and cameras such as in the Rift, Vive and Sony’s Playstation VR headsets.
Lenovo will bring a suite of apps that showcase the Solo’s standalone capabilities later this year, which can help adoption. The product will ship in the second quarter of 2018.
The second product from the Lenovo collaboration is the companion 180-degree 3D camera called Mirage Camera for content creators. 3D video has so far been captured through 360-degree cameras but there are some difficulties in using those, such as the need to hide from the 360-degree footage.
Since most VR cameras offer a 110-degree line of vision and most people don’t look behind them when consuming content, the 180-degree camera might be satisfactorily immersive for most. There’s also a bonus in the file size, which can be smaller, with content streaming requiring less bandwidth.
NVIDIA (NVDA - Free Report) announced several self-driving partnerships, the most significant of which is likely the one with ride-hailing company, Uber. The deal expands on existing relationships which the two companies already have with Volvo that has had Uber using NVIDIA technology in the Volvo cars it deploys since late 2016. NVIDIA claims that its technology has already driven 2 million miles, with the last million happening in the just a 100 days as the rate of deployment accelerated. Under the just-announced deal, NVIDIA technology will be in Uber cars and also in Uber-owned Otto self-driving trucks.
Its partnership with Volkswagen, which is using its Drive IX and Drive AR systems to develop software for ancillary services such as augmented-reality features, and gesture and facial recognition. But the companies showcased what they have been working on since Jul 2017: a revamped bus using NVIDIA technology.
NVIDIA also announced partnerships with Baidu and ZF.
There were also details on its functional safety architecture powering its AI-based NVIDIA DRIVE autonomous vehicle platform, which uses redundant and diverse functions to enable vehicles to operate safely, even when the operator, environment or systems err. NVIDIA said it now has 320 partners signed up for NVIDIA DRIVE, up from fewer than 200 at CES 2017.
Amazon had a lot on offer this CES although the excitement was pretty much around its growing rivalry with Google, particularly in the way Alexa is getting front and center of the voice-controlled world.
So now, Alexa is getting into HP, Acer and Asus computers running Windows 10. It’s hard to understand what’s driving Microsoft to do this since it already offers Cortana. But the leading software maker is probably looking at more choice for customers. At any rate, the PCs will ship later this year.
With a focus on portable devices like hearables, headphones, smart watches, fitness devices, etc, Amazon announced the Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit toolkit. The kit will be available later this year.
This is in addition to recently-announced partnerships with Bose, Jabra, iHome, Beyerdynamic, Bowers & Wilkins and others which will put Alexa into different Bluetooth audio devices.
As rumored in the press a few days earlier, Alexa is also going to be inside $1,000 Vuzix Blade AR Smart Glasses that will also double as regular glasses. With Alexa, these glasses, in combination with a smartphone in your pocket or purse, will project directions, menus, weather reports, stock quotes, sports scores, social feeds and other hands-free alerts as an image in front of your eyes.
It also won’t leave your bathroom alone. By virtue of a deal with Kohler, Amazon’s Alexa will make it inside what Kohler calls its Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror to control the lights with your voice, or catch up on the news, weather or traffic. That is, if you’re willing to shell out the $999 the smart mirror will cost when it hits the shelves in late March.
And that isn’t all. Alexa is also getting inside Toyota and Lexus automobiles this year with additional models coming in 2019. In Toyota cars that currently have the Apple Siri-powered Entune infotainment system, Alexa will be pitched as an upgrade. Ditto for the Lexus cars that come with the Enform infotainment software.
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