What to anticipate at CES 2021: Fringe and Futuristic Tech
I don’t care who you are or what you’re interested in – the most exciting part of CES is hands down the crazy, cutting edge, emerging technology that is on display. I’m talking about the far-flung futuristic things that we can see during the show that may not manifest in a consumer product for years – if at all. Think autonomous drone taxis, robotic exoskeletons, and brainwave reading prostheses. This is the stuff that makes CES great. So what can we expect from CES 2021 when it comes to emerging technologies? Here’s a quick preview.
VR beyond image and sound
After a big step forward a few years ago, the VR room has cooled down a bit in recent years. But despite this relative slowdown in hype, VR innovation is alive and well at CES – and I don’t expect 2021 to be any different.
I expect to see the most here, not VR headsets, but unique peripherals that make VR even more immersive by engaging your senses with more than just images and sounds. Haptic feedback technology in particular has slowly evolved over the past few years, helping to include your sense of touch in the equation. This year, I’m expecting refined versions of the exotic ideas that have popped up over the years, like the wearable haptic feedback from SenseGlove or the KorFX vest.
University of Chicago
Decentralize the dream of the all-rounder
As long as the field of robotics exists, there has been this kind of unofficial race: the race to build a humanoid machine with holy grail that can fulfill our commandments and do virtually any task we throw at it – be it a cup of coffee take out the trash or play a game of chess. This race is still alive and well, and robotics are still chasing that dream, but there has been some departure from this all-in-one paradigm lately. Rather than having just one robot for everything, we now have the idea of having lots of robots that are good at one thing – like a Roomba vacuuming your floors or a Robomow cutting your grass.
Expect this trend to continue at CES 2021, but with a twist. The upcoming generation of household robots are not only branching out to cover an even wider range of specialized tasks (get ready to clean robot pools, scrub countertops, and bots chopping your groceries), but also with Alexa, Siri, and Google Home compatibility. In other words, you can finally string all of your robots together to create the all-rounder bot you’ve always dreamed of. It will just be more decentralized than originally thought.
Autonomy-enabled vehicle attachments and AI
In recent years, the CES has developed into a congress for the presentation of autonomous vehicle technology. All of the major brands of cars (as well as many small ones) show up these days to show off their self-driving shuttles. In general, the big brands only give a glimpse of what is possible today, not necessarily what is coming tomorrow. To do this, you have to turn to the autonomous car manufacturers, many of which are also present at CES. These are the companies that make the sensors, software, and advanced AI that help autonomous cars interpret the world around them.
This year you can expect a lot of evolution in this area, with few revolutionary ideas that challenge the status quo. Pay particular attention to new environmental sensor technologies that go beyond the standard configurations for lidar / computer vision.
A lack of startups with wild ideas
One of my favorite parts of CES – the chaotic fragmentation of startups known as Eureka Park – isn’t happening this year, and sadly that means the number of weird, wild, and downright insane ideas is likely to decrease slightly at CES 2021.
It really is a shame. Last January we stumbled upon some of the best things CES has to offer at Eureka Park – including a laser-powered mosquito blaster, a hydrofoil e-bike, and a mind-boggling robotic prosthesis.
This year there will almost certainly be some weird announcements along these lines, but without Eureka Park, it’s also a safe bet that the weird and unusual devices will be a little less numerous.
Despite the small number of exhibitors this year, we have good authority that there is still a lot of weird equipment waiting to debut. Unfortunately we can’t provide details just yet, but be prepared for curiosities such as kitchen robots, VR workstations and one-handed drone controllers. Weird and Wild Technology will be on display at CES 2021 – you have my word.