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AI, flying cars and virtual reality top the bill at CES 2023

The latest leaps in artificial intelligence in everything from cars, robots to appliances will be on full display at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), opening in Las Vegas this week.

After being forced by the pandemic to go virtual in 2021, and last year’s hybrid event, tens of thousands of visitors are hoping for a return to packed halls and rapid-fire deal-making that are the hallmark of the annual gadget extravaganza.

“In 2022, it was a shadow of itself – empty halls, no meetings in hotel rooms,” says Avi Greengart, an analyst at Techspotential. “Now, [we expect] crowds, trouble getting around and meetings behind closed doors – which is what a trade show is all about.”

CES, which officially opens on January 5, will be spread over more than seven hectares (18 acres), from the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Centre to pavilions set up in car parks. Ballrooms and banquet rooms across Sin City will be used to hustle up business.

With transport now computing’s new frontier, next generation cars, trucks, boats, farm equipment, and even flying machines are expected to grab attention, according to analysts.

“It’s going to feel almost like you’re at an auto show,” says Kevan Yalowitz, head of platform strategy at Accenture.

Cars have operating systems much like a smartphone or laptop, and Accenture expects that by 2040 about 40 per cent of vehicles on the road will need software updated remotely.

With connected cars come apps and online entertainment as developers battle to grab passenger attention with onboard streaming or shopping services.

Electric vehicles enhanced with artificial intelligence will also be on display “in a big way”, Greengart says.

“What has really been the buzz is personalised flying machines,” said independent tech analyst Rob Enderle. “Basically, they are human-carrying drones.”

Led by Zuckerberg’s Meta, immersive virtual worlds (the metaverse) are seen as the future of the ever-evolving internet, despite criticism that the billionaire CEO is overinvesting in an unproven sector.

A major theme at CES last year, virtual reality headgear is expected to again figure prominently. Meta will be allowing guests to try its latest Oculus Quest virtual reality headset, trying to persuade doubters that the company’s pivot to the metaverse was the right one.

Gadgets or services pitched as being part of the next-generation of the internet – or “Web3” – are expected to include mixed reality as well as blockchain technology and NFTs.

Web3 promises a more decentralised internet, where tech giants, big business or governments no longer hold all the keys to life online.

“The idea of how we are going to connect is going to be part of the big trend at CES,” says Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi.

Analysts had expected cryptocurrencies to be touted among Web3 innovations at the show, but there “could be pullback” because of the implosion of cryptocurrency platform FTX and arrest of its boss Sam Bankman-Fried, according to Milanesi.

Some offerings at the show are likely to show effects of the pandemic, since products designed during lockdowns and remote work will be heading for market, even if lifestyles are returning to pre-Covid habits, notes Greengart.

Tech designed to better assess health and connect remotely with carers will also be popular.

And although the show is unabashedly devoted to consumerism, the environment will also be a theme, from gadgets designed to scoop trash from waterways to apps that help people reduce energy use.

A lot of companies are eliminating plastic from packaging and shifting to biodegradable materials, in a bid to reduce carbon emissions, according to analysts.

“If you are the kind of person who is off the grid, growing vegetables, then CES is not for you,” Greengart says. “But I do commend companies that find ways to make their products and the supply chain more sustainable.” South China Morning Post

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