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I attended CES 2023 in Las Vegas in the first week of January. You would already know this if you read my first post, CES 2023: AMD, Stellantis, Cadence, and More. One challenge this year was finding things. The two South halls of the convention center were closed. In the past, I had a good mental map of what was where, but suddenly that was not relevant. As always, seeing CES involves a lot of walking. My phone says 22,000 steps which is nearly 10 miles.
When I go to the Design Automation Conference (DAC), I expect to know most of the exhibitors. At CES, apart from the largest consumer electronics companies such as Samsung, LG, Sony, and their peers, I don't expect to know most of them. Then there are the companies that I know but wonder why they are at CES. For example, what does Incheon Airport (Seoul, Korea) or USPS get out of having a booth at CES?
A few things that I saw were a sort of follow-up to earlier posts. For example, in my post Bluetoooth LE Audio, Hearing Aids, and Mindtree, I talked about how the FDA had approved hearing aids to be sold over-the-counter (OTC).
Well, that is in principle. The FDA still has to actually approve the hearing aids. And at the show, HP (opened my eyes!) showed the first FDA-cleared self-fitting OTC hearing aid. My hearing is fine, so I don't need hearing aids (maybe I should add "yet") but it must be a big improvement being able to just go and buy a hearing aid rather than having an expensive doctor's visit and then only be able to get a prescription-only (aka very expensive) hearing aid.
Another update was that I looked at other Cadence blogs and saw Penn Electric Racing Are Revving Things Up with Celsius and AWR. Coincidentally, they had a huge booth at the show. and I had already taken a picture of the car, the fastest self-driving electric car in the world.
There were a lot of concept designs for the interiors of self-driving vehicles. It was unclear whether there was good enough autonomous software to allow these types of vehicles to be used in restricted environments such as industrial or university campuses.
There were a lot of electric cars. In fact, I don't think that there was a single vehicle that was not electric (unless it was powered by hydrogen fuel cells). Some from companies I'd only vaguely heard of, like VinFast (from Vietnam) or TOGG from Turkey (or Türkiye as apparently we are now meant to call it). A lot of vehicles, such as the RAM truck that I talked about in my previous CES post are "concept" vehicles. This means that nobody has a clue if the vehicles will be manufacturable, whether they will be manufactured. My go-to guy for automotive is Sandy Munro, who does teardowns of vehicles and knows a lot about manufacturing (he worked at Ford for years). Munro Associates were at CES with their own booth. You will learn a lot from this 30-minute Q&A video about the state of electric cars, what is real, and some aspects of these concept cars that he thinks will never see the light of day. His opinion is far more important than mine.
Come and join me in the metaverse.
The metaverse continues to be big. Big enough that it has its own categories on the signs at the show. VR headsets have improved a lot since I first tried one out at MWC in Barcelona about five years ago. But I still don't really understand the applications for the metaverse, outside of the obvious ones of gaming and entertainment. I also get that it could make meeting more immersive than Zoom, but do I really want to wear an uncomfortable headset to do that...and do I want meetings to be even more immersive? Here's one company that I spoke to since it was one of the first ones I came across upon entering the hall. But the person I talked to could not give me a succinct definition of what the "industrial metaverse" actually was. The demo showed how you could explore an environment such as a warehouse or factory floor using models rather than having to actually build the warehouse. But this seems pretty marginal. Apple and Steve Jobs famously built a couple of entire Apple Stores in a warehouse somewhere to get all the details right. Could that be done virtually? I'm not sure you could get the entire Apple Store experience with just the visuals, even in 3D.
Another really big area was personal electronic health. There were hundreds of companies in this area. I've already talked about HP and hearing aids. Above are "smart" bottles for feeding babies. I didn't find out the details of what these actually do, but it seems to have a USB connection, maybe just to charge the battery or maybe to download data (or perhaps it has Bluetooth too). Anyway, remembering back forty years to when my kids were babies, I can safely say that handling bottles (keeping them sterile, making sure milk was at the right temperature, and so on) was enough hassle without having to remember to charge them, and synchronize whatever data is generated.
I'm increasingly skeptical, despite being in the electronics industry, that adding smarts to a lot of devices makes any sense at all. One reason is security. I'm not sure most of these companies are competent in this area, and the last thing that I want is for someone to hack into my interconnected washing machine or baby's bottle and do something malicious. Many of these interfaces just increase the attack surface. I wrote about this five years ago in my post What Keeps MGM's Head of Security Up at Night? Lightbulbs! In the end, it turned out not to be lightbulbs, but an internet-connected aquarium thermometer. I think I wrote about this at the time, but I can't find it. If you are interested, here is Forbes' version, Criminals Hacked A Fish Tank To Steal Data From A Casino.
The second is just convenience. I'm pretty smart, but the few times I've rented a car recently, the user interface has been horrible. Luckily, I could connect my smartphone and not have to bother with the vehicle's own interface. Twice a year, I have to change to and from daylight savings time, and I usually have to go and look at the manual to do this...and that is in my own car, on a radio (a radio that gets, of course, radio signals from all over, because it is a radio, and many of those signals include timestamps) that could perfectly well handle the adjustment itself. It reminds me of the video-recorder days when people would point out that the VCR flashing 00:00 showed how stupid the average consumer was. Well, my VCR flashed 00:00 because there is no reason for the clock not to set itself (or rather just remember the time with a battery). It was not that consumers were stupid, it was poor design. So I don't actually want a user interface to my refrigerator, the mythical refrigerator that automatically orders milk when it is low. I saw one demonstration (Samsung, I think) of a mixer that could also weigh all the ingredients and, presumably, mix them at the right speed. It had recipes built in too. But do I really want a mixer ordering me around and then, halfway through the recipe, calling for an ingredient I don't have?
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