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CES 2024: These are the tech trends of the year

Looking old is never pleasant. However, as a trade fair that claims to be a “platform for innovators”, it is particularly unpleasant. That’s exactly what happened at CES last year: While the whole world was talking about artificial intelligence (AI), the tech trade fair had little to show about it. She was simply unlucky: the program was set, the exhibition stands were ordered, and in the few weeks between the publication of ChatGPT in November 2022 and the start of CES in January, an entire trade fair could no longer be canceled.

The fact that the CES doesn’t want to let this go can now be seen in Las Vegas . The organizers had already declared artificial intelligence to be the top topic of the trade fair in advance, and this was also confirmed on site: Before the trade fair officially opens on Tuesday, ZEIT ONLINE was able to get an impression of the latest tech trends at the preliminary event CES Unveiled and in various press conferences . And one thing is clear: it no longer works without AI. But what do you do with this technology? Tech companies find very different answers to this question.

The entire home becomes AI

Samsung made it clearest that everything now revolves around AI. The South Korean company announced “ AI for All ” as its motto (bonus points for homographic puns!). This means: Samsung wants to bring artificial intelligence into all of its products. For example, the new Bespoke 4-Door French Door refrigerator, in which a camera uses AI to detect whether there are enough eggs and milk in the refrigerator to make pancakes. All devices in the house should then be networked with one another via Samsung’s SmartThings smart home system and can be controlled via the voice assistant Bixby. Samsung wants to expand the smart home beyond their own four walls: Through a partnership with Hyundai, users will in future be able to send voice commands such as “turn on the heating” home in their car.

It is remarkable how united Samsung and LG, also a South Korean company, are in their vision of an AI-powered, fully connected home. LG is also playing puns and plans to bring AI to all of its products. However, the company would like to understand AI as affectionate intelligence instead of artificial intelligence . Both companies talk about how AI will make household work easier (LG very optimistically calls this Zero Labor Home). Robot assistants should also contribute to this in both cases: the Ballie (look: Star Wars BB-8 droid) from Samsung and the Smarthome AI Agent (look: Chihuahua with headphones) from LG. They should drive around, control smart devices, talk (LG) or play films with a built-in projector (Samsung).

The companies also agree that the television, which is often said to be dead, is anything but. For LG, Samsung and Panasonic, the television will in future become the control center of the smart home. Instead of just streaming Netflix, in the future you should be able to check the weather, switch on the surveillance cameras and manage your shopping list. LG cooperates with Google and Panasonic with Amazon. Samsung and LG also demonstrated a transparent television in Las Vegas – in LG’s case, you can switch between transparent and opaque. It is still unclear for both when they will appear and how many thousand dollars they will cost – but they certainly looked fascinating.

A new best friend

The companies at CES agreed on one more point: Anyone who is self-respecting will do well with Microsoft. This is somewhat surprising, considering that Microsoft has long been the ugly duckling of the tech industry – Windows has been a lot of things, but certainly not cool. Since Microsoft’s billion-dollar investment in OpenAI paid off in the form of the hype surrounding ChatGPT, Microsoft managers apparently prefer to be invited to the press conference.

Samsung announced that Microsoft’s AI assistant Copilot will be included in the upcoming Galaxy Book 4 laptops – whether they will also receive the new Copilot key (the first change to the Windows keyboard in almost 30 years!) is unclear not said. Microsoft is working with Siemens on using Copilot for industrial applications; Microsoft is cooperating with Sony and Honda for applications in cars. They showed their Afeela electric car prototype again. Apparently it can not only be controlled with a Playstation controller, but should also contain a voice assistant powered by Microsoft Copilot – if it ever comes onto the market. Volkswagen is taking the more direct route: from the second quarter, the German company wants to install ChatGPT in its cars, so the IDA language assistant will provide more natural answers.

Apple is not there – and yet omnipresent

What’s striking about all of these announced collaborations is that almost every major tech company is showing up in Las Vegas – only Apple isn’t taking part. As always, the iPhone company is not at the trade fair (or only on the sidelines), but it is often present in silence. Perhaps more strongly this year than ever before: It is certainly no coincidence that Apple announced the start of sales for the Vision Pro glasses just in time for the opening of the big CES press conferences on Monday morning local time – and thus immediately stole attention from its competitors.

But even without this announcement, Apple’s mixed reality glasses were always a topic between the lines. Las Vegas was also about “ spatial computing , ” as Apple calls the connection between the real and digital worlds (even if the term is older). Sony and Siemens jointly presented a device for ” spatial content creation ” that might not exist without Apple’s attention boost. The headset looks similar to the PS VR 2 gaming glasses, but instead of gaming, it is intended for viewing, creating and editing 3D models. A spokesman for Red Bull Racing’s development team explained on the CES stage how the glasses would be used to develop a new Formula 1 car.

Sony supplies the hardware for the glasses, Siemens the software. It is scheduled to appear later this year. The larger framework for this is an idea presented by Siemens CEO Roland Busch: The turning point for the “ Industrial Metaverse ” will come in 2024, said the CEO. By this, Siemens means that virtually everything – from aircraft to factories to human hearts – can now be realistically simulated digitally. These “digital twins” can then be used to experiment, optimize processes and thus accelerate innovation. A car factory planned in this metaverse would be significantly more productive and energy efficient. At least that’s what Siemens says.

It doesn’t get any greener

All tech companies unanimously claim such and similar energy savings. Samsung and LG talked for minutes about their sustainability initiatives, Panasonic based its entire presentation on the motto ” Green Impact “, while Bosch mainly talked about the energy transition in the transport sector, for which hydrogen is central (Volker Wissing likes that). If you look at the glittering green powerpoints, you could almost forget that these are the same companies that are contributing to ever-increasing energy requirements and ever-increasing mountains of electronic waste with new products.

But the most convincing innovations may be found away from the big conference stages anyway. For example, with the app from the Dutch start-up Whispp. With AI-supported voice generation, it gives people back the voice they have lost due to diseases such as throat cancer. Even if those affected can only whisper, Whispp makes calls and voice messages understandable again. This worked impressively well at a small demonstration on the sidelines of the trade fair. And that is much more innovative than a talking car or an AI refrigerator.

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