The Consumer Electronics Show can sometimes feel more like something out of a PT Barnum freak show than a serious evaluation of the state of modern technology.
Staged annually in Las Vegas, the conference represents a first opportunity of the year for the world’s biggest, most technologically advanced and forward-thinking companies to showcase the products that they hope will put them centre stage in 2018, demonstrating that it is they who control the future.
That is except, famously, for Apple, the world’s largest company, who have declined to attend CES every year since 1992. Their presence is still felt keenly however; there is an iLounge pavilion at the show, dedicated exclusively to Apple related products.
CES constitutes a gamble for exhibitors; just as a well-executed product demonstration can set a company on the path to a successful and lucrative year, a techno fail can have disastrous consequences, drawing crowds for all the wrong reasons, and creating an impression that is more bearded lady singing soprano, than serious gadget unveiling.
Product fails were something of a theme at this year’s CES; senior execs at both LG and Sony were left red-faced by disobedient robots who refused to play along, whilst one journalists Twitter timeline featured the immortal line, “Aeolus has had ENOUGH”. The accompanying video features a robot downright refusing to pick up a cat toy for the umpteenth time that day.
It probably didn’t help matters that, down the road from the conference, in a local bar, a set of stripper bots were being demoed that seemed to have mastered the art of extracting dollar bills from geeky males.
Speculative Execution Steals Show?
News also broke during the conference of Meltdown and Spectre, 2 flaws in the Windows, Linux and MacOS operating systems related to a procedure called “speculative execution”, which attempts to predict which actions a user might take in order to save time.
The flaws, it was revealed, are present in almost every device built with Intel, AMD, or ARM processors, going as far back as 1995, and could leave them open to attacks by hackers. Security patches are being rushed out, but not quickly enough to stem another tide of bad publicity.
This is what tends to happen when the world’s biggest and boldest tech companies attempt to outdo one another by intimating that they are more technologically advanced than they really are – the equivalent of a group of embarrassing alpha male dad dancers at a school disco when the DJ starts playing REM.
In some ways it is a shame that CES falls so early in the year, as it can paint tech in an unflattering light. 2018 has all kinds of exciting developing trends that have the potential to make our lives better, cheaper, and more flexible. The blockchain filtering into new industry sectors (including money transfer), wearable tech, voice activation, and superfast processing speeds.
And, once the world’s geekerati are back home and recovered from being on stage at CES, that is what we should start to see.