Ten things that will definitely have happened by 2020 (according to CES)
I love CES. I hate CES. At times the over-blown hype makes me want to weep while at others I feel swept along in that all-American wave of hope and optimism. Right now – perhaps because I’m heading home – I’m feeling positive. And it made me wonder, what if all that pent-up optimism was to come true? What would the world really look like in five years from now? Funny you should ask.
1. We’ll all be super-slim
I have to laugh a little at all the announcements at CES about fitness products when I see staggeringly little evidence that it’s having an effect on the Las Vegian bodies around me. Especially when a typical Denny’s breakfast adds up to over 1,500 calories: I opted for a modest one with hash browns, two eggs, two sausages – and, on the side, two giant pancakes smothered with sugary syrup and icing. But maybe, just maybe, the next five years will see a change, and we’ll work out a way to control calories, exercise more and see our toes again.
2. We won’t use keys anymore
This is based on a cool little demo at this year’s CES, where Audi demonstrated the ability to unlock your car using RFID built into an LG smart watch, based on webOS. This in itself doesn’t exactly advance humanity, but if you start to extend the concept – to your home, your garage, your office – that key fob could become a thing of the past. Although it does leave the issue of what to do with all my Las Vegas souvenir key rings.
3. TVs will actually be smart
Oh please let this one come true. We’ve had so-called smart TVs for years now, so why is it such a chore to record things, to access services, to understand the fiendish UIs? But I know that the likes of Samsung are working hard on this area, with an announcement in its rather dull keynote that it will be using Tizen OS, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
4. Our walls will feature shift-shaping colours
This stems from a fascinating visit I had to the E Ink booth, where they had an amazing wall display of shifting pink and white patterns. You can see it in the video above. E Ink expects to have a real-life installation of this by the end of the year, and it does make you wonder why we haven’t thought of it before. We could write messages, light up our walls at night, adjust colour depending on taste. Suddenly bricks seem rather boring.
5. Video calls will be pleasurable
We humans are very good at face-to-face interaction in person, but boy does it become difficult when it turns into a video call. Even talking to the ones you love becomes weird, as you feel rude if you look away but are otherwise stuck in a staring contest. But ooVoo, a video-call service with 12,000,000 users, has an interesting answer: you can supplement your call with real-time animations to reflect your expression (streamers to show you’re happy, perhaps), or just turn yourself into an avatar, complete with your mouth and facial movements, so that the person at the other end of the call can’t tell you’re still in your pyjamas.
6. We’ll own our data
In my interview with Intel’s Mike Bell yesterday, he touched upon one of the biggest problems we currently face. When you buy a fitness tracker today you pretty much always send your data to them, and this means your data is effectively owned by them. And that’s just fitness: it can be extended to pretty much any data we exchange. Doesn’t it make sense for us to own our data, not a third-party company?
7. Standalone tablets will be a thing of the past
This feels like a long shot, but the rise of the 2-in-1 device at this year’s CES – think products like the Asus Transformer Book Chi and Toshiba Satellite Click Mini, where a nice tablet is turned into a nice laptop when you slot it into a keyboard – certainly indicates it’s a possible path. If you’re the type of person who carries round a tablet and a laptop in your bag, wouldn’t you like it to become just one device?
8. Our roads will be safer
Every year new cars are being fitted with smarter technology, and even if we never reach the stage of fully automated driving there were some great initiatives on show at CES this year. Things such as Nokia Here’s navigation aids that make it obvious exactly where you’re heading without your eyes leaving the road, or Nvidia’s Drive technology. And who knows: maybe, one day, the technology that enables humanless driving may coincide with our willingness to hand control over to AI.
9. And our homes will be safer too
This will stem from a number of things. No more entrusting our safety to smoke alarms with batteries that may or may not work; we’ll know instantly that the battery is running low thanks to products like Roost. We’ll also have smart lighting in our houses to deter burglars, while discreet cameras and sensors will allow us to keep tabs on our home when we’re away.
10. Everything will just work
Okay, no-one directly suggested this would happen at CES: it’s just what I long for. Wi-Fi that always connects, because it’s able to do some sort of low-level handshake. Devices that pair instantly (and remember the next day, even) and don’t need me to dig into some obscure setting to troubleshoot. Printers that just, well, print. Smart TV boxes that don’t crash halfway through Breaking Bad. Not too much to hope for by 2020, surely?