I’ve been in Las Vegas now since Saturday, and have attended an impressive number of briefings and events. I’ve also walked most of the major show segments and have some ideas, at least with regard to what I was looking for, for who is doing best at the show so far. Let’s go through my list.
Best Booth: Intel
Intel’s booth was a monument to technology. It had huge ultramodern towers with what looked like huge circular displays on top. You could see it from across the massive conference room, and it looked like it was transported from a science fiction movie. It is truly spectacular. They also had what was the best showcase of little companies that you wouldn’t think would be using Intel technology. From folks making wearable products like watches to little robots and connected treadmills, the booth was a nice blend of imagination and showcase of breadth folks likely wouldn’t otherwise realize Intel had. It was pulling decent crowds as well showcasing that the design was not only amazing to look at it, but was also functional.
One cool demonstration was, using a Jaguar F-Type, an eye monitoring product that could tell the car where you were looking and alert you to things that were hazards that you otherwise might not see.
Best Car Hardware Platform: NVIDIA
Car infotainment and automation (self-driving) was a big part of the show this year with several car makers showcasing what they could do. The two most impressive were Audi who had a film of a car, without a driver, driving a race track at record speeds (almost made me want the amazing Audi RS7). BMW had a very nice driverless parking demonstration. NVIDIA, partnered with both OEMs, did the best job of showcasing just how much performance a self-driving car will require and launched two hardware platforms that provide a modular approach to next generation in car entertainment and self-driving capability. It was really a rather fascinating demonstration and I left feeling like my own driving skills were about to become obsolete. They also launched their Tegra X1 processor, which provides performance in line with a 2000s era supercomputer and is desperately needed for the massive amount of thinking one of these coming cars will need.
Best Car Software Platform: BlackBerry (News - Alert) QNX
One platform name kept coming up over and over again in the in car automation and infotainment space and that was BlackBerry’s QNX platform, which is already dominant for in car digital controls (basically keeping the car running with 50M cars running it). Bringing to the floor a nicely wrapped blue Maserati with a very nicely done customized digital gauge and infotainment system they were not only at the heart of what many of the car makers were building but what most are planning to build. With sensors to track obstacles, in car Lidar for self-driving built behind the windshield (no screwy rotating Lidar system on the roof) and digital gauges all looking like they had all been installed from the factory. This was an impressive effort from the firm that is largely dominant in the automotive space when it comes to the software platform.
IOT or the Internet of Things was where Qualcomm shined. I was specifically looking for something that could be competitive with Sonos who traditionally owned this space. With AllPlay, Qualcomm’s distributed music platform, they demonstrated that using a variety of vendors like Gramafon, Panasonic (News - Alert), and Monster they could mix and match speakers and still get a music experience similar to what Sonos provides but with more choice. In addition, I was looking for someone that could match Insteon in terms of home automation and Insteon told me they had actually joined the AllSeen alliance that Qualcomm created and this win basically addressed my biggest concern with one deal. Qualcomm pretty much owned the phone space as well with most of the top phones using their processor. Their new Snapdragon 810 was clearly the top choice for phone vendors that wanted to differentiate.
Best Comeback Story: Panasonic
There was some speculation that Panasonic would exit the consumer market. They pretty much put that to bed this year with an on stage presentation that had them launching a new and well differentiated line of TVS, reinstating the once popular Technics brand, and launching a set of stunning monitors that were priced competitively but performed like studio monitors. They also had the only 4K affordable Blue-ray player I saw. In addition, they had some really cool business products like an embedded display in glass that could be installed in a conference room glass wall and magically float seemingly without wires in the glass, and a flat table top UltraHD large format monitor that could be used like the table in Hawaii Five-O. These were pretty amazing. They also showcased they had won a number of key infotainment deals, the most impressive is for the new F-Type Jaguar—making my car obsolete which, come to think of it, kind of pissed me off.
Car of the Show: Jaguar F-Type Coup
Noting else was even close F-Type coup. Even NVIDIA populated their virtual garage with a ton of them. Now there were a number of three wheeled T-Rex cars but even Tesla, which is typically a technology showcase, didn’t have a as many of the same vehicle as Jaguar did. This kind of really pissed me off because I have an F-Type roadster (there wasn’t one of these), and what was generally showcased made my car look out of date but a very nice win for Jaguar at the show where you typically Ford is the car brand most noticed. It, like Jaguar stole the show.
Product with the most Heart: Rx Robots MEDi
If there was a product that brought a tear to your eye it was the RxRobots Medi. This was a robot designed for hospitals to help children who are scared to death of the place and what is being done to them. Basically, it is a nurturing robot that is meant to distract them and make them feel safer all the time while allowing doctors to work with less risk of traumatizing the child. It just warmed my heart to see someone focus on our most important audience and one often forgotten at shows like this. Oh and it didn’t hurt that the robot was really kind of adorable.
Most Unusual Useful Product: Kilobree Electronic Toothbrush
Major mouth surgery can be expensive and very painful. The Kilobree is an electric connected toothbrush that helps you brush where and when you need and focuses on quality of the effort. If you are going to do it you might as well do it right, but the idea of a connected toothbrush just kind of hit me as strange—even though it did look incredibly useful.
Best Keynote: Intel
This wasn’t even hard. You know keynotes are almost famous for being bad at CES (News - Alert). People don’t rehearse, some just put up tons of ads, others appear more focused on getting it done than on delivering a message or entertaining the audience. Intel in sharp contrast literally knocked my socks off. Expertly weaving in their RealSense camera and the best tablet in the show, the Intel Powered Dell (News - Alert) Venue 8 with the Intel RealSense camera, and then driving future looking demonstration after demonstration of amazing products powered by Intel—like an autonomous drone and one that you could wear on your wrist designed to take amazing selfies, they were the masters in a sea of armatures. Their new CEO really shined though in watching I did see him struggle a bit with the floor mounted prompter, as most do, making me wonder if next year Intel might showcase a head mounted display as a prompter. Stunning work.
Best Tablet: Dell Venue 8 7000
The Dell Venue 8 7000 was most of Intel’s huge opening and won the most innovative product of the show award. I’ve been told Intel employees ran to the store to buy them in mass they so wanted them when they came out. And, it is the best showcase, right now, for Intel’s new RealSense 3D camera, which is one of the most amazing cameras in market. Both thinner and better looking than an iPad mini (Apple (News - Alert) doesn’t attend CES) it really stood out as one of the must have products of the show.
Wrapping Up: An Amazing Show
Overall, the biggest theme here was the Internet of Things—everything from cars to toothbrushes were connected. Yes there were also a lot of robots and a surprising number of PCs, but overall it was about getting connected. One interesting product I left out because it won’t be ready until 2016 was the HP 3D printer. What made it interesting was that it was on Intel’s stage and the only printer I saw that actually printed stuff you could use as opposed to mostly just look at. If they can get it to market it has a good chance of being the product of the show in 2016.