CES 2014 First Impressions: Mobile-enabled Hardware, Haptic Sensors, and New Robots

Two days before the main show floor opens, and a day before the round of press conferences from major players in the consumer electronics industry, on Sunday evening the CES Unveiled event crowds bleary, travel-worn, journalists into a giant ball room to give them their first taste of what the rest of the week will have to offer.

Events like CES Unveiled (two more product zoos will take place on Monday and Tuesday nights) are an unreliable barometer for big news—very significant product launches usually get their own event—but sometimes there can be breakout hits that define a category, like Parrot’s original AR drone a few year’s back, or Lego’s Mindstorms EV3 last year.  And even though I didn’t spot a product Sunday that seemed to have the potential for such influence, CES Unveiled is still a good sampling of the general zeitgeist.

In recent years, for example, mobile apps had been two-a-penny, while now mobile-enabled hardware is very much to the fore, especially in the areas of digital health, home automation, and entertainment robotics. Interesting new technologies were also on display, like Novasentis’ haptics sensors and actuators (we expect to have more on Novasentis later this week.) And 3D printing is making a play for the bigger time.

And, psychologically speaking, after several years in which exhibitors maintained determinedly, sometimes aggressively, cheery attitudes in the face of a challenging economic environment, people seemed a little more relaxed this year—although that may change as results from the 2013 holiday shopping season are analyzed and digested for winners and losers. 

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