From robot bakers to Alexa-enabled toilets, what to expect at this year's consumer electronic showcase

“CES has always been a proving ground, not only for products that will come to market but those that could come to market,” said one analyst.
Image: An LG Electronics 8K OLED TV during the company's press conference at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show  in Las Vegas on Jan. 7, 2019.
An LG Electronics 8K OLED TV during the company's press conference at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 7, 2019.Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg via Getty Images

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By Alyssa Newcomb

Innovation is taking center stage this week in Las Vegas, where thousands of companies are exhibiting new tech gadgets, devices and ideas at the annual Consumer Electronics Show.

The Consumer Technology Association, the trade group that runs CES, is expecting 182,000 people to attend the show this year. Among them will be 4,400 companies exhibiting their products and hoping to impress investors, analysts and media.

“Since its formation, CES has always been a proving ground, not only for products that will come to market but those that could come to market,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

Here’s a look at some of the big themes analysts expect will be dominating the conversation this year at CES.

New form factors

LG’s rollable TV was the star of last year’s show and is reportedly getting ready to ship to consumers this year. Expect to see other bold ideas like this, including dual or foldable displays.

“Historically, when new and successful form factors arise, those companies who stake a leadership position end up staying there for a while, make a lot of money and receive innovation credit, helping the brand,” said Moorhead. “Recent examples include Apple with the tablet (iPad), Lenovo with the convertible PC, Microsoft with the detachable PC, and Samsung with the ‘phablet’ smartphone. The stakes are high with new form factors.”

“We are going to see a little bit more of the same. It won’t be 'Oh, wow, this is some crazy new tech,' it’s building on progress,” said Tuong Nguyen, senior principal analyst at Gartner.

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Software and platforms

Sure, smartphones are getting bigger and TVs are getting thinner, but it’s no longer just about the actual device, but the experience people can have using it, according to Werner Goertz, a research director at Gartner. This year, advancements in artificial intelligence, software and platforms will set the trend at CES, he said. Samsung is already showing this with the announcement that it’s bringing iTunes movies and TV shows, along with Apple AirPlay 2, to its smart TVs, negating the need to buy an Apple TV.

“The hardware devices will become the tools and channels of consumption rather than the source of value creation,” Goertz said.

Voice assistants

Speaking of platforms, expect Google and Alexa to have a presence again at this year’s show. Kohler even has a luxurious, intelligent toilet that works with Alexa.

5G

The major U.S. carriers have all said they plan to roll out 5G, the quicker, more robust next-generation wireless technology, in 2019. Analysts expect CES to focus on advancements in 5G when it comes to the smart home, wearables and enterprise products, but the bigger news will likely come at next month's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Car tech

For years, CES has been a tech show that happens to have a massive car show. It’s been the place where new electric cars, including the Nissan Leaf, and various self-driving concept cars have made their debuts.

This year, expect “further conversion of the automobile to an entertainment, dining, and office platform with increased electrification, safety and personalization,” said Moorhead.

And there will be plenty of discussion around flying car concepts, even if that’s many years away from becoming a reality.

8K TVs

Expect to see some of the first 8K televisions ready for consumers this year at CES. The resolution is 7,680 by 4,320 — four times better than a 4K TV. But that kind of resolution doesn’t come cheap. Samsung started selling its first 8K TV in the U.S. last year for a cool $15,000.

Robots galore

It wouldn’t be CES without the robots. Some of the robots at CES this year include Breadbot, a bread baking machine that starts with flour and can produce up to 235 loaves per day, all without human help, and Somnox, a robot that tracks a person’s sleep and even claims to have an algorithm to lull them back into a deep slumber.