By Samantha Murphy Kelly, CNN
(CNN) — The first companion robot with ChatGPT, an AI “smart belt” that helps guide the visually impaired and AI-powered vacuums, mops and other appliances.
Coming off a year where artificial intelligence dominated headlines and attention across the tech industry, the new products launching at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show will not surprisingly be all about AI, too.
CES 2024, now in its 58th year, will kick off this week in Las Vegas with an expected blend of cutting-edge technologies and quirky gadgets.
The event, which is the largest consumer tech conference of the year, is known for robots roaming the show floor, splashy presentations from big tech companies and the launch of oddball products, such as last year’s buzzy $3,000 self-driving stroller and color-changing cars.
But the event is also a breeding ground for dealmaking among executives, manufacturers and retailers across various industries. It can set the stage for some of the biggest tech trends of the year and shine a spotlight on how companies intend to be part of those conversations.
“Perhaps the question to ask is what AI will not touch this year,” said Dipanjan Chatterjee, a principal analyst at Forrester. “ChatGPT has fueled such a frenzy over the last year that companies feel the AI train is one they must scramble onto, even if they have no idea where it’s going.”
Chatterjee said to expect AI in everything such as chips and cards from companies including Intel and Nvidia, and consumer devices like refrigerators from Samsung with the “AI Family Hub.” Varying panel discussions will hit on AI’s possible impact on jobs and ethical considerations.
The Consumer Technology Association, which hosts CES each year, said it is expecting about 130,000 in-person attendees this year, up from about 115,000 last year and 45,000 in 2022 amid concerns of the Covid-19 Omicron variant. CTA is once again offering a livestream for some events this year.
The show will feature more than 4,000 exhibitors and 1,200 startups from all over the world. Featured speakers will include executives from companies such as Samsung, LG and Microsoft, as well as discussions with Snap co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel and Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. Apple, which is typically absent from CES, is once again not expected to participate.
About 60% of the Fortune 500 companies will be in attendance, according to the CTA, enabling diverse product launches and discussions around all areas of tech and beyond. Beauty is now an official product category at CES, with L’Oreal CEO Nicolas Hieronimus delivering the company’s first CES keynote.
The show also remains one of the fastest growing auto exhibitions in the world. Various forms of transportation, from floating and rolling to flying, will be featured this year.
For example, boating company Brunswick will show off electric boats and motors as well as self-piloting recreational boats. VinFast, the Vietnamese electric vehicle company that only recently entered the US market, will unveil new models including a small SUV. And Hyundai will be there with an electric aircraft from its air taxi subsidiary Supernal.
As always, various automakers will also have exhibits showing off the latest in what people will be able to see and do inside their cars.
Foldable displays, next-generation wearables and mixed reality-related accessories are also expected to get ample attention this year.
“Expect use cases [for AR and VR] beyond gaming like multimedia consumption and enterprise usage such as training, onboarding and collaboration,” said Ramon Llamas, a director at market research firm IDC. “It’s important for companies to stake their ground before Apple releases the Vision Pro later this year.”
New wearable form factors will be on display, too. One gadget — called Dusk Rx, which is up for a 2024 CES Innovation Award — promises to be the world’s first prescription-ready glasses that gives users control over the tint of their lenses via the frame or within an app. Meanwhile, a pair of high-tech leggings — also up for an Innovation Award — touts a high-tech microcurrent intended to boost athletic performance.
Some companies could show off upgraded versions of previous innovations. Over the past few years, for example, voice-activated devices and smart speakers dominated CES as companies raced to add their voice assistants into everything from microwaves to toilets.
While it was largely overestimated how consumers would use the technology, those same businesses could bring voice to the next level with generative AI, the technology that fuels products like ChatGPT.
“It will be interesting to track whether a gen AI-powered capability can make the process of voice interaction far more intuitive and useful than before, resetting the clock on voice applications,” Chatterjee said.
Although CES overall is still a useful barometer to gauge market trends, the amount and diversity of the tech products on display makes it hard for anything to truly break through, noted Stuart Carlaw, a chief research officer at ABI Research.
“It’s akin to a group of blindfolded explorers trying to understand the full extent of the elephant they are interacting with,” Carlaw said.
“The one exception is AI,” he added. “If you don’t have an AI story, are you even a tech company?”
CES runs through Friday, January 12.
CNN’s Peter Valdes-Dapena contributed to this report
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