The 2013 Consumer Electronics Show officially kicked off with three keynote events, and booths that showcased everything from driverless cars to parrot drones.
Audi has already confirmed that it’s showing off some of its autonomous vehicle technology at this year’s show, having recently been granted a license to test its driverless cars on Nevada roads. The company has already tested a driverless car on the Pikes Peak Highway, completing a 12.42-mile run — complete with plenty of bends and curves — in a car that drove itself.
A running theme at CES this year is the concept of cars that multi-task for you. Tsukayama reports:
Effortless is the name of the game when it comes to building out these new features. People are already texting, calling and checking e-mail behind the wheel — despite laws and campaigns to stop those behaviors — and software makers are focusing on making systems that will take care of the fussy parts of communicating from behind the wheel.
A simple example of this is one-touch Bluetooth pairing, which allows drivers to just tap a point on the dash to connect their phone and car, said Derek Kuhn, marketing lead of the software firm QNX.
Another is the idea to put a navigation system screen in the instrument panel behind the wheel, so that drivers can take a quick look ahead of them instead of craning their necks to the center console.
QNX also is working with AT&T to put its natural language program, Watson, into cars, making it easier for drivers to navigate messaging systems. It’s what QNX and others in the industry call “single utterance”: the difference between saying, “Where’s a good Italian restaurant around here?” and having to parse through several levels of a menu to uncover dinner recommendations and directions.
From the car to the kitchen, another emerging trend was using smartphones to control everyday appliances.
In a matter of months, busy cooks might be able to program their crockpots and rev up their coffee-makers — through their phones.
It’s not “Smart House,” exactly, but the deal between appliance giant Jarden and high-end electronic manufacturer Belkin moves home tech closer to the so-called “Internet of things.”
In that buzzy and convenient sci-fi future, consumers will control everything from heat to household appliances on their computers and smartphones — at least according to several manufacturers, who are announcing a laundry list of new products and hosting an “Internet of Things Consortium” at the Consumer Electronics Show this week.
The biggest technological splash was 3-D printers, which could cut manufacturing costs. As the Post’s Cecilia Kang explains:
When Ford wants to try out a new transmission part, an engineer sends a digital blueprint of the component to a computer, and what happens next once seemed like the stuff of science fiction.
Inside a device about the size of a microwave oven, a plastic, three-dimensional version of the component begins to take shape before your eyes. After scanning the design blueprint, the gadget fuses together a paper-thin layer of plastic powder. It repeats, putting another layer on top, and then thousands more, before binding the material together with lasers. A few hours later, out pops the auto part, ready to be tested.
The cost of such technology: about $1,500.
At such prices, 3-D printers, once an obscure and expensive innovation, are gaining traction among businesses, with broad implications for manufacturing. Ford is putting them in the hands of every one of its engineers. NASA uses the printers to test parts that could eventually make it to space.
And pretty soon, analysts say, they will be showing up in the home office. Just a few years ago, 3-D printers were as big as industrial refrigerators and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each. Now anyone can order one online and put it on a desk.