Kuri is an adorable smart hub on wheels that can stream audio, map your home for navigation and send video to your smartphone wherever you are. Photo: Mayfield RoboticsFor years CES has being dominated by technology for the active: fitness trackers, wearables, VR, and Drones. In 2017 they’re still all here — drones especially — but most of the buzz is centred around the home. This year the annual consumer electronics show in Las Vegas is all about better looking TVs, cute little home assistants that can power the internet of things in your life, and devices to protect your smart toaster from hackers.
And if you do need to leave the house, there’s tiny little earbuds to keep you constantly connected to the internet.
It’s easy to walk away more confused about the state of TVs after CES, with so many new acronyms appearing, and many of last years acronyms being retired. Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, LG and even the cheaper brands like TCL all had new 4K TVs on show, all supporting High Dynamic Range (HDR).
You can gloss over most of the acronyms, all you need to know is TVs look even better this year, with a wider array of colours and greater brightness. As with last year there were no gimmicks like 3D, just better picture quality across the board.
The stunning LG Signature OLED TV is wafer thin and supports all the latest flavours of HDR including Dolby Vision, HLG and HDR10. Even after sitting through the announcement and reading up on the specs I couldn’t tell you what the differences are, but I can say these new panels look incredible.
Samsung’s new TVs are branded QLED – or Quantum Dot powered OLED displays. They’re still 4k (UHD) and support HDR, but sensing consumers were drowning in acronyms, Samsung have decided to drop those letters from the announcement.
The Quantum Dot technology touted by Samsung has been improved this year for the company’s so-called QLED displays. They are also 4K and HDR. Side by side you can immediately see the difference in the newer panels, and last year’s already produced incredible pictures.
Samsung and LG are both trying to make it easier to hide the cables, shifting HDMI inputs to a separate box (or in LG’s case, a soundbar) giving you just a power cord and one connector cable to tuck away. Sony meanwhile has finally introduced an OLED TV to give LG a run for its money, sporting a statement-making kickstand design.
The tech industry was caught off guard last year by the phenomenal success of Amazon’s Alexa voice powered assistant, and now everyone is rushing in to the voice assistant market. First came Google’s Home, and CES 2017 was awash with similar assistants. Alexa herself moved into a quite a few devices, but while Amazon is not in Australia there’s no point talking about them.
Samsung’s version is built into its latest line of fridges, the Samsung Family Hub 2.0. LG has the Hub Robot, a cute little assistant that can move around the house and, thanks to facial recognition built in, can work out which member of the family is talking to it. They all do roughly the same thing: simple web search, stream music from Spotify or Pandora, turn off your Wi-Fi light globes, order you an Uber.
Of the many new assistants out there, the one that’s grabbing the headlines is the Kuri Smart Robot. The Kuri does many of the same things as the LG Hub, or any other voice assistant, but it has one killer feature: it’s incredibly adorable.
The Kuri bleeps and bloops backs at your commands, and like the silent robot Eve from Wall-E, has incredibly expressive eyes. It’s a brilliant idea, giving a potentially creepy bit of tech a personality, so we’ll welcome it into our homes.
And following on from the Mirai botnet that targeted these always on, always connected internet of things devices, security was major concern at CES.
Norton introduced the Core, its first hardware product that will look for IoT devices and move them to a secure subnet, locked down and separated from your main network.
Bitdefender announced the Box V2, and Securifi debuted the Almond 3, devices that can connect to your home network and scan all the devices on it — looking for security vulnerabilities like baby monitors using default passwords — and either warning you about them or blocking outside traffic to them.
The other major category was “hearables”, the name given to tiny little wireless earbuds.
The most interesting take in this category was the Nuheara IQ buds from Australia, which not only include noise cancelling but allow you to focus audio from the outside world, acting like a hearing aid to cut through background noise and better hear a person talking to you. I tested them in the deafening halls of CES, and the result were impressive.
CES 2017 in some ways felt like a greatest hits, recycling ideas that have worked in previous shows. There were no quantum leaps in technology on display, but plenty of improvements to the things we already have.
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