Best of CES 2017: The 6 Most Interesting Things We Saw at CES

HIGHLIGHTS

  • CES 2017 saw 3,800 exhibitors and nearly 200,000 visitors
  • Amazon, Qualcomm, and Nvidia had the biggest impacts
  • Multinational corporates and tiny startups shared space on the show floor

To say that CES is enormous would be an understatement. Officially, there are 3,800 exhibitors spread out over 2.6 million square feet of hotel and convention centre floorspace, but there are peripheral gatherings and an untold number of companies who park themselves nearby and compete for attention as well. In amongst the millions of products and ideas there are to be seen, finding something that could be called the ‘Best of CES 2017’ was difficult but not impossible. And indeed, we found a few products at CES 2017 that stood out for a variety of reasons – good, and not-so-good.

At CES 2017, there were fridges that take photos of their contents that you can check remotely, TVs so thin that they can stick to your walls with magnets, smartphones which let you see how clothes look on virtual models that appear right in front of you, and gaming laptops with three screens – all from some of the world’s biggest technology companies. There were also hundreds of startups and first-time exhibitors from different corners of the worlds at CES 2017, showing off ideas that could one day become just as mainstream.

Best of CES 2017: The 6 Most Interesting Things We Saw at CES

1. Amazon Alexa
Amazon itself wasn’t showing off products at CES 2017, but its work was evident thanks to partnerships with a variety of companies. LG kicked off the first press conference of the show with an Alexa-powered refrigerator and a pair of home robots which can order groceries, control smart appliances, and stream music from Amazon. Lenovo showed off its Smart Assistant, essentially a third-party Amazon Echo, Hyundai is demonstrating cars that use Alexa, and various startups are building products such as headphones using its framework. Natural-language voice assistants are the current big thing in tech, and Alexa is the only viable alternative to Google, giving companies every reason to tie it into their products and services.

2. Honda Riding Assist
A huge part of CES 2017 was dedicated to cars and bikes, which isn’t surprising considering the amount of tech that goes into automobiles these days. Even with the world’s top luxury brands in attendance, Honda stole the show with its Riding Assist concept, a bike that can stay upright without any support, compensate for manoeuvers that would topple ordinary bikes, and even drive itself when commanded to do so. This CES 2017 tech could one day make transportation safer and more accessible to a wide range of people.

ALSO SEECES 2017: Our Picks So Far From the World’s Biggest Tech Show

3. Nvidia GeForce Now
While Nvidia isn’t going to stop selling graphics processors anytime soon, the company has diversified into massive-scale number-crunching in a huge way. At a huge CES 2017 pre-show press conference, founder and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang announced that Nvidia has finally achieved a goal it has been working on for years: the ability to host games on its own powerful servers so that PC users without an expensive gaming machine can offload all the hard work and stream just the video output like they would a movie. Input lag and bandwidth requirements are the biggest hurdles, but pricing scales with the amount of power you need, so a lot of people who can’t afford a high-end PC could end up being very happy.

nvidia geforce now pc

4. Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Each year, Qualcomm announces a new flagship processor for smartphones and connected devices. The Snapdragon 835 was first announced over a month ago, but CES 2017 was the first time its capabilities were on display to the public. While no actual phones using the Snapdragon 835 were being displayed, reference units were running demos including extreme vibration reduction in video recording, positional audio detection and filtering, and live 3D video stitching with directional audio. This new chip will be built on a 10nm process, and is smaller and more efficient than the Snapdragon 820/821. Phones that use it will support advanced machine learning and VR/AR experiences, plus of course huge screens, high-resolution video capture, biometric security, and improved battery life.

5. HP Sprout Pro
The original HP Sprout and Sprout Pro started out as experiments in 2D and 3D interaction, and was aimed mainly at children. Now, HP is going after a different market altogether with the second-generation Sprout Pro, a slicker and more capable version of the same idea that was unveiled at CES 2017. The projected horizontal surface is now full-HD, and can be a full-fledged secondary display. You can draw directly into software using a stylus, which feels just like writing on paper. 3D scanning is simple and quick – all you have to do is hold objects beneath the scanner and turn them around till you see the resulting model on screen fill out. There’s a kiosk mode that will allow users to customise things they want to buy and see how they look before pulling the trigger.

vinci smart headphones ces ndtv vinci

6. Inspero Vinci Smart Headphones with AI
Finally, we have the Vinci Smart Headphones with AI, a product that snagged our attention at CES 2017 for all the right and wrong reasons and brought us immense joy. We are truly inspired by the sheer absurdity and audacity of it – we have no idea who would ever want to wear or use one of these things, but we love the fact that somebody not only thought of it, but went ahead and made it. Basically, you have the equivalent of an iPod touch physically jammed onto one side of a comically oversized headset. It can store music, work as a Bluetooth headset, or stream Web content over Wi-Fi or 3G with its own SIM card. Swipe gestures let you control playback with the device on your ear, and AI lets you generate playlists as well as interact with devices using – you guessed it – Alexa. Inspero set out to raise $50,000 on Kickstarter and ended up with nearly twenty times as much, so we’ll probably see these out in the wild, even if only as the ultimate self-referential hipster gag.

Overall, CES 2017 was fairly underwhelming, with no emerging product category like drones or wearables to get excited about, and no banner feature like 4K and 3D in years past. There was no sign of progress towards making IoT devices practical and desirable, which means that no company has found its footing even a year after CES 2016’s high-volume proclamations of it being the next billion-dollar industry. What this year’s edition did show us is that technology is making its way into even more aspects of our daily lives, and there are still a few companies bold enough to try new things.

 

One in 10 brand new cars has to go back to the garage for repairs in the first year – but what’s the most reliable motor you can buy?

HUNDREDS of thousands of new car buyers are having to return cars to their dealer with problems, a study has found.

Electrical gripes, engine woes and rattling interior trim are leaving owners frustrated with their brand new motors.

Jaguar XF

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Almost a third of owners reported problems in the first year with their Jaguar XF

Driver Power, the UK’s biggest car satisfaction survey, found 12 per cent of owners said their car had gone wrong within the first 12 months.

And with a record-setting 2.69million vehicles registered in 2016, it could mean more than 300,000 have already developed faults and needed repairs.

Figures from the Driver Power study – which quizzed drivers on cars aged between two and 12 months – show the Jaguar XF was the car with the most issues.

Cars with most recorded faults in the first year

  1. Jaguar XF: 31%
  2. Jaguar XE: 27%
  3. Land Rover Discovery Sport: 25%
  4. Range Rover Evoque: 24%
  5. Nissan X-Trail: 22%
  6. Skoda Superb: 21%
  7. Nissan Pulsar: 21%
  8. Subaru Forester: 20%
  9. Citroen C4 Cactus: 20%
  10. Subaru Outback: 20%

A third of owners (31 per cent) said their car failed in the first year.

And there was more bad news for British makers, too, with the Jaguar XE the next worst following by the Land Rover Discovery Sport – more than a quarter of owners reported problems with both.

The car deemed most reliable over long-term ownership was the Toyota RAV4.

Top 10 most reliable cars

  1. Toyota RAV4
  2. Skoda Yeti
  3. Audi Q3
  4. SEAT Leon
  5. Lexus RX
  6. Kia Cee’d
  7. Lexus CT
  8. Suzuki Vitara
  9. Lexus NX
  10. Volvo XC60

Dodgy reliability of new vehicles is supported by the record number of contacts The Motor Ombudsman has received for its dispute resolution service.

In the first four months of 2017, it saw a 45 per cent rise in disgruntled customers get in touch compared to 2016.

And the top reason for an owner to contact The Motor Ombudsman related to the quality of the vehicle at the time of purchase.

Holly McAllister, head of customer service and quality at The Motor Ombudsman, said: “Case volumes as a proportion of contacts remain low which demonstrates the great efforts that all parties are going to in order to resolve any disagreements before needing formal adjudication which is very encouraging for all involved.”

Land Rover Discovery Sport

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A quarter of Land Rover Discovery Sport owners had early issues

Molecular Black Hole Created Using World's Most Powerful Laser

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Scientists created a molecular black hole consisting of heavy atoms
  • It was done with the help of a strong X-ray laser beam
  • Unlike the real black hole, molecular version lets electrons out again

Scientists, using the world’s most powerful X-ray laser, have successfully created a molecular black hole consisting of heavy atoms that suck electrons from their neighbours.

Researchers from Kansas State University in the US successfully used short pulses of ultra-intense high-energy X-rays to produce a detailed picture of how X-ray radiation interacts with molecules.

This was the first time this kind of extreme light has been used to break up molecules, and it may help understand the damages from X-ray radiation when it is used to take an X-ray picture, researchers said.

Molecular Black Hole Created Using World's Most Powerful Laser

The team shot iodomethane (CH3I) and iodobenzene (C6H5I) molecules with a powerful X-ray beam.

“As this powerful X-ray light hits a molecule, the heaviest atom, the iodine, absorbs a few hundred times more X-rays than all the other atoms,” said Artem Rudenko, assistant professor at Kansas State University.

“Then, most of its electrons are stripped away, creating a large positive charge on the iodine,” Rudenko said.

“The X-ray laser is the most powerful in the world with an intensity of 100 quadrillion kilowatts per square centimetre,” Rudenko said.

 

The positive charge that was created steadily pulls electrons from the other atoms in the molecule, which fills the created vacancies like a short-lived black hole, researchers said.

Unlike the real black hole, the molecular version lets the electrons out again. They are stripped away in a few femtoseconds.

“The cycle repeats itself until the molecule explodes” said Daniel Rolles assistant professor at Kansas State University.

“In total, 54 of iodomethane’s 62 electrons were ejected in this experiment, far more than we anticipated based on earlier studies using less intense X-rays. In addition, the larger molecule, iodobenzene, loses even more electrons,” he said.

Ultra-intense X-rays give a new and efficient tool to image biological particles, such as proteins and viruses, with high resolution, researchers said.

“Based on our findings, we can predict what will happen in larger systems,” Rolles said.

The study was published in the journal Nature.

Astronomers Find Giant Planet That's Hotter Than Most Stars

HIGHLIGHTS

  • A new planet KELT-9b is hotter than most stars, says a researcher
  • KELT-9b is 2.8 times more massive than Jupiter
  • It is more than twice as large, and nearly twice as hot, as our sun

Astronomers have discovered the hottest planet ever known, with a dayside temperature of more than 4,300 degrees Celsius. In fact, this planet, called KELT-9b, is hotter than most stars, according to a study published in the journal Nature.

“This is the hottest gas giant planet that has ever been discovered,” said Scott Gaudi, Professor at the Ohio State University in Columbus who led a study.

KELT-9b is 2.8 times more massive than Jupiter, but only half as dense.

Astronomers Find Giant Planet That's Hotter Than Most Stars

It is nowhere close to habitable, but Gaudi said there is a good reason to study worlds that are unlivable in the extreme.

“As has been highlighted by the recent discoveries from the MEarth collaboration, the planet around Proxima Centauri, and the astonishing system discovered around TRAPPIST-1, the astronomical community is clearly focused on finding Earthlike planets around small, cooler stars like our sun,” Gaudi said.

“They are easy targets and there’s a lot that can be learned about potentially habitable planets orbiting very low-mass stars in general. On the other hand, because KELT-9b’s host star is bigger and hotter than the Sun, it complements those efforts and provides a kind of touchstone for understanding how planetary systems form around hot, massive stars,” he explained.

Because the planet is tidally locked to its star – as the moon is to Earth – one side of the planet is always facing toward the star, and one side is in perpetual darkness.

 

Molecules such as water, carbon dioxide and methane cannot form on the dayside because it is bombarded by too much ultraviolet radiation.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5t2zJ-UEGv4?ecver=2]

The properties of the nightside are still mysterious – molecules may be able to form there, but probably only temporarily.

“It’s a planet by any of the typical definitions of mass, but its atmosphere is almost certainly unlike any other planet we’ve ever seen just because of the temperature of its dayside,” said Gaudi, worked on this study while on sabbatical at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

Its star, called KELT-9, is even hotter – in fact, it is probably unravelling the planet through evaporation. It is only 300 million years old, which is young in star time.

It is more than twice as large, and nearly twice as hot, as our sun.

Given that the planet’s atmosphere is constantly blasted with high levels of ultraviolet radiation, the planet may even be shedding a tail of evaporated planetary material like a comet.

“KELT-9 radiates so much ultraviolet radiation that it may completely evaporate the planet,” said Keivan Stassun, Professor at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.

The KELT-9b planet was found using the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope, or KELT.

Why Most Battery Life Tests Are a Useless Indicator of Real World Usage

HIGHLIGHTS
Recently, Consumer Reports’ MacBook Pro tests were in the news
Lab tests almost never can be correlated to real world usage
Standardised tests are only useful for rough comparisons
Apple’s new MacBook Pros received a fair amount of criticism for making life difficult for professionals by removing useful features like an SD card slot or prioritising thinness over increased performance. The criticism was reinforced when the new 2016 MacBook Pro was marked down by Consumer Reports for exhibiting sporadic battery life in its tests. Consumer Reports is an 80 year old independent, non-profit organisation that tests everything from electronics, cars, health products, kitchenware, and a lot more, and its results are taken pretty seriously.

That’s why this rating was shocking for both Apple as well as many Mac users all around the world, as MacBooks in the past generally have not exhibited a huge discrepancy between Apple’s claims and real-world testing. It was the first time that Consumer Reports did not recommend an Apple MacBook Pro.

Why Most Battery Life Tests Are a Useless Indicator of Real World Usage

The Cupertino hardware maker was quick to work with the organisation to figure out if there are any issues with the way the laptops were tested. It was finally revealed that a bug caused improper battery life figures. Apple released a fix, alongside Consumer Reports revealing refreshed test results, finally earning the publication’s recommendation.

But if you see the the updated results, Consumer Reports said that the 13-inch MacBook Pro with TouchBar runs an average of 15.75 hours, the 13-inch MacBook Pro without TouchBar for 18.75 hours, and the 15-inch MacBook Pro for 17.25 hours. These figures are far beyond the 10 hour ‘wireless browsing’ battery life given by Apple on its official website, for all these models. So what is going on here?

The answer lies in Consumer Reports’ standardised process for checking battery life on all laptops it tests. Here’s a quote from its blog post:

Here’s how our battery test works: We download a series of 10 web pages repeatedly, starting with the battery fully charged, and ending when the laptop shuts down. The web pages are stored on a server in our lab and transmitted over a dedicated WiFi network. We conduct our battery tests using the browser that is native to the computer’s operating system—Safari, in the case of the MacBook Pro laptops.
In comparison, this is the fineprint mentioned at the bottom of Apple’s specifications page of the new MacBook Pros:

“The wireless web test measures battery life by wirelessly browsing 25 popular websites with display brightness set to 12 clicks from bottom, or 75%.”

This sheds some light on why Consumer Reports may have got such vastly high readings – for one, in its blog post, Consumer Reports says that the display brightness is kept at 100 nits. Considering the new MacBook Pros have a maximum screen brightness of 500 nits, that means the brightness would’ve roughly been set to 20 percent, much lower than the 75 percent brightness Apple used for its tests.

 

Next, the discrepancy could also be due to the sites that were chosen to be loaded, as different sites will consume battery in a varying degree. Lastly, in Consumer Reports’ test, the pages were being served by a local server nearby. Since Apple’s testing methodologies are more vaguely defined, it’s likely that its tests are actually fetching those pages from the Internet, not a local server, which could have a little more impact on battery.

But either of these figures aren’t close to what people are experiencing in the real world. Why is that? That’s because in the real world, your mileage may will always vary.

Consumer Reports’ figures aren’t trying to determine what the typical customer will experience in terms of battery life – it’s trying to create a fair test that can help compare battery life across a wide range of laptops from different manufacturers. At Gadgets 360, we do something similar in our reviews – the only difference is that our reviews also include a lot of real world testing, and details about how we used the devices and why.

Lab tests are there to make it fairer to compare figures of different devices. But once you’re actually using the device, the real figures can be hugely different from what a lab test produces, and the rating process as well as consumers need to take this into account.

Here’s one example – battery life figures can vary wildly depending on which browser you use. For example, from personal and anecdotal experience, it is known that Chrome on macOS is not as well-optimised as Safari. As in, you can visibly notice the difference in battery life when using either browsers on a Mac. The same behaviour is exhibited when a Surface Book is tested with Microsoft’s Edge browser, instead of Chrome.

In the real world, people have their own preferences about which Web browsers they prefer. Maybe Mac owners want to use Chrome because they want their browsing history to be synced with Chrome on their smartphone. Maybe they’re compelled to use Chrome because certain extensions aren’t available on Safari. Maybe they want to use Safari instead of Chrome because of features like the Reader mode. Or maybe a Windows 10 user prefers using Microsoft Edge because of the annotation feature. Or maybe they use Firefox.

In the real world, people are probably using more than one browser, more than 25 browser tabs, and a lot more apps that are running background processes, than any simulated test. No wonder real-world usage of any computing device isn’t at par with the lab test figures. Some companies like Apple choose to create simulations that are closer to the real world, while others like LG use a 10-year old battery testing app to claim that their laptop runs for a whopping 23 hours. But none of these figures are going to give you a clear idea of how long it’s going to last for you. Because all of that depends upon what you’re going to do with the computer.