VICTOR sums up the trends that dominated CES 2018

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For normal people, the end of the year is a time for celebration, vacation, and family.

For people in the tech industry, though, it’s a time of frantic preparation for the biggest trade show in the Western Hemisphere: CES.

The Consumer Electronics Show takes place in Las Vegas every January, perfectly timed to drain the joy out of the holidays for 170,000 people. It’s not open to the public — only to members of the industry and the media that covers it.

VICTOR sums up the trends that dominated CES 2018

The purpose of the show is for nearly 4,000 companies to show off what they’re working on. When will these products reach stores shelves? Some of it soon, some of it next year, and lots of it, never.

Every year, everyone wants to know: What was new at CES? The world is hungry for an exciting answer, like, “Oh, there’s this thing called an iPad!” or “They showed this car called a Tesla!”

But every year, there are fewer new breakout inventions; at CES 2018 last week, I’d say there were zero. (In fact, the most talked-about display at CES last week was when the power went out for two hours. At an electronics show. #irony.)

Instead, CES these days is more about the same buzzword, technologies seep into existing products from across the industry, cross fertilizing. This year, six of these seeping technologies were on display — which, for your convenience, I’ve boiled down to a handy acronym: VICTOR.

It stands for voice, Internet of Things, cars, TVs, oddballs, and robots.

Voice

At this point, you probably know that the Amazon Echo is that cylinder that sits in your house and responds to voice commands, kind of like Siri for the home. Google has its own copycat version, called Google Home. These things are incredibly popular — already, they’re in 16% of American homes.

Both Amazon and Google have been aggressively encouraging other companies to build their voice technologies into their own appliances: refrigerators, light switches, lamps, speakers, robo-vacuums, TVs, headphones, security cameras, door locks, washers, dryers, cars, and so on. “Works with Amazon Alexa!” and “Works with OK Google!” signs were everywhere at CES last week.

VICTOR sums up the trends that dominated CES 2018

What’s great is that this isn’t an either/or thing. It’s not another Betamax/VHS war, or a Blu-ray/HD-DVD war. Since Alexa and “OK Google” are just software, there’s nothing to stop them from coexisting in the same product. The Sonos One speaker, Vivitar smart speaker, and new TiVo models, for example, can all understand commands barked in either command language.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things, of course, is the nonsensical name for home devices that are networkable, so that we can control them by pulling out our phones and opening an app. For something that’s supposed to make our lives simpler and easier, that’s too much hassle. Consumers have been staying away in droves.

What may save the “I” in VICTOR is the “V” in VICTOR — voice control. “Alexa, is the dryer done yet?” “Hey Google, make it two degrees warmer in here.” “Alexa, lock the doors.” “OK Google, I want to watch ‘Rambo.’”

That arrangement actually works — and was everywhere at CES 2018. Samsung and LG, among others, demonstrated entire model living rooms and kitchens filled with appliances waiting for your verbal command.

VICTOR sums up the trends that dominated CES 2018

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