This year's Consumer Electronics Show may have only started yesterday but the following several days of the happening are mostly reserved for the general public, whereas members of the media already saw the vast majority of what the technology industry had to demo in Las Vegas, Nevada. So, while the event is technically running until Friday, surprises are extremely unlikely at this point and taking a look at the larger picture is already quite possible, which is exactly what the following is all about. Without further ado, below you'll find the top five tech trends and takeways from CES 2019, listed in no particular order of impressiveness or annoyingness.
5G: the wireless upgrade "no one" asked for is here
LTE, also known as the "real" 4G, is arguably the first wireless generation consumers deemed good enough for pretty much everything from streaming high-resolution videos to updating apps on the go in a seamless manner and turning their smartphones and tablets into perfectly viable hotspots when needed. To say literally no one asked for 5G would be an exaggeration but given how the basis for this technology lies in the millimeter-wave spectrum that's notoriously difficult to use and was primarily chosen for 5G because it was free (as no one dared touch it), the upcoming network upgrade is bound to be a painful affair for anyone hoping to leverage 5G over the course of the next year. The main point that wireless carriers and device makers wanted to make at the latest iteration of CES is that this lengthy and troublesome deployment is really going to be worth it since it will enable countless new technologies, create millions of jobs, and ultimately boost the global economy by having everything from microwaves and trashcans to car tires and your mother-in-law communicate with the World Wide Web. However, even if the industry eventually comes good on all of those promises — and there's a good chance it does — anyone apart from the most hardcore bleeding-tech aficionados is seriously advised to steer clear from the first wave of 5G smartphones, Android or otherwise.
AI is becoming more prevalent, for better or worse
Artificial intelligence assistants already proved they're not a fad and smart speakers have been part of many consumers' everyday lives for several years now but as the voice companion race heats up, the likes of Amazon and Google are becoming more aggressive to get these solutions into everything using electricity. And while gadgets such as speakers, television sets, and RGB lightbulbs are already able to offer more meaningful experiences and useful functionalities by combining their conventional hardware and software with AI, it remains to be seen whether things such as mirrors, bath fillers, and refrigerators are truly that much better when paired with voice assistants. Sure enough, the tech industry currently appears to be adamant to infuse every possible appliance with a digital helper or five but while AI-optimized software can certainly facilitate resource management and be beneficial in other ways, many will be skeptical about concepts such as speaker-equipped toilets with Alexa support priced at $7,000, which is what this year's edition of CES was largely about, at least from a smart-home perspective.
8K is the new home entertainment standard you can't afford
It's been seven years since first 8K TV prototypes started appearing at CES and while it seems this standard is now finally ready to be commercialized in mass-produced product lineups, with the likes of Sony, LG, and TCL all pledging to do so in 2019, don't expect such devices to become affordable anytime soon. Pricing was not so much as hinted at as part of this week's 8K TV announcements in Las Vegas, which is a really good indication that these upcoming television sets will be aimed at consumers who aren't concerned with price tags like regular mortals are. On the bright side, you probably won't be missing out on much if you don't get an 8K TV this year or the next given how even the 4K ecosystem is still somewhat thin on quality content and this resolution has been part of the home entertainment mainstream for several years now. Those who really insist on splashing too much money on a large cutting-edge display in 2019 will probably be better off with LG's first consumer-grade rollable TV that's set to be released in a matter of months.
Investors still can't resist good vaporware
Crowdfunding enabled some truly remarkable scams over the years, with names such as iBackPack, Elio Motors Scooter, and Triton Gills being equally infamous and hilarious nowadays. However, that isn't to say traditional investors can still resist good vaporware, the kind of products they find extremely original and innovative, asking themselves "why didn't anyone think of that before?" However, the real question with such tech is "why didn't anyone think of that before?" As is tradition, CES 2019 saw a wide variety of bizarre and outright crazy gadgets such as smart diapers, toy robots whose sole purpose is to ask you to cuddle, walking cars, and headgear meant to train your brain to produce neural wave patterns intended to help you sleep better. One look at all that weirdness tells most people all they need to know about its commercial potential but the fact that all of it was already prototyped and many CES booths were paid for suggests someone somewhere couldn't resist that slim chance of being an early investor into the next big thing in the tech industry, assuming they're also not the one who invented it. Yes, they should have probably just bought a lottery ticket instead.
Driverless cars remain far from a commercial reality
The Silicon Valley has been talking about driverless cars for many years now but they remain far from a commercial reality, both due to the fact legislators are slower than tectonic plates when it comes to drafting and enacting new regulations for emerging industries and because the technology is just not there yet. Naturally, that doesn't stop anyone from talking about it like we're all about to start riding to work in intelligent levitating capsules tomorrow, which is how the automotive industry's CES 2019 agenda can be summed up. There's little doubt that self-driving vehicles will be a game-changer when they actually become available to consumers on a significant scale but the game will certainly stay the same for quite a while yet.