On the day prior to the official start of CES, the major consumer technology companies hold elaborate press conferences to introduce members of the media to their newest innovations, and provide a taste of what we'll see on the show floor.
Every major company, whether they make home entertainment, mobile, or automotive tech products, highlighted the importance of, and focus on, 5G technology and how it will help bring connected tech together, both inside of the home and out. In addition to discussing new products in core categories like TVs, audio, and home appliances, along with AI and voice integration, and automotive tech, they also focused on interesting new innovations - everything from a home beer brewer to an electric motorcycle.
Here are some highlights.
This year will see even more attention being placed on AI and the ThinQ platform, and video will be a big part of that. At the heart of LG's upcoming innovations is, not surprisingly, 8K OLED. "Since introducing OLED," said Tim Alessi, "LG has continuously improved on the technology. And this year, we're ready to launch the largest OLED TV yet, featuring 88" of screen real estate."
The display boasts more than 33 million self-emitting pixels, the new a9 Gen 2 intelligent processor, and AI capabilities via deep learning for content enhancement and content optimization. For example, it can recognize the quality of the source to determine how much optimization each piece of content requires; and up-mix two-channel audio to deliver a 5.1-channel surround sound experience. It can also automatically adjust brightness levels based on the environment, and optimize sound by recognizing where the TV is placed in a room. Google Assistant will be built into the latest TVs, as it is in the 2018 models. But the latest models will now also come with support for Amazon Alexa, too. They will also feature contextual voice understanding, so you don't have to make repetitive commands - it will understand the contesxt of your question or command. Additionally, 2019 model TVs will have Apple AirPlay.
LG is also rolling out a new LED line-up called the NanoCell TV, featuring AI-enhanced picture and sound, and deep learning as well.
The showstopper, however, was LG's rollable TV, which was first introduced last year, but is finally ready for prime-time. This time, it will presumably actually be on the show floor, and has a marketable name: the LG Signature OLED TV R. When you want to watch TV, it glides out of the housing. But in "zero view" mode, the TV disappears completely, freeing up space in the room for you to interact with guests in a more open space, or enjoy quiet time at home. The housing includes a Dolby Atmos soundbar as well, for listening to music.
LG will also be entering new product categories with its HomeBrew home beer brewing appliance and Styler product for keeping clothes fresh.
Panasonic had a lot to announce at its press conference, but a few of the biggest draws included its first full frame mirrorless camera, the Lumix 6 Series, which will be available at the end of March. It offers 4K resolution at 60 frames-per-second,and has a new high-resolution mode that can take eight consecutive pictures and layer then into a single, clear and concise image.
Its new OLED, the GZ 2000, is designed for those who want, and potentially need, incredibly accurate colour reproduction. Supporting HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, it was tuned by a top Hollywood colorist, and will support the new HLG high-dynamic range photo technology uses in the aforementioned new camera.
Panasonic is also launching the SL-120-0 MK7 direct drive turntable, the HomeX platform for controlling all IoT devices in your home, and the LiveWire electric and cellular-connected motorcycle from Harley Davidson. Scheduled for availability in August starting at US$29,799, the motorcycle can go from 0-60 in under 3.5 seconds, with no clutch to release nor gears to run through. Just flick your wrist and go. It's high voltage battery can run for about 110 miles, based on current estimates. Charge it using the on-board Level c1 charger and power cord, or visit a public Level 3 DC Fast Charge station.
Hisense is becoming a fierce competitor in the television space. The company reportedly sold 660,000 TVs over the Black Friday weekend in the U.S., setting a new record for itself. And, according to NPD Group, Hisense was the fastest-growing of the top six brands, year-over-year in TV dollar sales for the six months ending November 2018. This year marks Hisense's 50th anniversary in business.
"The future of the television business will no longer be about who has the best picture quality or faster processor," said Franjo Bobinac, Vice President, Marketing at Hisense International, but about who brings the best content to those beautiful screens on your living room wall."
Thus, through its Vidaa interface, which is fully customizable, affording access to various streaming services through its TVs. Hisense is partnering with content providers to bring content to its smart TVs, including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Additionally, Hisense has partnered with Android and now Roku to develop TVs with their respective streaming platforms built in.
Hisense also has an expansive line-up of TVs coming later this year, including the H8F ULED (50", 55", and 65"), H9F ULED (55" and 65"), and the premium 75" U9F. All three series offer wide colour gamut, local dimming, a wide viewing angle, Dolby Vision, HDR 10, Google Assistant and Alexa support. The H9F adds more zones and a brighter screen with greater colour thanks to Quantum Dot technology, along with 1,000 nits peak brightness. It boasts a bezel-less design with an edge-to-edge viewing experience. Meanwhile, the U9F, which the company says can compete with "the most premium large-screened TVs," offers over 2,000 nits of brightness. All three series will be available in the Spring.
Hisense also spotlighted is latest laser TV, the Dual Colour Laser TV, which it says has been well-received thus far in market.
Also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Samsung is focused heavily on AI, and integrating the technology across all of its devices with an aim of making everything in the home (and out) connected. More than 70% of U.S. households, notes the company, has at least one Samsung device, and of those, 25% have more than three. (Go ahead: count yours.)
The biggest news from Samsung: iTunes and Apple Airplay 2 integration in its new line of TVs, marking the first time Apple has partnered with a third-party TV manufacturer to integrate its platform. Samsung also highlighted the myriad of ways to control devices from the TV, using Samsung's own Bixby as well as other platforms like Amazon Alexa.
The Samsung Space Monitor elicited plenty of "oohs" and "ahhs" for its unique and functional design. The monitor has an arm that clamps to the desk and stores the display flat against the wall when you aren't using it. Then, pull it forward when you are ready to get to work. Cables are hidden in the arm as to satisfy the particularly design-conscious. The microLED display, which was in the company's booth last year, still impresses. This year, it's being shown in a 75" configuration that is more fitting for the average home versus the massive screen shown in 2018. The set-up combines individual tiles of self-emissive MicroLEDs to produce a single image.
One surprise at the end of Samsung's press conference was the Samsung Bot Care, a robot that can check on your well-being, measuring things like your vital signs (just place your finger on the sensor), sensing emergencies like a fall, and offering fitness information on its screen, like a stretching guide to assist in your at-home workouts.
"We're focused on technology that lets you do more of what you love, and help those whom you love," said Yoon Lee, Senior Vice President, Samsung Electronics America. "That has been our mission for 50 years, and it's going to be our mission for the next 50."
Oddly, Sony's press conference didn't contain a lot of "meat" in the new products department. Rather, there was a lot of talk about content, animation, movies, video games, and more. "We want to enable people to enjoy content at the highest possible quality," said Kenichiro Yoshida, President & CEO.
The only new products mentioned were the new 8K OLED TV series, including the Master Series Z9G LCD, as well as the A9G 4K OLED TVs. To fully appreciate content in all of its 8K glory, the Z9G will come in massive 85" and 98" sizes. The A9G, meanwhile, will come in 55", 65", and 77" iterations.
Attendees were surprised by an appearance my musician and producer Pharrell, who came on stage to discuss a recent trip he took with Sony to Tokyo to learn more about and experience the latest audio technology. To end things off, there was an appearance by Aibo, the super-cute robotic dog. What better way to end Press Day and prepare for the show's commencement?
Stay tuned for more reports from the show floor, and follow us on social media for live coverage.