Hardly anyone would be lured to Las Vegas today with a portable radio. 50 years ago, however, when the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) opened its gates for the first time, the portable music receivers were the eye-catchers par excellence. The radio was eventually replaced by television, and now sheer devices with a screen size of several meters and razor-sharp resolution are vying for the favor of customers and journalists.
But the entertainment industry has faced increasing competition at the electronics fair in recent years. Smart home is a key word that will also be used again in 2017 - the complete networking of your own home. Fridges that automatically reorder food or cookers that are controlled by smartphone are almost an old hat. This year you can see things like a smart hairbrush from Withings with app connection, which analyzes the combing process, collects information about hair health and warns of too much pressure.
In addition to one's own four walls, the car is also moving more and more into the focus of the CES from year to year. At the last shows, the focus was on autonomous driving and electromobility - both still take up a lot of space this year. Faraday Future, for example, sends a declaration of war to Tesla with the 1.050 PS strong FF91, which is supposed to sprint to 2,4 in under 100 seconds and cover more than 700 kilometers electrically. And BMW, Audi but also suppliers such as Delphi present the latest development stage of self-driving. However, this is now almost a must. For the freestyle in 2017, the manufacturers go one step further and deal with the question of what can be done with the new freedom in the car. After all, you spend a lot of your life in the car, and if you don't have to constantly look at the road, it should be made as pleasant as possible.
BMW is advancing with a living room-like interior concept that invites you to relax and unwind, and even has a small library on board. At the trade fair, Honda is showing the NeuV electric small car study, which is designed to record and adapt to the driver's mood and feelings - be it through driving recommendations or the right music. Mercedes also tries to make the driver's stay as pleasant as possible. Although the C-Class shown is not yet driving alone, it suggests the expected route when you get in or tries to guess who you want to call next. This is made possible by the ability of cars to learn, which are derived from past experience for the future.
The increasing personalization and even closer networking of smartphones, homes and cars should also contribute to increasing the feel-good atmosphere. Volkswagen, for example, shows how you can log into every VW with your ID and take all your personal settings with you, from the radio station to the ambient light. In this way you can quickly create a familiar environment even in sober rental cars. Ford, on the other hand, brings its own home into the car via Amazon's Alexa service. The car can be used to control lights, music or heating at home using voice commands, and orders can even be placed on Amazon. Conversely, Alexa provides information about the car from the living room, for example the charge status of electric vehicles. And Hyundai has announced that it will soon even be possible to start the engine from the couch, whatever that is good for.
To ensure that passengers can use all of the new functions at all, the manufacturers are working on new operating concepts under high pressure. Classic buttons, a central rotary control or touchscreens have long since passed their zenith, and the gesture control that is just beginning to emerge should soon be able to get used to it. The latest craze is called “hologram technology”: in the BMW study, buttons and switches are projected into the air, so to speak, floating in the air and only need to be touched virtually. In addition, all manufacturers are aware that the abundance of functions must be reduced to a reasonable level.
For this purpose, the Daimler Group is working, for example, on a technology that predicts which buttons and switches will be needed next and only shows the relevant functions. VW tries something similar: The eye tracking technology recognizes where the user is looking and only displays information on a screen when the view falls there. In the future, however, not only the car will be monitored, but the whole driver as well: sensors in the steering wheel measure the pulse, for example, and frequent drivers are to be protected from medical emergencies with a special vest. Such garments could also detect signs of a heart attack and warn the driver or make an emergency call directly. A function that can save lives like the airbag - but hopefully you never need it in practice. (Michael Gebhardt / SP-X)