Artificial intelligence was everywhere at the biggest, buzziest consumer-technology showcase in the U.S.

What’s new: AI ruled the convention floor at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, as numerous media outlets proclaimed. As usual, many products on display were half-baked concepts or solutions looking for problems. (Imagine collecting the training dataset for this cat litter box with scat recognition. On second thought, don’t.) Among the highlights, some were already here, some almost ready, and others still in the lab.

Here: Products currently on the market represent the intersection of practical machine learning and mass-market applications.

  • Comma Two upgrades newer cars with semi-autonomous driving capabilities including accelerating, braking, and lane keeping.
  • OrCam’s Hear pairs with bluetooth hearing aids to help users pick out individual voices in noisy settings.
  • Canon’s Photo Culling plug-in to Adobe’s Lightroom image processing service removes badly focussed and red-eyed photos from image libraries.

Near: Many of the show’s coolest reveals are either coming soon — if all goes well — or available only to deep-pocketed customers.

  • Samsung showed off the prototype Ballie, a rolling, spherical personal assistant that follows users around like a puppy, and SelfieType, which turns any surface into a virtual keyboard.
  • Agricultural kingpin John Deere presented See and Spray, a coming-soon tractor attachment that uses computer vision to target individual weeds with herbicide (raising the question: Is Big Ag an up-and-coming consumer niche?).
  • LG, Samsung, Sony, and just about every other consumer-tech giant debuted AI-enabled 8K televisions that intelligently multiply the number of on-screen pixels on screens bigger than 75 inches. You can buy one today and enjoy better big-screen picture quality, but nobody is making content for them yet.

On the horizon: NEON, a Samsung-backed startup, showed impressively lifelike video imagery of virtual people (shown above). These avatars are meant to be conversational assistants, giving advice on personal fitness, health, or finance, eventually employed in service roles. Their bodies and expressions are based on captured human gestures, with customizable features like eye gaze and eyebrow motion.

We’re thinking: CES 2020 was enthralled by AI. Purveyors of consumer tech must take care, though, to deliver on their promises or risk bringing on hype fatigue.


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