CES 2018: 11 things we learnt from the world's biggest gadget show

Love gadgets? Lack time? Then read this speedy guide to the 11 tech trends coming your way this year

Many of CES 2018’s announcements were about saving you time, and making the most of the time you have. In other words, you’ll be dead soon, and so it’s imperative you watch films on a screen as big as a wall, and have AI assist your every waking second.

Don’t worry if you’ve arrived here in a panic, desperate to know everything that happened at CES 2018. This list will fill you in on the trends that will shape tech for years to come.

VR is ready to break free

HTC prepped for a Ready Player One future, where everyone lives inside a VR experience (hopefully without all the dystopia). Its Vive Pro ramps up the resolution to 2880x1600, which proves transformative for clarity and quality.

But it’s mainstream-friendly, too – comfortable, and optionally wires-free. It probably won’t be wallet-friendly, though, since it’s likely to cost over a grand.

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The robots are (actually) coming

One of the biggest lies science fiction told was we’d see loads of robots ambling about. Instead, AIs mostly live inside geometric consumer tech. But at CES 2018, robots made something of a comeback.

They’re still limited in scope, but only a fool would give up the chance to own a Winbot (a slick combination of Spider-Man, Roomba, and window cleaner), and Sony’s reborn (if google-eyed) Aibo.

The smart home is still a mess…

It’s an exciting mess, but a mess all the same. We’ve got companies using a mishmash of platforms, and bet-hedging regarding a winner. Automation seems a distant dream, and there’s squabbling over services.

The notion of being able to blithely mumble a command and have your home do your every bidding – without fuss, a ton of set-up, and regular headaches – remains science fiction for now.

… But Alexa’s out in front (and Google’s gaining fast)

Stuff has been in this game too long to ramp up hyperbole about Apple being doomed, and races being won when they’ve barely started. Even so, as a barometer of Apple’s influence in the home, CES 2018 was an eye-opener.

Amazon’s Alexa is the smart-tech glue in the lead, but Google Assistant is quickly gaining ground. Apple’s seemingly idling on the sidelines.

Headphones just want to help

At CES 2018, headphones wanted to be more than just about pumping music into your noggin. There were weird earphones infused with AI and that don’t block the outside world, so you won’t walk into a lamppost, having been engrossed in a podcast and ignored someone yelling “mind that lamppost, you idiot”.

Then there are ones you can rinse sweat off of after a workout, and even cans that double as ear muffs. Toasty!

Wireless charging has gone mainstream

Swing a cat about CES 2018 and it’d get several cracks about the head on any number of wireless charging pads, before getting really angry and clawing your face off.

No longer a niche, this tech has now gone properly mainstream, in part thanks to Apple adopting Qi rather than rolling its own solution. Although, as wags note, the pads themselves still need plugging in.

There’s a drone for every home

Cheap drones aren’t new, but cheap good drones? CES 2018 may mark the point quality drones buzzed their way into the mainstream.

Ryze’s Tello was the most overt consumer land-grab, using DJI and Intel tech, but clocking in at just £99. But even Yuneec’s super-fast HD racer is only £160, and can shoot 1080p video at 60fps. At this rate, we’ll soon be taping a free drone to the front cover of Stuff.

TV’s future is the (really) big screen

CES 2018 was ‘more of the same, but a bit better’ in telly land, bar LG’s rollable OLED. Flagship TVs were mostly minor upgrades, sometimes with less wallet-busting price-tags.

But Samsung showcased the future with its microLED tech. Because this does away with the need for a dedicated backlight, Samsung was able to build a screen to any size – and it did. Suitably named ‘The Wall’, its display was a 146-inch behemoth.

We’re not sure sitting six feet back is going to cut it any more.

Wearables want to be invisible

Wearables are often equated with smart watches, but are really about tech wanting to disappear.

At CES 2018, you could see this in smart specs, and the Sgnl wristband having you make a call by jabbing a finger into an ear like a rubbish mime. Even better, L’Oreal’s UV Sense is a raindrop-sized wearable that alerts you to slap on sunscreen rather than get all crispy.

Smartphones are now a bit of a yawn…

Perhaps Apple had the right idea in taking a chunk out of the top of its supposedly all-screen display. At least its smartphone looks distinctive again. But at CES 2018, it was hard to get excited about smartphones.

Yes, we saw loads that were shinier, thinner, snappier, and, um, mid-rangier, but it would be hard to call any of them revolutionary. Perhaps those ones will be following the Samsung Galaxy S9's lead and arriving at MWC 2018.

… But tech still has a bonkers side

Fortunately, CES 2018 still showcased the tech industry’s desire to create things other than black rectangles. There was Toyota’s autonomous vehicle-cum-miniature restaurant/hotel, and the FoldiMate, which folds dozens of shirts in minutes while looking like an industrial photocopier.

The standouts, though, were the Somnox sleep robot (above) and the Numi luxury toilet with its built-in speaker and Echo support – because the future involves your home lacking a single place where Alexa will leave you in peace.