From vacuum-mounted TVs to outlandish robots: What to expect at CES 2023

Eureka Park exhibitors at CES 2022 (Consumer Technology Association)
Eureka Park exhibitors at CES 2022 (Consumer Technology Association)

For gadget fans, the truly magical time of year is once the Las Vegas Convention Center opens for CES. Previously known as the Consumer Electronics Show, this is the most influential tech event in the world.

The last two shows were mostly virtual due to Covid and sparsely attended but CES 2023 is expected to relaunch with a fancy bang. There will be four humongous halls, each chock-full of show booths, in the Convention Center, plus exclusive previews at nearby hotels and plenty of niche pop-ups all over town.

I’ve been to more CES events than I care to remember – and while it’s easy to become fatigued by the overexcited booth-hosts who screech about their own wares, or the hordes of ‘influencers’ dragging massive wheely-cases through tightly packed crowds to hoover freebies, I find this all part of the charm.

No technophile can resist seeing the future mapped-out, or digging into the avalanche of unlikely new gizmos, such as the smart fork that vibrates to reveal if you are eating a little too quickly (I kid you not). These straight-outta-nowhere bona fide surprises are shards of joy, even if they rarely make primetime.

And then there are the gamechangers – the hot new idea that suddenly makes everything else look old. Sadly, these moments are all-too-rare in our frugal times, it’s more about incremental wins these days. In other words, the modest improvements that aim to move the needle a little without breaking the bank.

Some say CES is overblown but that is the thrill of it. I cannot wait to be surrounded by weird robots and get whisked around town by electric air-taxis while being bombarded with oodles of glorious nonsense.

Here’s my take on what’s likely to blow-up at CES 2023, one category at a time.

Sustainable tech

The premise of greener technology will, rightly, sit at the heart of this year’s event, so long as we ignore the delicious irony of the whole thing being one vast product showcase filled with electricity-guzzling products. Joking aside, most brands talk a good game about being more sustainable these days. Panasonic has some pedigree here and Samsung will undoubtedly be pushing this narrative hard, too.

The question is whether any of these brands can back-up this talk with pragmatic steps, such as greater adoption of recycled materials or making it easier for consumers to keep old products running for longer by allowing them to, say, replace the batteries? This is the difference between meaningful change and er… corporate greenwash. On this, the jury is out – and hopes are not high.

One to watch

I am intrigued to visit LG’s ‘Better Life for All’ exhibition, which promises to showcase how discarded electronic waste is now turned into parts for new products. Every little helps.

Sound and vision

The headline act of every CES has always been TVs and the showfloor will inevitably be dominated by giant screens with swanky tricks. The big marques set out their ideas for the year at CES – and each of Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, LG and Philips has unveiled ground-breaking ideas at previous events.

Sony is predicted to reveal an exotic QD-OLED TV (it’s a new technology which marries the outstanding contrast of an OLED screen with greater brightness-levels). Speaking of which, Panasonic regularly creates exquisite OLED screens and yet, unlike Sony and Samsung, currently has no super-high resolution 8K TVs in its range. Could 2023 be the year that this changes? Don’t bet against it.

Meanwhile, Samsung is highly likely to expand its modular MicroLED screen technology, which can be built into wall-sized flat TVs, albeit for an eye-watering cost.

On the audio front, I anticipate there will be more smart speakers than signs of intelligent life in Vegas and more true-wireless earbuds scattered around its tables than there are roulette chips (well almost). The JBL Tour PRO 2 buds promise us a display screen on the carry case and it could easily be a trend.

One to watch:

Brace yourself for the first truly wireless 55-inch TV. This is made by a startup named Displace and powered by batteries said to last a month between recharges. It’s light enough to be mounted on the wall, held purely by vacuum technology. And there’s no remote: it responds to voice or hand gestures.

The road ahead

As cars evolve into rolling showcases of technology, the automotive presence at CES has grown hugely.

This is where we’re most likely to see moonshots – mind-blowing ideas which are entirely impractical or crazily priced – because the automotive industry will spend money to turn heads (did someone say publicity stunt?)

Last year, BMW grabbed headlines with a whole car covered in E-Ink (pictured) not to resemble a giant Kindle or display adverts but rather to instantly change its colour, from black to white. The same brand has a keynote planned for this CES and I firmly intend to be there.

Getting geeky for a moment (bear with me) the Qualcomm Snapdragon Digital Chassis underpins many of the more exciting features found in smart cars, in much the same way that Windows is at the heart of most PCs. The whole concept is accelerating rapidly and so I’m intrigued to see what’s on this roadmap.

CES often provides off-the-wall automotive tech, such as the car that connects to the local traffic-light system so the driver can see live information about when the next green light is about to go red. The idea was to slow down, knowing that you won’t beat these changing lights, not to frantically speed up. Chances are there will be plenty more ideas at CES 2023 along the lines of where this one hailed from.

One to watch:

Electric performance-car brand Polestar will unveil its new SUV, the Polestar 3, which goes into production in late 2023. This car is on show in the US for the first time, with a demo of the latest driver monitoring technology.

Smarter homes

Plenty of brands will showcase new ways to make domestic lights, TVs, blinds, radiators (or anything else that you can think of) talk to each other directly and save us from this trouble. There will also be renewed focus on how these types of smart-home technologies can save us energy as well as burn it.

LG thinks it has a whole new twist on the hoary old concept of the smart fridge and will proudly unveil a new model with a cool feature called Instaview. When you knock on a door panel, this will briefly turn transparent to reveal what horrors lurk inside the fridge. The premise here is that you don’t let valuable cold air out by opening the door to check if you’ve run out of milk. Perhaps it’s not as daft as it sounds.

One to watch:

The big problem with smart-home gizmos is that few brands are currently willing to play nicely together. The Matter Alliance is a new collective of 220 companies – including, crucially, Amazon, Google and Apple – that is creating a single standard to ensure everything gets simpler. Those in the know say that CES 2023 will be Matter’s coming-out party. If so, it could well be this year’s gamechanger.

Wearables and health

Garmin, the maker of several hugely popular fitness watches, routinely unveils its latest wearable products at CES and it is likely to have another reveal this time.

Japanese brand Omron is talking-up its Going for Zero program which promises to “eliminate’’ heart attacks and strokes. This is based on a blood-pressure monitor with ECG technology designed to detect heart disease early and provide remote patient-monitoring. It is due to be introduced in the UK in 2023.

One to watch:

Withings is well-known for its popular smart scales, sleep trackers and various affordable wearables. The firm is also widely expected to make a big CES announcement – and if any brand can take the idea of predictive health monitoring up to the next level on a modest budget, it’s Withings.