AI is the star of CES 2024 in Las Vegas as the technology goes beyond its software roots to become an integral part of electronic hardware across a myriad of devices. The integration of AI into hardware ranges from mundane devices focused on pet care to CES staples like television to cute robots and desktop companions straight out of science fiction.
To be sure, while AI is the buzzword at CES, the degree of hype attached to two letters may be high and variable in its application. And the addition of AI into hardware is no guarantee of success. The much ballyhooed Humane AI Pin introduced just a few months ago is on the list of MIT’s 2023 list of failed technologies.
Samsung is the heavy hitter at CES and the giant Korean electronics maker set the tone under an “AI For All” banner that envisions AI in just about every device in its portfolio, all with the ability to “hyperconnect” with each other. Samsung is keen to get an AI buzz going as its profits for the last three months of 2023 fell by more than a third as chip prices wane and demand for consumer electronics products remains weak following a pandemic splurge by buyers.
Samsung unveiled numerous AI initiatives, led by Ballie, a rolling robot upgraded since its first 2020 appearance to become an AI companion. Looking like an extra from a Star Wars film, the aptly named round Ballie can interact with other smart devices and project images and video onto walls or ceilings better than R2D2. While Ballie puts a friendly face on AI, other AI tech may be of equal significance. These include:
–Spatial AI that would allow devices like robot vacuums to create digital floor plans of a home using lidar. Smart sensors and AI will be able to detect unusual events like a senior’s fall and issue an alert or monitor pets using special tags,
–a Bixby voice assistant that uses AI to automatically route commands to the appropriate connected SmartThings device based on the user’s location so a requested action is only performed on only the most relevant device thanks to a shared communications protocol. That shared communications link will include the car under an agreement reached with auto maker Hyundai,
–Recognizing the importance of AI security, Samsung’s Knox Matrix and Knox Vault now allows Samsung devices to monitor each other to identify security threats and isolate the compromised device;
–An AI link employing Microsoft’s Copilot that allows Samsung’s Galaxy 4 laptop to operate seamlessly with Galaxy smartphones.
Television has long been a staple of CES, and AI’s integration into TV is closely watched. AI for TV isn’t necessarily a synonym for ChatGPT-style tech. In TV land, it may describe a new type of processor like that found in LG’s new line of Signature OLED models. In this instance, LG’s Alpha 11 AI processor is used to enhance picture and audio quality, including an alleged ability “to best convey the mood and emotional elements intended by filmmakers.”
Perhaps predictably, some cinephiles are resistant, a sentiment best summarized by one reviewer: “We bought the TV. We shouldn’t let AI hold the remote.” On the other hand, the AI chip promises virtual surround sound and works to separate vocals from soundtracks to enhance dialogue, an issue that has prompted legions of viewers to watch TV with subtitles permanently on. Samsung also is including a similar AI processor in its new 8K OLED TV so expect AI TV processors to be ubiquitous going forward.
While Samsung’s AI foray will garner the most attention, the number of other companies using AI to enhance their products is enormous. One of the most forward-looking is Wehead GPT, which puts a face to AI-generated people for what the company calls more natural interactions that includes non-verbal communication. Wehead, a tabletop companion, includes a motorized neck and spatial voice recognition that helps it become a “personified version of the internet” that can be altered to suit a user’s tastes. List price is $4950 with a $199 per month subscription.
Not all AI is focused on people, however. Among the AI tech keeping an eye on the non-humans in our lives is Flappie, a cat door that uses AI to detect any attempts by your cat to bring dead animals into the house.
On the rolling hardware front, Volkswagen says its existing voice assistant will work with ChatGPT across a range of its new models. This follows the lead of Mercedes Benz which announced a similar capability in June. AI also is working its way into automotive infrastructure. LG, for example, will use AI to manage its new line of EV chargers.
Computer makers and chip makers like NVidia, meanwhile, are teasing the world to prepare for AI PCs in 2024, although the definition of such is a bit amorphous at this stage. “AI-ready” is a buzzword of its own. Still, if there is one product that symbolizes the ascendancy of AI into the hardware realm, it’s the addition of an AI key to Microsoft’s computer keyboard, the first change since 1994.