Each year at CES, I like to observe the technologies that are close, but not quite yet here. This year, to me, three stood out: flexible displays, perceptual interfaces, and autonomous vehicles. We’re beginning to see some products that implement these technologies to some extent, but mass market use is still a ways away.
Touch screen technology is everywhere, but voice, gesture, and other forms of new interfaces continue to be developing.
At its press conference, Intel spent a lot of time talking about “perceptual computing,” saying it is about “giving the PC the kind of human sense we already have” by adding sensors to bring eyes, ears, voice, touch, and emotional context to the PC. The specific examples weren’t all that new, but they were certainly wide ranging. These included, Nuance’s Dragon Assistant for voice command and control; Sensible Vision’s face recognition software to replace passwords; a perceptual computing development kit introduced with Creative at the last Intel Developer Forum for gesture recognition; and Tobii’s eye-tracking technology, as shown off in a “Where’s Waldo” game in which players find Waldo by moving their eyes.
Intel says these technologies will be coming to more computers this year, and Dell in particular seems to be taking a lead in introducing them.
Meanwhile, on the show floor, there were lots of other demonstrations as well.
Other companies were showing gesture interfaces for televisions. I thought the most interesting was PointGrab, which powers Samsung’s latest generation of smart TVs. The demo showed how you could select items, change settings, and adjust the volume all by moving your hands in certain ways. It seems to work well technically, and I find the concept quite intriguing.
However, many of the demos left me frustrated. The learning curve seems to be pretty steep, and for controlling my TV, I don’t find a traditional remote control to be all that difficult. I suspect that eventually, the combination of gesture and voice can improve the way we interact with TVs and games, but it’s further off from mainstream acceptance than the vendors would have you think.