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From Las Vegas: CES 2016 – “Move along humans. Nothing to see here”

January 7th, 2016 |  Published in CES 2016

CES 2016

Eric De Grasse
Chief Technology Officer

Catarina Conti
Media Coordinator


7 January 2015 – The International CES is a global consumer electronics and consumer technology tradeshow that takes place every January in Las Vegas, Nevada. And we are back! This year the show runs from January 6th to January 9th. The show floor does not open until tomorrow but today the show kicks off with a jam-packed schedule of keynotes, events and the official CES opening party.

Oh, and a continuation of the usual corporate strategy of carpet-bombing CES attendees with new announcements. We thought LegalTech was bad. Ha. Those guys are bush league.

The show is simply enormous. Last year was a record breaking year across all fronts: 170,500+ attendees; 6,800+ media journalists covering it; 3,700+ exhibitors over 2.1 million square feet; 145+ countries represented; 20,000+ new product announcements; and 55+ elected Federal and State officials making presentations, plus 24+ Federal government officials.

Oh, and our biggest ever collection of swag 🙂 Our favorite swag event of the year.

CES amplifies the trends that are coming and exposes the ones that are fading. Last year, it was the stage for a spectacular deluge of new wearable devices, spanning the full gamut from a basketball shooting coach to a wrist-worn speaker. There were also bendable TVs, self-driving cars, and Sony’s even more ambitious cloud gaming initiatives.

And CES 2016 looks set to extend the themes of its predecessor into the present year.

Except ….

New themes, new fears, new chats:

1.  Suddenly everything can move itself around without any humans involved.

2. Perhaps the greatest challenge of the algorithm revolution is that as machines and the algorithms that drive them have become ever-more complex, we are rapidly losing our ability to understand how they work and anticipate unexpected behaviors and weaknesses. As one speaker noted “From just 145,000 lines of code to place humans on the moon in 1969 to more than 2 billion lines of code to run Google in 2015, today’s systems are labyrinths of interconnected systems”. Built into these systems are the human values of their developers, the commercial needs of their creators, and the paltry limits of human understanding. Even the most sophisticated of today’s algorithms and artificially intelligent “deep learning” systems are ultimately limited by the imagination and forward thinking of their developers in terms of the inputs they are capable of perceiving and the outputs which they can control.

3. And a fear: these pattern classification systems that machine-learning algorithms rely on may themselves exhibit vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers or other malefactors. One such common vulnerability is that an attacker estimates what data was used to train the machine-learning algorithm and thus is able to manipulate the input data to the algorithm itself.

And the advancements since last year’s show! The drone revolution was already about aircraft that can stabilize themselves with no user input, but this year the best new drones have computer vision systems that can sense their environment and navigate a path while avoiding obstacles autonomously. Intel is showing off robots with RealSense cameras that can wander around your house and recognize different people. And yes, the cars are getting ever and ever closer to eliminating the steering wheel and basically becoming gigantic rolling movie theaters.

As Nilay Patel (the editor-in-chief over at The Verge) noted:

“It’s all the same idea — computers have gotten so small and so powerful that they can move an object around in reality as well or better than a human — and it’s insanely powerful if you imagine the consequences far down the line. Just consider: the fundamental defining capability of the internet is that it reduces the cost and time of transferring information to zero and instant. When I was a kid, you had to deposit money in a bank by collecting paper in the form of checks or cash and physically take that paper to a bank teller. The internet means that I haven’t been to an actual bank in over a year; the information is just transferred instantly. The essential experience of music and movies used to be purchasing physical media and transferring it from playback device to playback device, but now we just use Spotify and YouTube. Information goes everywhere instantly for zero cost, no humans involved”.


So what happens when the robots reduce the cost and time of moving physical objects to not a lot and pretty fast? When a huge variety of autonomous vehicles in every shape and size from tiny drone to semi truck can be sent off to deliver things without having to slow down or take naps or feel inconvenienced? What does an already globalized culture look like when it’s not just information that can travel instantly, but actual things that can spread across the city and state and world faster and cheaper than ever?

We already know some answers: software-driven advances in logistics and warehousing are behind seemingly-simple things like Amazon’s ultrafast shipping, and services like Instacart and Uber have taught users to expect real-world results from pushing a smartphone button — even if they’re filling in the gaps with other humans for now. The goal is to automate everything, and the first step is teaching the machines to move around.

Patel again:

“The machines are fast learners, it turns out. What happens when they have nothing left to learn?”



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