This past week, some of the world’s most innovative, influential, and forward-thinking technology companies showcased their latest developments at the Consumer Electronics Show 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
With more than 180,000 attendees and 4,000+ exhibitors, CES is one of the largest tech shows in the world—which also means it’s a prime place for companies to unveil their newest concepts, gadgets, devices, ideas, and prototypes to try to wow us all.
Here at Ceramic Tech Today, we normally report on the action from afar. But this year, I had a chance to explore the show floor in person. And, as a first timer, I must say—the sheer volume of everything at CES is dizzying.
As far at tech goes, CES has it all—from totally useful to completely impractical, from low tech to extravagantly engineered, from affordable to exorbitant, from real science to pseudoscience, from startups to multimillion-dollar corporations. It’s all there at CES. Including a 250-drone light show over the Bellagio fountains.
One of the biggest trends on the 2018 show floor was, not surprisingly, that nearly everything is connected—whether the insole of your shoe, your ukele, or nearly any aspect of your home. Any task that can be automated probably already is, and nearly anything that you’d want—or not want—to connect to voice assistance probably does. And that includes your toilet.
CES contained so much technology designed to take the daily routine out of our daily routines—from devices that feed your cat to robots that fold your laundry. There were also plenty of familiar technologies on hand, such as smart speakers, connected appliances, and nearly every type of wearable device imaginable.
As someone concerned about my skin’s sun exposure, one of my favorite wearable devices at CES 2018 was UV Sense, a UV exposure monitor developed by cosmetic company L’Oreal in conjunction with academic researchers led by Northwestern University’s John Rogers.
The sensor is tiny—smaller than an M&M—yet contains a highly accurate dosimeter that, when stuck to somewhere like your fingernail, can track your exposure to the sun’s UV rays. The tiny wearable has no moving parts and needs no power source, and it can be read simply by scanning with a smartphone. The sensor is actually being used in clinical trials for individuals at risk for melanoma, with initial field pilot studies that just began in December.
In addition to wearables connecting our health and wellness with digital data, nearly every aspect of your home can now be connected, too, from smart locks and security monitoring systems to sensors, meters, and trackers that assess water flow, energy use, furnace air filter performance, and more. Tech is infiltrating everything in our homes, from indoors gardens to home brews, making the domicile just one of many data-rich centers of our lives.
And no matter what your sport, hobby, and interest, there was something at CES 2018 that can enhance your performance, or at least claim to.
There was even tech on hand to enhance learning, including a program to teach kids how to code and an initiative called Beauty and the Bolt that focuses on supporting diversity in science and engineering—a mission familiar to us at ACerS.
Beauty and the Bolt aims to facilitate creativity and diversity in science by helping to dispel myths and stereotypes about science and scientists. The female host of videos on Beauty and the Bolt’s YouTube channel, Xyla, teaches science concepts, provides tutorials on tool use, and demonstrates how to complete maker projects.
TVs are a big tech focus at CES, and this year, Samsung’s new 146-inch TV—named simply The Wall—is getting a lot of attention. While last year’s big buzz was LG’s super-thin OLED screen (this year, LG also wowed with its roll-up OLED TV), this year Samsung’s new innovation ditches existing TV tech and instead focuses on micro-LED technology. Micro-LEDs are precisely what they sound like, but in addition to improved performance over OLED technologies, the interesting thing to me is the material they use to do so—gallium nitride. While commercial micro-LED TVs may be off in the distant future, the potential of this tech could mean big things for this ceramic material.
Of course, ceramic and glass materials were pervasively present in the tech on the CES 2018 show floor, although most companies weren’t focused on the materials themselves.
There were exceptions, however. I met some of the guys working at Kwambio, a company that specializes in 3-D printing user-designed ceramic products. Kwambio just developed their own in-house 3-D printer, called Ceramo One, after several years of development. Kwambio says its binder jet ceramic printer serves the arts, design, aerospace, energy, healthcare, and defense industries through its ability to additively manufacture a variety of ceramic materials for both printed objects and industrial molds. The company is now accepting preorders for Ceramo One, which will ship in the summertime.
Another company launched an innovative additive manufacturing device at CES as well, although this one isn’t a 3-D printer—it’s a additive manufacturing center, according to the company. Airwolf 3D says that its device, Evo, is so advanced that it’s beyond 3-D printers currently on the market. Despite its low cost, Evo can work with metals and has features that bypass some of the problems with current desktop 3-D printers, including auto leveling, large build size, and high-temp multimaterial printing.