The dawn of down-to-earth AI: Smart tech we’ll see at CES 2018

December 12, 2017 Yair Siegel, CEVA

For the past few years, devices and services powered by artificial intelligence have been the most popular and interesting items at tech shows around the globe. This will surely be true in 2018, but there is already a noticeable shift in the market. First, mainstream consumer products are increasingly integrating AI, and not just high-end, premium products. Second, many of these products have intelligence built into the edge device, instead of relying on the cloud. These trends are improving accessibility, privacy, and effectivity of intelligent applications, making them more widely adopted. With the world’s biggest consumer electronics and technology trade show right around the corner, here’s a look at the innovative and interesting products that will garner attention this year, and the technology that enables them.

The power of 3D vision: from a companion robot to a deconstructed DSLR camera

Buddy is a robotic home assistant that can navigate around the home, named the CES best of innovation award honoree in robotics and drones category. The robot is equipped with 3D vision and multiple sensors enabling it to assist, teach, entertain and connect users, as well as surveil the home when no one is there.

Buddy's embedded hardware enables multiple modes of navigation (Source: Blue Frog Robotics)

The technologies that enable Buddy’s navigational skills are real time mapping and localization, autonomous collision and obstacle avoidance, and remote control from the user’s smartphone screen. The robot has exciting potential to learn new skills, since the SDK and most of the software are open source, allowing anyone interested to develop apps and skills. While Amazon’s Alexa and other virtual assistants are just beginning to use screens and cameras to add functionality, this robot might be the next step forward.

Another winner in the smart cities category is AR4x by Amaryllo. This camera robot uses embedded AI to recognize human faces and other objects and react accordingly, whether it’s to unlock the door for a familiar face or alert for potential intruders. It features 1080p resolution, and night vision capabilities, and receives its power over ethernet, which enables simple installation and requires the device to consume limited power.

Flattening the DSLR camera with multiple small lenses and computational photography (Source: Light.co)

The quality of smartphone photography has been improving enormously lately, much of it due to computational photography, deep learning and dual-cameras integrated in new models. The company Light took these technologies to the next level in their L16 camera, honoree of the CES best of innovations in digital imaging. Instead of using a big lens and sensor like a DSLR camera, or settling for one or two small cameras included in most smartphones, the company uses an array of 16 small camera modules, each equipped with a lens, sensor and mirror.

For each picture taken with the camera, at least ten different modules capture the same image from slightly different angles with different focal lengths. The camera then uses intelligent processing to stitch together all the images into one high-resolution image. By calculating the slight differences in each picture and the angles of the lenses, a depth map is created for the captured scene. This 3D info enables many post-processing capabilities, like changing the focal depth of field. The result is a deconstructed DSLR camera rebuilt into the pocketable shape of a smartphone, trying to get the best of both worlds.

Semi-autonomous cars are coming to the masses via efficient sensors and processors

With Tesla’s price tags, there’s a limited group of people that can enjoy the safety and convenience of their Autopilot features. Nissan, however, is opting for a mass-market approach by offering their ProPilot technology on their highest-volume and not their most expensive models. In 2018, the Leaf EV, which was the CES Best of Innovation award winner for vehicle intelligence and self-driving technology, and the Rogue compact SUV will be available for purchase with ProPilot.

The ProPilot technology uses a combination of sensors, including vision and radar, to enable intelligent cruise control and lane-keep assist in single-lane highway driving. The control module can steer when clear lane markers are visible, but the driver’s hands must be on the wheel for the system to operate.

Nissan's integration of ProPilot Assist in top-selling models takes semi-autonomous features to the mainstream (Source: Nissan)

Smart sounds: personalized immersive audio and simultaneous in-ear translation

There is a lot of interesting things about the best of innovation honoree in the headphones category, the nuraphone. They look like over-ear headphones, but inside the cans there are silicon earbuds that fit into the user’s ear canal. This design is effective for passive noise isolation and it allows the melody to directly enter the ear while the bass line comes through the skin using haptic sense technology. These features are meant to produce a highly immersive listening experience, like a live performance.

Interesting combination of over-ear cans and in-ear buds to deliver immersive audio (Source: Nuraphone)

Another unique feature of the Nuraphone is that they learn and adapt to each user’s unique hearing. When first used, the headphones play certain frequencies which cause the user’s ears to generate a subsonic sound from the cochlea called otoacoustic emission (OAE). A very sensitive microphone listens to the OAE, and a built-in self-learning engine decodes the information of how the sounds were perceived and creates a personalized hearing profile.

The headphones are very innovative, but there are many more exciting technologies that can be integrated into this type of device. Many new smart earbuds and hearables include active noise cancellation, voice activation and even augmented sound reality. An example of some of these features can be found in the other honoree in the headphones category, the Mars earbuds. These are truly wireless stereo earbuds that allow real-time translation of ten languages without connecting to any external device.

One of the biggest challenges is packing all these features together with a battery that can last an entire day. This requires ultra-low-power microphones and processors as well as adaptation of a standard for streaming audio over Bluetooth low energy (BLE).

See you at CES 2018

There will be many more exciting technologies and products at CES. We’re sure to see impressive AR/VR tech, drones and more. But the award-winning products mentioned here are telling signs that AI, machine learning and sophisticated algorithms are coming to everyday situations that most people will find useful. Many of these devices run on small batteries or other limited power sources, making energy efficiency one of the key factors in determining how well these devices will function, and how often they’ll need to be charged. As these all technologies advance, we’ll see the integration of more cameras, more sensors, and more microphones in these types of products, power consumption will become even more significant. With some efficient, low-power processing to enable this tech, the opportunities are limitless.

Come visit us at CES! We’ll be at suite No. 2938 in the Westgate Las Vegas central tower.

Yair Siegel is Director of Segment Marketing at CEVA.

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