CES 2023: A new ‘metaverse’ headset gets early buzz as AI, augmented reality and car tech look to make a splash

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LAS VEGAS — The annual tech event known as CES returns to semi-normal status here this week, with an emphasis on virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, car tech and the ubiquitous hi-def displays.

But what the tech industry is looking for above all else is a much-needed jolt of disruption after a brutal end to a year marred by the evisceration of tech stocks, the collapse of crypto platform FTX, a malingering “metaverse,” a sputtering streaming market and a general creative malaise.

“It’s time for tech to get up and make a statement,” Gary Shapiro, chief executive of the Consumer Technology Association, told MarketWatch. The association runs CES.

Opinion: One question looms about where tech stocks go now, after one of their worst years on record

Following a couple of quiet years due to COVID-19 restrictions — including an all-virtual edition in 2021 — the tech industry’s signature event kicks off for media on Wednesday with a slew of product announcements from Sony Group Corp. and LG Corp. as well as keynote speeches from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Chief Executive Lisa Su and BMW Chairman Oliver Zipse. The CEOs of Deere & Co. and Delta Air Lines Inc. are scheduled to speak Thursday, when the show opens to all.

CES organizers expect 100,000 people to attend, compared with 44,000 a year ago. Prepandemic, show attendance was normally in the range of 150,000 to 182,000.

Read more: CES organizers aim for attendance to more than double as ‘major companies want the physical connection’

Absent the bold-faced names of previous CES shows, such as Microsoft Corp.’s then-CEO Bill Gates and Intel Corp.’s former CEOs, organizers are banking on high-impact product announcements. One possibility is HTC Corp.’s new $1,300 Vive Focus 3 headset, which will make a play for “metaverse” users before the anticipated launch of Apple Inc.’s headset later this year.

“Vive is a solid offering but will not spark a sudden rush to metaverse applications,” Gartner analyst Darin Stewart told MarketWatch. “It is a validation of efforts in the overall market among those who have drunk the Kool-Aid,” he said, while cautioning that ultimately, Apple will drive consumer sales while Microsoft drives the enterprise side of augmented- and virtual-reality efforts.

“In the long span, the metaverse will be a major substitute for in-person conventions like CES,” said Jun Nishiguchi, CEO of Toraru, a Japanese company developing its own metaverse.

Artificial intelligence has generated plenty of buzz in the industry, especially in the form of automated tools used by companies to help contain costs while maintaining customer service. Gartner forecast that worldwide revenue for AI-enabled virtual assistants will reach $7.1 billion for 2022, up about 15% over 2021. It remains to be seen how much of the hottest tech trend — generative artificial-intelligence apps like ChatGPT — will be showcased on the show floor.

In-depth: ChatGPT is called ‘an iPhone moment in AI,’ but will it make money like the iPhone?

Electric vehicles, seemingly stuck in neutral for a few years, got a possible nudge on Tuesday when Nvidia Corp.  announced it will produce electronic control units for EVs manufactured by Foxconn The partnership centers on Nvidia’s Drive Orin system on a chip, the central computer for intelligent vehicles.

Worldwide EV shipments will reach 6.3 million units for 2022, a 34% increase over 2021, according to Gartner.

The annual design wizardry from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. comes this year in the form of the Flex Hybrid, a new prototype smart mobile device with a display that’s foldable and slideable. The prototype, which builds on the same concepts that Samsung used on its foldable phones, can expand from a 10.5-inch 4:3 display to a 12.4-inch screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio.

Among the more mundane news, Intel introduced its 13th-generation mobile processor, which it claims is the “world’s fastest mobile processor.”

Then there are potential outside-the-box surprises in crop-management technology from Deere and a healthcare app called i-Virtual that can determine vital signs such as heart rate, breathing rate and stress level based on facial recognition, according to Gartner analyst Erick Brethenoux.

The same goes for dog collars: An AI tool from Invoxia of France helps owners monitor the vital signs and GPS of their favorite pets.


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