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Cars, robots expected to star at CES 2017

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 02-01-2017 Jefferson Graham

LOS ANGELES — One of the biggest tech hits of 2016 was a talking kitchen speaker from Amazon that could play music, tell you the time and weather, and buy things online for you.

So should it be a surprise that the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week will showcase many sons and daughters of Alexa?

The twist? New robots on display at the world's largest trade show in 2017 will have legs and virtual eyes, move around the house, and perhaps have even more smarts than Alexa, which sold out at Christmas.  

Robots are expected to be a huge trend at CES, which kicks off Tuesday with more than 25 exhibitors showcasing home personal assistants. (The trade show floor opens Thursday, but the action begins earlier.)

“You’re seeing a lot of companies taking advantage of the technologies that have been made cheaper by smartphones and video games,” says Kaijen Hsiao, chief technology officer for Mayfield Robotics, which will debut a new home robot at CES.

Society has come a long way from Rosie, the personal robot in the 1960s era sci-fi cartoon The Jetsons.

“We can now finally have the robots of our dreams,” Hsiao says.

What the companies look to improve upon Alexa is “bringing personality” to the robot, says Steve Crowe, managing editor for news site Robotics Trends. “Part of the problem in-home robots have is that people don’t get attached to them because there’s no personal connection.”

Look for robots in all shapes and sizes at CES--even tech giant LG will have one at CES as well.

Companies come to the show to make a splash with investors, the press and other customers. Some make it, most won't, but perhaps a handful of these robots will show up sometime in 2017 at a store near you. 

Elsewhere at CES, look for innovations in:

Cars. Many of the top auto manufacturers, including Nissan, Honda and Hyundai, will be at CES showing off new forms of intelligence and driverless technology along with products that make the cars smarter, says Tim Bajarin, president of market researcher Creative Strategies.

“The car is now the biggest connected device we own,” he says. “Manufacturers use CES to make a statement,” to tech dealers, government and auto dealers, he adds.

TVs: As with past CES shows, TVs will dominate in a big way. They’re the largest product category on display and dominate many of the booths, especially ones named Sony, Samsung, LG and TCL.

The past few years have given us higher-resolution 4K TVs, and CES 2016 showed one example of an 8K TV with even richer colors. Next week, we’ll see many more 8K models, says Bajarin, as the industry looks to move consumers to 8K by 2020 for the Tokyo Olympics. (As with the first 4K sets, expect to pay a hefty premium at first for the increased resolution.)

You’ll also see a rerun of many of the top product categories from last year’s CES again, including consumer and industry drones, virtual-reality headsets and 360=degree cameras — perhaps at lower prices and more user-friendly. 

The biggest products of 2016 — iPhone 7, Microsoft Surface Book and Google Pixel, among others — weren’t introduced at CES, but at separate events by Apple, Microsoft and Google.

Still, CES matters, because “it’s the one place you can go and see everything that’s out there,” says Jan Dawson, an analyst with Jackdaw Research. “There are some exceptions, but it’s a great way to take the pulse of the industry.”

The coming CES will celebrate It’s 50th. CES started in 1967 as a showplace for new radios, TVs and phonograph players, attracting 17,000 people in 100,000 square feet of exhibit space.

In 2017, Consumer Technology Association CEO Gary Shapiro expects around 175,000 people, in a monster show with 2.5 million square feet of space and 3,800 exhibitors.

“We’ve really grown,” he says.

USA TODAY and sister publication Reviewed.com will be covering CES 2017. Stick with us for the latest updates.

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