The Best of CES 2016: Day 3

The Best of CES 2016: Day 3

For Day 3 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), I concentrated on the North and some of the backroom meetings. The North hall holds most of the automotive tech, while the hotel suites and ballrooms are where most of the technology companies show off their wares.

Much of the technology on display was forward-looking, some of it more “forward” than others. Faraday Future’s FFZERO1 electric concept car (Fig. 1) had a lot of buzz, but was more of a shell than an operational prototype.

1. Faraday Future’s FFZERO1 concept car looks slick, but this one is not yet drivable.

The Faraday Future was not the only forward-looking display at CES, though. Toyota said it will invest $1 billion in the Toyota Research Institute, which will focus on studying artificial intelligence to help lead to safer and more advanced vehicles. It will initially have laboratories near Stanford University and M.I.T.

The Toyota demo (Fig. 2) had multiple, self-driving vehicles that used distributed, shared, machine-learning techniques. The cars communicated with each other wirelessly, providing learned information to each other. 

2. Toyota’s artificial-intelligence demo had multiple model cars in motion.

A closer look at the cars reveals a two-wheel robot with a car-like body. The four wheels on the body do not move. This allows the cars to turn more sharply and greatly simplifies the models; however, that shouldn’t detract from the complexity of the demo.

QNX was showing its latest advanced automotive platform. QNX systems are already found inside many high-end automotive solutions today, but this platform targets advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and self-driving cars. The company also unveiled some audio technology that will likely find its way into automobiles sooner than the platform. The technology coordinates multiple microphones and speakers spaced around the interior of a car as highlighted by an on-screen representation (Fig. 3).

3. The on-screen representation of QNX’s audio technology allows a driver to hear a speaker in the back of the vehicle even in a very noisy environment.

QNX’s audio technology allows a driver to hear a speaker in the back of the vehicle even in a very noisy environment. It works in the other direction as well, so no one has to turn their head around or shout to be heard. It was quite an impressive demo that’s not easily replicated with photos. This combination of noise cancellation and speaker management also might be showing up a lot sooner than a self-driving car.

Some of the behind-the-scenes meetings were as interesting as the technology on the floor. One neat gadget you can get now comes from Texas Instruments. The DLP NIRscan Nano module (Fig. 4) is a compact, handheld spectrometer. It uses DLP technology to focus the light reflected off a sample to a single, low-cost sensor, offering a cost-effective alternative to the more complicated InGaAs linear array-based detector designs found on larger, more expensive devices.

4. Texas Instruments’ DLP NIRscan Nano, which can lie at the heart of a handheld spectrometer for mobile lab measurements, is even able to detect the type of chocolate when it’s placed on the sensor.

In the demo, the $999 module (the DLP NIRscan is $8499) was used to detect the type of chocolate placed on the sensor—the determining factor was the sugar content. Of course, the spectrometer can detect much more than sugar content. The system is optimized for a 900- to 1700-nm wavelength range, features an impressive 6,000:1 signal-to-noise ratio. The module, based on a DLPC150 DMD controller and Tiva TM4C1297NCZAD processor, can operate off batteries.

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