This year marked the return of the flagship technology event and showcase, The Consumer Electronic Show (CES). Having gone virtual in 2021 and with COVID cases continuing to rise in the U.S. this year, the latest edition was a more cautious, reduced event with only 45,000 attendees (compared to the usual 170,000). Furthermore, tech giants such as Meta, Google, Amazon and several other big names elected for a virtual presence, allowing some of the smaller exhibitors attending to grab more attention and headlines.
All of these factors contributed to a very different CES, but one where the subject of audio (and sometimes the lack thereof) was as important as ever. With the metaverse, remote working, new visual enhancements, and the comeback of some retro audio all being covered, what can 2022’s CES tell us about the future of audio?
Seeing is still believing
The first thing that stood out was that the visual medium is still much more of a talking point than any advancements in audio. This was most obvious at the Samsung exhibit where they continued to push the boundaries, giving a glimpse into their impressive visual advancements with QD-OLED and MICRO-LED, plus some fun examples of how projectors can be used around the home. Samsung were not alone with their visual showcase; LG’s OLED Evo & EX were just as impressive, and TCL had a big presence as well.
Whilst the quality of displays continues to improve with new, record-breaking technology released almost annually, audio advancements are much more rare — and much less heralded. What we can learn from CES this year is that the major players in the industry are currently investing more in pleasing your eyes over your ears.
Defining how the metaverse looks… and sounds
Unsurprisingly, following Facebook’s rebrand to Meta, the metaverse was a hot topic, with many exhibited solutions and products for XR (Extended Reality).
From smart glasses and avatar creations to the world of haptics (technology that creates an experience of touch by applying vibrations or motions), much of the focus was on creating and shaping the visual element of the metaverse. Sony certainly staked a claim in this respect with their demonstration of the Playstation VR2 and the ‘visual fidelity’ it creates.
This is a natural first step, as we look towards a new digital era with even more immersive experiences. However, much of the metaverse still feels undefined, and it’s an exciting new space for the technology industry to embrace — especially in the audio space.
Continuing to improve remote working
Although a consumer electronics show, CES focused quite actively on new working patterns. We saw this with several digital solutions for remote working and meetings/conferences. We’ve all experienced the changes in how we work and communicate, and the tech community has worked fast to evolve and support this.
Again, CES showed a lot of signs of progress for the visual side of working from home. A great example was Canon’s new “Activate My Line Of Sight” AMLOS solution which focuses on people within larger meetings, reading whiteboards and zooming in on details, with multiple views from the same camera. This will certainly help creative and collaborative remote working — one of the key challenges in recent times.
Yet again however, we saw very few technological advancements when it comes to audio and home working. This is an area with great opportunity for improvement, and one we’ve taken on with IRIS Clarity. We’re continuously looking at ways to remove sound as a barrier when you work remotely.
Blending vintage audio with modern technology
What really caught the eye (well, ear) around the show was the number of vintage audio products on display. The resurgence of record players has led to new types of classic music players, combining modern technology such as Bluetooth connectivity with traditional styling.
The growing number of record players shows that consumers are beginning to appreciate the value of higher resolution and more organic sound that non-digital formats provide in contrast to their MP3 alternatives. This is evidenced by record sales in the last 12 months being at the highest point in 30 years.
The number of homes that now feature a record player is considerably higher than this time last year — and that is music to our ears! It poses an interesting question about how this desire for more natural sound will be addressed in the new digital landscape…
Making the case for audio in 2022
We can only be excited about the opportunities showcased at this year’s CES, not only for entertainment but also from a working perspective. The metaverse in particular looks like it’s going to become an established part of our lives much sooner than we expected.
However, it’s worth considering how we make sure that the audio element is just as immersive as the visual. Whether it’s experiencing music as though you’re in the room (or at the gig) with the artist, or gaining focus and clarity in work environments, sound is every bit as important as sight in making an experience both immersive and engaging.
One thing’s for sure, CES was an impressive showcase of incredible technology that helped to inspire and spark our team’s creativity. Watch this space…