Image: The new Roland Aerophone Pro musical instrument
CES, the 50-year-old consumer tech conference which draws more than 171,000 attendees a year to Las Vegas, was forced online this year.
Aside from the latest updates in Wi-Fi, TV, tablets, wireless earbuds, headphones, smartphones and car audio, companies at the conference offered robots that pour you wine, rollable phones and chess boards, pet detectors, TV sets disguised as wall art and solar-powered remote controls.
In light of the pandemic, there were also smart masks, touchless doorbells, a fur-covered cat-like robot with a tail and a subtle heartbeat to comfort the lonely and anxious, and even a smart toilet that could analyse your poo and give you a health report.
Korean electronics giant LG rolled out a robot (“Hello, I’m Reah, a songwriter and DJ”), not introducing any music-related products but its laptops, TVs and a robot that can go around disinfecting surfaces using ultraviolet light, presumably used by musicians when they go back on tour.
Roland made a splash with the Aerophone Pro digital wind instrument and the VERSELAB MV-1 audio workstation. Aerophone Pro packs an entire brass and woodwind section into a single contraption. The VERSELAB MV-1 comes with a US$700 price tag and is a new all-in-one portable music composition device. A producer can put down vocals when inspiration strikes and create entire tracks including drums, and similar, in some ways, to a digital audio workstation (DAW) such as Ableton.
Ampere showcased its Bluetooth shower speaker Shower Power, powered entirely by the shower’s water flow for those wanting to have a bellow during a scrub-up.
Sony worked with Verizon and one of its singer-songwriters Madison Beer to use real-time 3D creation technology to create an immersive reality concert experience in which she appears as an avatar. Sony has also teamed up with music software development company Virtual Sonics to release the 360 Reality Audio Creative Suite, which enables creators to express their music in a 360-degree spherical field using their existing production platforms.
JBL added to its Live Series headphones range with three new models, which come with Bluetooth, noise-cancelling features with a ‘Smart Ambient’ setting (letting you hear surrounding noise when you need to), auto play/pause wearer detection, and hands-free control for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice assistants.
With socially-distanced live concerts now the norm, Harman Kardon’s Live Interactive Virtual Experience (L.I.V.E.) will bring 3D spatial audio and live music concerts to your car. A new streaming service beams live concerts to your vehicle’s in-car display, complete with new ‘winged’ headrests that deliver 3D spatial audio. Harman said L.I.V.E. will use 5G to stream performances directly to cars, mobile devices and smart TVs.
Fans can interact with the artist by applauding, making song requests or voting on the setlist, and the artist can “give shout-outs to fans and play fan-requested songs”.
Harman also introduced high-tech headrests stuffed with JBL speakers which create “individual sound zones” allowing each occupant to “adjust the level of surround sound and two-channel audio” to their liking.