Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The real theme of CES 2023 is alternative realities

(Pocket-lint) – CES – the Consumer Electronics Show – has an important slot in the annual calendar. It’s the biggest of tech events, it has global significance, and it outlines what to expect from consumer technology in the following year.

But more importantly, it gives us a reflection of the mood of all the industries that find themselves drawn into the world of consumer technology. Transcending the simple delineation a single product category, it’s this barometer of tech that’s more interesting than the products themselves.

The opening keynote this year fell to BMW. Many commentators, for many years, have been saying that CES is becoming a car show (while traditional motor shows struggle to retain their appeal), but this is really a misunderstanding. The Consumer Electronics Show isn’t becoming a car show: cars are becoming consumer electronics.


The launch of the BMW i Vision Dee perfectly frames CES 2023. Sure, there’s a car under that colour changing exterior, the notion of having a Mixed Reality slider in your car, to move you deeper into some sort of Tron-like alternative reality, might be a little far-fetched. But some of the tech that facilitates this concept car will come to life in 2025.

That Arnold Schwarzenegger was part of BMW’s keynote, having played the lead role in 1990’s Paul Verhoeven’s classic Total Recall, is beautifully poetic as it essentially sets out the premise for the alternative reality experiences we’re racing toward.

Pocket-lintThe real theme of CES 2023 is alternative realities photo 3

CES 2023 also give us the first opportunity to experience PSVR 2. The PlayStation’s next-gen VR headset launched on 22 February 2023 and it delivers a graphically rich, wonderfully immersive and encouragingly smooth experience which, if it gets enough content, could really drive a boom in VR entertainment – after many false starts.

The PSVR 2’s biggest downside is when you try to let the real world in. You can tap a button for passthrough, using the front cameras to show you what’s out there in the physical world. But this isn’t so good – it’s grainy and black and white. That’s sort of understandable when the focus is on the virtual world rather than the physical.

Pocket-lintThe real theme of CES 2023 is alternative realities photo 2

If you want a better mixed reality experience then the HTC Vive XR Elite is absolutely your go to. Light in weight and free from wires, punching the button on this headset to pull in the physical world gives you a crisp and full colour mixed reality. While testing the Vive XR Elite, I picked up my camera, and was able to adjust the manual settings and navigate the menus so that the demo guy could take some pictures of me – an other-worldly experience.

The quality of this video passthrough is important because HTC very much has a focus on mixed reality, taking the virtual and blending it seamlessly with the physical.

The continued fusion of digital and physical experiences is going to define the coming years and that’s reflected in many of the products that stood out to us from CES 2023, not just those mentioned above.

L’Oreal takes tech and applies it to makeup – Fifth Element anyone? – while Asus brings 3D back to laptops, and Samsung’s 57-inch Odyssey Neo is so wide, and so curved, your content will almost eat you.

Humanity’s retreat into virtual worlds is understandable when the real world has served up a horror show over the past few years. The acceleration that the forced isolation brought with it made digital interactions tangible and essential.

The fledgling metaverse may be experiencing an existential crisis – not helped by crypto bros bangwaggoning it as a vessel for alternative currencies and NFTs – but CES 2023 does nothing but reinforce that we’re throwing ourselves towards this alternative reality as a future.

Tech’s role from this point forward is to make sure that if nothing else, our alternative reality of the future is as accessible, as inclusive, and as accommodating as it needs to be.

Delivering it like a glorious sci-fi movie, is the part we’ll all get to enjoy.

Writing by Chris Hall.


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