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Glimpse of tech world in 2021: Techs that help humans fight virus

Blending of AI, autonomous driving, 5G to produce contactless technologies

As we live in a world continuing its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, attention to new technologies that might support humans in the war against the virus is growing more than ever.

In the beginning of each new year, thousands of tech companies, experts and officials across industries gather at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to scope out what the future-shaping technologies will be.

Unfortunately, 2021 will miss the original vibe of the huge show filled with new tech insights, but there is growing curiosity about the first all-digital CES kicking off Monday and how tech firms will boast their newest developments and technologies to help people fight the virus.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s CES is expected to pivot on “contactless technologies.”

The contactless technologies encompass almost all sectors of current technology, ranging from artificial intelligence, machine learning, autonomous driving and the “internet of things” to 5G.

Autonomous driving technologies seem to be expanding from wheeled vehicles to ships, taking shape in the new concept of autonomous sailing.

US tech giant IBM is planning to unveil its Mayflower Autonomous Ship project at the show.

It is a project using an integrated set of IBM’s AI, cloud and edge technologies, which has aimed to make the ship depart Plymouth, England and sail with the ability to operate independently in a region known for some of the most challenging environments on Earth.

It will be one of the first full-sized and fully autonomous vessels with the capability to self-navigate across oceans and spend long periods of time alone at sea, according to the company.

The ship is also equipped with a platform for gathering data that will help safeguard the health of the ocean and industries it supports.
(IBM Newsroom)
(IBM Newsroom)

As the key enabler of high-level AI and autonomous driving, 5G wireless technology will take center stage this year.

The importance of fast network connections has grown significantly amid the continuing social distancing trends, as 5G has allowed tech businesses like online conferencing platform Zoom to flourish.

At the 2021 CES, US mobile carrier Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg will discuss how 5G will move technologies forward to telemedicine and tele-education, and improve work-from-home conditions.

Retailers should also find new technologies this year that enable consumers to speed up their shopping.

For example, it has been reported that e-commerce giant Amazon will expand its Go store chain of shops that have no checkout counters. Consumers would be able to pick up the products they want and leave the store, enabled by a combination of technologies like cameras and AI.

Automakers are among the regular exhibitors of CES, as autonomous driving technologies are taking a larger portion of the tech world.

Germany’s Mercedes-Benz is set to reveal details of its AI-based MBUX Hyperscreen system for future cars at the show this year.

It is a voice-activated screen attached to the dashboard, allowing drivers to control all of the car infotainment and driving systems without manual control.

For consumer electronics, South Korea’s Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, two of the biggest exhibitors of the CES, will be introducing an array of smart appliances, TVs, home IoT solutions and mobile gadgets with a focus on helping users adjust to the “new normal” under the pandemic.

Samsung will also unveil an upgraded version of its Digital Cockpit autonomous driving platform developed in collaboration with its subsidiary Harman.

Disinfection is a new category of technologies added this year.

LG Electronics will present its latest disinfecting bot that replaces humans in various disinfection work. As the robot has the ability to self-navigate and operate, the company plans to commercialize and supply the bots for countries with high infection tallies. 

LG CLOi DisinfectBot (LG Electronics)
LG CLOi DisinfectBot (LG Electronics)

Some new mobile gadgets, including Samsung’s Galaxy S21 series, will debut at the show.

LG is highly anticipated to unveil its first rollable display smartphone, which will be the first rollable phone to compete against Samsung’s foldable phone.

So far, around 1,000 companies are expected to take part in the virtual 2021 CES, with more than 150,000 attendees tuning in.

By Song Su-hyun (