CES Day One Round-up: Health Steals the Spotlight From TVs 2022


In This ArticleLG Leaned Hard on Health, but Didn't Neglect OLEDSamsung Was More PracticalTCL and Hisense Chart Their Own PathTechnology on a RollSony Touts Creative TalentWhat's Next? Getty Images / David Becker

The first day of CES 2021 wasted no time getting started, with all the show's most well-known brands queuing up announcements one after the next. This included LG, Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, TCL, and Hisense which, as expected, meant it was a good day for home theater enthusiasts and audiophiles. But companies were just as eager to show off how they're adapting to the pandemic era with UV sanitation, smart home gadgets, and fancy refrigerators. 

LG Leaned Hard on Health, but Didn't Neglect OLED

LG is a traditional anchor for CES, and that didn't change despite the show's shift to virtual. The company delivered a sleek, smooth presentation that stood out from its rivals. It also showed the strongest direct response to the pandemic. LG kicked off its spot, not with televisions, but air purifiers, a product category that would only briefly be mentioned, if at all, in any other year.  

Two particular purifiers took the spotlight—LG's PuriCare Wearable Air Purifier and PuriCare Mini portable air purifier. The PuriCare Wearable, which looks like something out of a sci-fi movie, is quite literally an air purifier you can strap to your face like a surgical mask. The PuriCare Mini, on the other hand, is a small purifier the size of a typical Bluetooth speaker. The built-in lithium-ion battery can power it for up to eight hours.

LG is going to add ultraviolet anti-bacterial technology to all the things, as well. This includes your refrigerator, where some LG models will use UV sanitation to clean the water dispenser's nozzle between uses. The company also plans to sell an automated UV sanitation robot, called CloiBot, that nukes doors, tables, chairs, and anything else commonly used in a shared public space.

Don't get too excited about these products, however. The FDA states that “the effectiveness of UVC lamps in inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 virus is unknown,” due to a lack of data about how the virus responds to ultraviolet light. 

LG also made sure to highlight its newest OLED technology, called OLED Evo, that supports up to 8K resolution and promises improved brightness, one area where OLED falls short of traditional LED televisions. 

Samsung Was More Practical

Samsung's conference, presented by the company's president and head of research, Sebastian Seung, responded to the pandemic by going all-in on smart home technology. “We think that, with the right technology, we're ready for a better normal,” said Seung during Samsung's CES 2021 presentation. “One where, among other things, your home has taken on a greater significance.”

Unlike LG, Samsung didn't focus on health products and instead spent its time talking about innovations that might keep you sane and fit while stuck inside. The company demonstrated its SmartThings platform which, when connected to Samsung appliances, can help you cook by offering recipes that display ingredients on your connected refrigerator, then sync with a smart oven to automatically set the cooking time and temperature.

Once you've taken on calories by trying a new cookie recipe, you can burn them off with Samsung's Smart Trainer, a workout app for the company's new 2021 smart TV line-up. It connects with Samsung Health to provide a service similar to Apple's Fitness+ or Peloton. 

Of course, it wouldn't be CES without Samsung showing off new televisions, though the company breezed by its new sets with surprising speed. The highlight was its 110-inch MicroLED television, a $156,000 television where every pixel is a tiny LED light. This lets it mimic the picture quality of OLED without any of the downsides, like possible image retention.

Samsung also showed off several new robots. Only one is practical—the JetBot 90 AI Plus, a vacuum cleaner that uses a camera and AI object recognition technology to avoid wires, socks, and table legs. The Jetbot will be released in the second half of 2021.

Samsung demonstrated the Bot Care and Bot Handy, a pair of Wall-E look-alikes that Seung vaguely promised will “use AI technology to take care of all the little details in your life.” While the Bot Care and Bot Handy are targeting a release this year, it's unclear how exactly they'll be trained to work in your home, suggesting dreams of a home robot that can do the dishes and laundry will remain exactly that. Pricing and availability weren't announced.

TCL and Hisense Chart Their Own Path

LG and Samsung dominate the television market but, in recent years, they've been challenged by two relatively new Chinese companies, TCL and Hisense.

At CES 2021, TCL is pushing its MiniLED technology forward with what the company calls MiniLED ODZero. This eliminates the gap that usually exists between an LED television's backlight system and the LCD panel itself. The main advantage is size. Tiago Abreu, head of TCL's Industrial Design Center, said during the company's presentation that “TCL ODZero technology offers a dramatic ultra-thin profile never seen before in LED-LCD TVs.”

Hisense, meanwhile, is banking on laser television. It's basically a projector that uses lasers instead of a single high-wattage bulb. Laser television can deliver a brighter picture than a projector and can project an image from a base close to the viewing surface, making it easy to fit in a typical home theater.

Despite its promise, laser television has proven expensive, with prices starting at $4,000. The only new model announced at CES 2021 was the 100L9Pro, a 100-inch laser television, and Hisense hasn't revealed pricing or availability.

Technology on a Roll

In addition to new televisions, TCL spent some time discussing new smartphones and tablets. Most of them aren't targeting the North American market, with prices quoted in Euros. However, TCL's mobile division did have a few whiz-bang technologies to show off.

The star is TCL's scroll tablet concept, a device that rolls up like a scroll when stored, but can be unfurled into a 17-inch OLED tablet display. It's pure fantasy for now, as made obvious by TCL's demo, which shows how it might work in theory, rather than as a real, functional tablet. The rolling OLED technology is now real, however, so the concept is one step closer to reality.

TCL and LG both showed a smaller but more practical use for rollable OLED technology—a smartphone with a display that extends slightly in one direction when needed. TCL took the win in this contest of prototypes by showing what appeared to be a real, functional device in a person's hand, while LG merely suggested the technology with special effects during its presentation.

Last, but perhaps not least, TCL showed off a color eInk display called NXTPAPER, which it plans to debut in an 8.88-inch Android tablet. While it can display color and promises a high contrast ratio, NXTPAPER doesn't include its own backlight, so you'll need a clip-in light to use it in dark conditions.

Sony Touts Creative Talent

You might know Sony best as a hardware brand building game consoles, televisions, and headphones, but it's also a strong creative force thanks to Sony Pictures Entertainment, PlayStation Studios, and Sony Music Entertainment. 

Bill Baggelaar, executive vice president and general manager of Sony Innovation Studios, came to talk about the company's Atom View technology, which he described as “a point-cloud based technology that allows us to capture the real world with incredible detail, and be able to bring that into a real-time gaming engine, in order to drive that asset up on an LED wall or green screen environment.” This lets Sony craft extremely detailed virtual models of real-world locations which, in turn, give filmmakers more flexibility than filming in the same real-world location.

It's an odd technology to highlight at CES which, after all, supposedly is a show about consumer electronics. Sony's choice to focus on it makes a specific point: we have the hardware to make such elaborate detailed virtual settings, and we have creative minds to turn them into films, TV shows, or games you want to experience.

What about new technology you can buy in the near future? The highlight is Sony's next generation of Bravia TVs. They'll pair OLED technology with Sony's latest XR image processor and support for Purestream, a proprietary Sony technology that promises Blu-Ray quality over streaming. 

Sony also leaned hard on the PlayStation 5 which, of course, already is out. Unfortunately for gamers, however, Sony didn't announce new titles, hardware, or even peripherals, though it did remind everyone that an Uncharted movie starring Tom Holland is due out later this year.

What's Next?

We'll be on the virtual show floor again tomorrow, so stay tuned. Want more? See all our coverage of CES 2021 right here