The future of work on display at CES 2023
CES 2023 feels the same and also quite different. Fancy, new, and downright bizarre technology fills the Las Vegas showrooms I’ve visited many times before. But in the three years since I last came here in person, the world has changed quite a bit. Especially our way of working.
It might take a little digging below the surface, but this year’s CES show has a lot to say about the big shift toward hybrid and remote working, in everything from the best video conferencing tools to attempts to build a metaverse infused mixed reality workspace.
The metaverse desktop concept, at least according to one definition, is a shared collaborative space where one can participate via several means: virtual or augmented reality, 3D screens, standard screens of laptops, tablets and telephones; or in person through things like smart whiteboards that work across all of these different experiences.
Dell has become a leader in showcasing concept parts and prototypes at CES, and this year its Concept Nyx (the same name Dell uses for gaming prototypes) is tackling this version of the metaverse head-on. At a pre-CES preview, I was able to participate in a fake meeting by creating a 3D avatar for others to see, and also by sitting in front of an autostereoscopic screen (allowing to see in 3D without special glasses) which gave me a 3D view of a project. After that, I put on a VR headset to feel like I was (or my avatar) in this shared space and was writing on a whiteboard with my VR controller. And after that, I was able to use a slate-style tablet to interact with the actual version of that same whiteboard, but without wearing a headset.
None of this is close to being shipping product anytime soon, and like so much at CES and around, the material is neatly labeled as “conceptual”. Of this bundle of products and experiences, the oversized, bezel-less 3D display, using eye-tracking hardware to make the 3D image look decent, seemed to be the part with the most potential in the workplace. .
Players go first
Much of new PC technology is driven first by the gaming public, which has a tolerance for gear that can be both expensive and experimental. That’s why ideas like virtual reality and autostereoscopic 3D often appear first in gaming hardware, before moving on to more practical products for your non-gaming hours.
For example, this CES saw several new 18-inch gaming laptops, a screen size that has all but disappeared since the early 2010s. The first of these larger displays are found in Dell’s gaming laptops. , Razer, Asus and Acer, but there’s an obvious crossover appeal for hybrid and remote workers who want the flexibility of a laptop but with a bigger screen that’s more desktop-like. Razer laptops, with their minimalist style, are especially popular with gamers and creative professionals. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more business laptops move to this new 18-inch size.
Asus has also leaned into glasses-free 3D with its new ProArt Studiobook and Vivobook Pro laptops. Both, similar to Dell’s prototype display, use eye tracking to make 3D viable. And these devices are for artists and designers, not gamers. Acer also has a similar eye-tracking 3D laptop aimed at gamers called the Predator Helios 300, as well as a professional display from 2022 called the Acer SpatialLabs View with this same technology.
Laptops with 3D without glasses were first tried in 2012 and never made it to a second generation. Eye tracking in these newer versions does improve the experience, though.
More and different screens
Other experiments, like Lenovo’s dual-screen OLED Yoga Book 9i and the color E Ink/OLED combo ThinkBook Plus Twist, may eventually offer new features that will find their way into more staid work laptops, but that’s not the case. is far from a sure thing. That said, newer E Ink devices like the 10.3-inch Yoga Paper might have more convenient work apps, and I’m only saying this because I used a similar-feeling new Amazon Kindle Scribe while walking the floor at CES 2023 to great effect.
The most welcome trend in consumer and business laptops of the last two years continues unabated, I’m happy to say. Almost every new laptop we saw used a 1080 resolution Full HD webcam by default, rather than the lower resolution versions that were common before the pandemic.
Even better, it’s considered such a standard feature that PC makers no longer feel the need to call it out. It’s taken far too long to come, and low-res webcams have made that first year of working remotely in 2020 harder than it needed to be for many. But now that we’ve normalized the hybrid workplace and accepted video meetings as equal to in-person meetings, I’d say it’s one of those subtle but important changes to the way we work that makes life a little more easy.
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