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CES 2018 Device Blog : Day 4 : Robots and Drones

by Ken Hyers | Jan 11, 2018

CES 2018, America's biggest consumer electronics trade show, takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada, US, from Sun 7 to Fri 12 Jan, 2018. As usual, Strategy Analytics has a large team of analysts across various services including smartphones, drones, robots, tablets, wearables, smart home, semiconductors and Automotive in attendance.

Our CES 2018 preview blog can be seen here.

Our CES 2018 Day One blog can be viewed here.

Our CES 2018 Day Two blog can be viewed here.

Our CES 2018 Day Three blog can be viewed here.

Day Four coverage of CES 2018 is about Robots, Drones and Accessories from the show.

Robots have always been a top draw at CES as a symbol of the future. At CES 2018 there is no shortage of robotics stories as various manufacturers introduce new products.

LG Reveals Three New Professional Service Robots

LG Electronics at CES 2018 followed up on its impressive showing last year by introducing new commercially-oriented professional service robots. These included a Serving Robot, Porter Robot and Shopping Cart robot, which will join last year’s Airport Guide and Airport Cleaning robots.  The introduction of the new robots coincides with a branding change, with all of the company’s commercial robots being offered under the Clio brand name.

LG CLio Server, Porter and Shopping Cart Robots

The Server robot, as one would expect, can deliver drinks and meals to customers at restaurants, hotels and airport lounges, while the Porter robot would deliver luggage. The Shopping robot would appear at high-end supermarkets where its barcode scanner would help customers check prices, guide them to products and answer questions.

The CLio commercial service robots joins LG’s lineup of consumer oriented robots like its home vacuum cleaners. LG has already successfully debuted its Airport robots in the real-world at Incheon International Airport, and its newest CLio robots can be expected in similar locations.

Honda Debuts Four Robot Concepts

Another big name, Honda, revealed four different concepts for robots at CES 2018, as part of its vision for how robots will work together in the future. The robots included its 3E-A18, a type of companion robot that can recognize and show emotions. With a soft skin, rounded shape and expressive “face” it is intended to perform tasks such as a guide in public settings or act like a service animal for people. The 3E-B18 robotic wheelchair, for use by the elderly or disabled, can able to be used indoors or outdoors. The 3E-B18 is also modular, meaning with the addition of attachments it can turn into a luggage car or stroller. Honda demonstrated its 3E-C18, a boxy robot that can carry objects, act as a mobile workspace, and which uses AI to anticipate users’ needs and operate in autonomous fashion. It also showed off an off-road quad-wheeled robot, the 3E-D18 that would be used for carrying loads outdoors, for instance by construction crews, search-and-rescue and on farms.

Honda Concept Robots: 3E-A18, 3E-B18, 3E-C18 and 3E-D18
Honda Robots

Honda’s intent with the four concept robots is to demonstrate that robots can fill a variety of use cases in people’s lives. In the future robots will be able to cater to people’s emotional and physical wellbeing, as well as performing tasks like carrying objects and answering questions.

Sony new Aibo: Cuter than ever

A common theme for robots at CES is that they will not just perform tasks, but that they can behave in endearing ways and cater to people’s emotional wellbeing. Sony at CES 2018 brought back a revamped version of its Aibo robot dog to demonstrate this. The new Aibo, like the old Aibo from the early 2000s, can perform tricks like sitting up and rolling over. But the newest version incorporates more sensors and AI that allow it to appear and behave more like a real dog.

Sony Aibo Robot Dog
Sony Aibo

The Sony Aibo has sensors on its head, back and under its chin that are touch sensitive, allowing it to respond to petting and scratching. It has two cameras, on its chin and on its back, that let it identify faces and for mapping its surroundings – and helping it to find its charging station where it can top-up every two hours or so. It leaps, bounds and ambles about, performing a good simulation of an exuberant puppy. It also has a more rounded organic look, unlike the first Aibo which was boxy. With revamped sensors and AI, the new Aibo from Sony is a robotic dog that has finally come into its own. However, with a cost of nearly 200,000 Yen (more than US$1,700), for now it’s a thoroughbred that only the well-heeled will be able to afford.


Kuri Home Robot

One of the major themes to emerge from CES 2018 for robots is their use for home monitoring. While the robots can serve other purposes, such as companion robots or doubling as a smart speaker to answer questions from Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant and to play music, many companies see an opportunity to use the robots as a way to keep an eye on the household. The best example of this trend is the Kuri home robot.

Kuri the Robot


Packed with sensors including motion detectors and a video camera, the Kuri can map the floor plans of a house and patrol it when homeowners are away. However, Kuri doesn’t look like a burly security guard and instead has cute rounded edges and bulbous head. Its main role is to serve as a companion robot, answering questions and playing music or playing podcasts or audiobooks. Kuri is about as unthreatening as a robot can be – this is one that will not be leading the robot revolution.

Robotic Smart Suitcases

Finally, no roundup of CES 2018 robots would be complete without mentioning smart suitcases. From Segway-inspired suitcases that balanced on two wheels to AI powered ones on four, these suitcases are intended to follow their owners autonomously, using facial recognition to recognize its owner and sensors to spot obstacles and remain upright. Unfortunately, sell-propelled suitcases are a good idea for some, it’s a concept that is clearly not quite ready for prime-time, as numerous videos appeared from CES showing suitcases from various vendors bumping into objects, getting lost and falling over. Perhaps by CES 2019 the robotic suitcase will have found its legs and be ready to make its debut in airports and train stations around the world.


The Drones of CES 2018

Many drone makers struggled in 2017 as slowing sales and intense competition caused many drone vendors to lay off staff, discount products and generally retrench. CES 2018 is an opportunity for those vendors to reveal what they were working on last year and how they intend to grow.

The first significant drone to be unveiled at CES 2018 came from Autel Robotics, which announced its new EVO camera drone. The EVO is a foldable drone that inevitably draws comparisons to DJI’s groundbreaking Mavic that was introduced last summer. The EVO includes a number of important features such as a 4K 60fps camera on a 3-axis gimbal, giving it a 94 degree field of view. It also includes front and rear sensors for obstacle avoidance – obstacle avoidance is table stakes on higher-end consumer camera drones, but it’s nice to see that Autel didn’t cheap out by offering only front-facing sensors for this feature.

Autel Robotics EVO
Autel EVO

The EVO likely heralds a trend for drones in 2018, as makers look to introduce their own variation on DJI’s groundbreaking foldable drone from 2017. The trick for vendors looking to copy the success in this segment will be to match DJI in terms of reliability while bringing something new to the table in terms of capabilities in areas like imaging, obstacle avoidance, ease of use and flight time. They’ll need to do this while at least matching or better yet undercutting DJI’s price. Achieving all of these tasks will be difficult as DJI has proved relentless in raising the bar in terms of drone features while maintaining a relatively low price point (considering the technology it packs in its drones) that is difficult for others to match. Autel, one of the better drone makers on the market, is likely at least as well positioned as anyone to challenge DJI for at least a slice of this market.

Yuneec Enters Fixed-Wing & Racing Drone market, Upgrades its Range-Topping Prosumer Camera Drone

Yuneec is another drone maker that at one time looked well positioned to challenge DJI for a leading position in the camera drone market. Its Typhoon H debuted as the Best Drone of CES 2016, but in 2017, suffering from falling sales and unable to match DJI’s relentless innovation, it failed to introduce any new consumer drones. However Yuneec has apparently not wasted the last year, and returned to CES with a new iteration of its prosumer Typhoon H and two new drones for market segments it had previously not participated in. 

They Typhoon H Plus is an upgrade of the drone first introduced in 2016, a hexcopter (six rotors) targeting professional and prosumer photographers and videographers. This second-generation craft includes a one-inch 20MP-sensor camera with a high aperture lens capable of shooting 4K video at 60fps. The camera is mounted on a 3-axis gimbal able to rotate a full 360 degrees, while its retractable landing gear means photographers can get an unobstructed view of what they are filming. Yuneec claims the Typhoon H Plus is 40 percent quieter than its previous model and is stable in winds of up to 30 mph. The Typhoon H Plus will be priced at US$1,799, the same as its predecessor, making the new hexcopter a price-performer compared to similar drones from arch-rival DJI.

Yuneec Typhoon H Plus
Yuneec Typhoon Plus


Yuneec also entered a new category for drones with its fixed-wing Firebird FPV. The Firebird offers 30 minutes flight time, automated landing, and a digital low-latency HD video link that transmits videos direct from a camera in the nose of the craft to an First Person View (FPV) headset.

Yuneec Firebird FPV
Yuneec Firebird

Yuneec also revealed it would enter the racing drone category with the HD Racer, a small and durable racing drone for beginners. While most racing drones require users to at least partially build their aircraft, for those new to the sport the prospect of purchasing and build from a kit can be daunting. Given that crashes are inevitable those starting out, durability is also a key feature that will appeal.

Yuneec HD Racer
Yuneec HD Racer

Like the Firebird, the HD Racer is intended to be controled via FPV, and uses the same low-latency HD video link technology. The HD Racer promises to be sturdy and easy to use and ready to fly right out of the box, all features that will appeal to those new to drone racing.


DJI Didn’t Unveil New Drones at CES 2018, but…

DJI didn’t unveil new drones at this year’s CES, but that didn’t stop it from capturing attention this week. The global leader in camera drones announced two new handheld camea stabilizers at the show which build in part on the technology it has developed for its camera drones. The two new stabilizers target two separate markets. For consumers the company introduced the Osmo Mobile 2, a handheld smartphone camera stabilizer which lets users capture super-smooth video using their smartphone. Think of it as an ultra-high-end selfie stick. For professionals and prosumers, the company introduced the Ronin-S, a single handed stabilizer for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. The Ronin-S uses three-axis gimbal technology similar to that in DJI’s drones to provide smooth shake free photographs, and powerful motors on the gimbals mean the stabilizer can manage cameras with larger lenses. Both stabilizers come with software that let users create complex modes like panorama and tracking photography subjects.

While DJI didn’t unveil new drones at this year’s CES, a Chinese startup did. The company, Ryze Tech, introduced a small $99 drone that bears an uncanny resemblence to DJI’s small Spark drone, introduced in 2017.  Ryze’s drone, the Tello, was developed with help from Intel and DJI and will be distributed by DJI. The Tello uses Intel’s Movidius Myriad 2 video processing unit (VPU) for object recognition and avoidance, the same chipset used in DJI’s drones. The Movidius Myriad 2 lets the Tello can land on an outstreched palm, and the drone is also capable of autonomous take-off and landing.

Ryze Tech Tellos

Ryze Tech’s Tellos is programmable and is targeted at younger users, allowing them to learn about drones and program things like flight patterns using the coding tool Scratch. While it’s easy to brush off the Tellos as a toy drone, it’s hard to ignore the fact that it incorporates significant technology not seen before in drones for this market segment. At US$99 it offers technology that just a year ago could only be found in drones costing five times as much. It’s easy to see why DJI is supporting Ryze Tech and the Tellos. By supporting and distributing the little drone it can offer drones ranging from nearly the least expensive segment all the way through lower-end consumer camera drones (Spark), mid-range camera drones (Phantom 3 SE), ultra-portable mid-range (Mavic), Prosumer (Phantom 4) and professional (Inspire, Matrice) models. DJI has in short order become not just the best-selling camera drone maker in the world, but the one offering the broadest range of high-quality drones. For the rest of drone market, 2018 will likely prove no easier than 2017.


That’s it for our wrap-up of robots, drones and related accessories at CES 2018. While there were many more to see at the show, these are the most important new products that we saw. Come back tomorrow to look for our wrap-up summarizing the best-in-show for CES 2018.

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