Reporter’s Notebook for CES 2018

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Have you ever dreamed you’re in a familiar place, but all the street signs are different and everyone is a stranger?

This sense of dislocation grips me every time I walk into the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas during CES, the massive consumer electronics show I attend every January.

That’s because the Sands is also home to Vision Expo West, which I attend each September. The exhibit hall that many of us know so well takes on another identity as its familiar landmarks—the Galleria, the medical pavilion, the exhibits stocked with lenses, lab equipment and diagnostic instruments, the thousands of eyeglass frames of every size, shape and color—are transformed into a futuristic landscape populated by robot health assistants, AI-powered activity trackers, sensor equipped sportswear, sleep monitors and an expanding array of vision technology. And that’s just the upper floor of the Sands.

The lower floor, which is vacant during Expo, is transformed into Eureka Park, where nearly 1,000 tech startups compete for attention. This hotbed of activity is jammed with eager entrepreneurs talking with prospective customers, retail buyers who cruise the aisles in search of the next big thing and tech executives looking for new suppliers.

As impressive as all this is, it represents only a portion of CES. Most of the more than 3,900 exhibits, including the mega booths of the big consumer electronics makers and automobile companies, are located at the nearby Las Vegas Convention Center. There is optical tech there, too, notably the virtual and augmented reality eyewear displays that are ubiquitous at CES.

A key takeaway for me from this year’s show is that there are more points of intersection now between optical and consumer electronics than in previous years. You’ll see some big names in optical, such as Zeiss, exhibiting virtual reality eyewear at CES. Some less well-known companies that make optical products were also there because their technology is incorporated into virtual and augmented reality eyewear. This crossover activity is interesting because it may lead to cross-pollination that could bring new technology to ophthalmic eyewear.

Another takeaway is that optical’s footprint is growing here. This year, there were more eyewear and eyecare exhibitors than ever, some with bigger booths and a greater variety of products on display.

Among the most impressive optical products I saw at CES was the EyeQue Insight Visual Acuity Screener, a DIY vision tester for consumers; Merck’s Licrieye IOL that lets the doctor adjust the refractive index of the IOL post-surgically by means of liquid crystal technology; Orcam’s MyEye 2.0, an assistive device for blind people that reads anything that’s put in front of it and can attach to any frame; and RightEye’s EyeQ, a new software product that gives people a closer look at their health using quick, computer game-style vision tests on an eye-tracking computer.

If you want to get a glimpse of the vision tech I saw at CES, please take a look at the accompanying slideshow and watch the exclusive video interviews I conducted with some vision tech innovators.

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CES 2018

The Central Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center is the epicenter of CES.

CES 2018

Zeiss showcased their VR One Connect virtual reality system.

CES 2018

(L to R) The RightEye team—Adam Gross, Barbara Barclay and Travis Radford—debuted their new EyeQ software. Watch my interview with Barbara, who provides an overview of EyeQ’s features and benefits.

CES 2018

Augmented Reality glasses were a major attraction at CES.

CES 2018

Sensible Innovations is a startup that has developed assistive technology that uses beacons to help blind and vision impaired people navigate.

CES 2018

Dynafocal is a startup that has developed smart reading glasses that adjust to each wearer’s visual needs. Founder Shariq Hamid explains how they work in an on-site video interview.

CES 2018

Assistive tech company Orcam debuted its MyEye 2.0 system. To learn more, watch my interview with Dr. Yonatan Wexler.

CES 2018

Welcome to Eureka Park, home to hundreds of tech startups.

CES 2018

Dr. Damoder Reddy, whose company, Argil, has developed adjustable tint eyewear featuring polycarbonate lenses with electrochromic film.

CES 2018

ICI Vision is a startup that is developing a new generation of sight enhancement digital eyewear that can restore sight for the blind.

CES 2018

Eyesynth showcased assistive technology for totally or partially blind people that utilizes special glasses that convert the surrounding 3D space into intuitive sounds.

CES 2018

This ad, seen on the Las Vegas Convention Center monorail, was one of many for Google’s new voice activated personal assistant.