CES is typically where you get a first glimpse at the technology that will be hitting store shelves in the coming year. But many companies use the show as a way to preview concepts or show off prototype technology that may not emerge for several years, if ever.
At CES 2023, a number of the most eye-catching concepts took the form of futuristic electric cars that swap traditional dashboards for massive touch screens, driver-assistive tech for full autonomy, and basic Bluetooth connections for immersive entertainment options, including gaming, karaoke, and augmented reality experiences.
But we also saw what hardware makers have in mind for the future of displays, PCs, and accessories. Here are some of the more exciting concepts to hit the show floor this year.
Samsung Flex Hybrid
It wouldn’t be a technology trade show without a rollable or flexible display and Samsung’s take on the concept for CES 2023 is the Flex Hybrid. A 10.5-inch folding display offers a 4:3 aspect ratio screen, but the right side of the device slides out, increasing the screen size to 12.4 inches and changing the aspect ratio to 16:10.
17-Inch LG Foldable OLED Display
LG also had some flexible tech on hand at CES, including a 17-inch Foldable OLED touch screen that is “almost entirely crease-free at the point of folding,” LG says. A smaller 8-inch, 360-degree foldable OLED display can withstand more than 200,000 folds with minimal wrinkling, according to LG. Also on the OLED front, LG showed off TVs that take advantage of its new “META technology,” which use a so-called “micro lens array” along with software algorithms to squeeze out even more light from the OLED panel. (No word on if Mark Zuckerberg’s lawyers are readying a response.)
Dell Updates Concept ‘NYX’
We first got a look at Dell’s Concept NYX ahead of CES 2022, but this year’s update looks to go beyond gaming. We saw an Alienware-branded smart remote that optimizes itself for the game you’re playing. But the tech also allowed us to explore a virtual meeting space via VR. This wasn’t your typical legless metaverse; a virtual whiteboard allowed for instant sharing among attendees, while a desktop-based, glasses-free 3D display produced an augmented-reality object that the desktop user could manipulate. Check it out in the video above.
Razer Project Carol
Razer is known for showing off concepts that look cool but probably won’t ever be released. There was Project Valerie, a gaming laptop with three 4K displays; Project Brooklyn, a gaming chair with a giant rollable display; and Project Sophia, a gaming chair concept with high-fidelity haptics. This year’s entry is a spin on that last one: Project Carol, a gaming chair head cushion with near-field surround sound and integrated haptics. Razer says it’s compatible with “all major brands of gaming chairs,” works with any PC capable of 7.1 surround sound output, and supports any media with up to 7.1 encoding. Plug a wireless dongle into your PC for up to 8 hours of action.
BMW i Vision Dee EV Concept Car
Most of us just want a car that gets us from Point A to Point B, but BMW is looking to provide its customers with a “Digital Emotional Experience” in the form of an electric vehicle with a color-shifting E Ink digital skin that can reflect the whims of the driver as well as a Mixed Reality Slider to interact with the full-windshield head-up display. The i Vision Dee EV concept car it showed off at CES (with the help of Arnold Schwarzenegger) will recognize you as you approach and shift its settings accordingly. The mock-ups look straight out of the metaverse (ugh), but some of this tech may reach BMW’s Neue Klasse (New Class) vehicles as soon as 2025.
Ram 1500 Revolution BEV Concept
Ram’s concept EV pickup truck is a tad more realistic; Stellantis is aiming to have the Ram 1500 Revolution BEV Concept in production by 2024. But it’s still got some Blade Runner-esque features, like the panoramic moonroof, a heads-up augmented reality windshield display, and a dual, 28-inch screen display. The bottom half of that display comes off, while the car will literally follow you around when in Shadow Mode for those who need that kind of thing.
Chrysler Synthesis Cockpit
Chrysler, another Stellantis brand, also embraced the sci-fi at CES 2023 with the Synthesis Cockpit, an EV concept with the usual bells and whistles. There’s a 37.2-inch infotainment center, over-the-air updates, AI tech that will learn your preferences, and access to a virtual personal assistant. The car maker also teased “Chill/Zen/Fun Modes,” meaning you can sing along to karaoke or clear you mind with a little meditation. Oh, you can also “create and synthesize” your own music, apparently. Chrysler tipped Level 3 autonomous driving, and this preview comes ahead of the brand’s first EV for 2025, and a full battery-electric portfolio by 2028.
Peugeot Inception Concept
Did you think we were done with Stellantis? Its Peugeot brand got in on the CES action with its Peugeot Inception Concept. Europe is ahead of the curve as far as embracing EVs, so 100% of Peugeot’s range will be electrified this year, with five new EVs on tap for the next two years. But this Inception concept will “inspire” the cars it will release starting in 2025. Peugeot teased an 800-kilometer range (or the distance from Paris to Marseille or Brussels to Berlin), plus the ability to add 30km of range in one minute of charging, or 150km in five minutes. There are two electric motors, one at the front, the other at the rear, making the Inception a 4-wheel drive vehicle with close to 680hp (500kW) and 0 to 100km/h acceleration in less than 3 seconds.
Afeela From Sony Honda Mobility
I told you CES was big on car concepts this year. After surprising CES 2020 attendees by revealing a car, Sony returned in 2023 with Honda as part of their new venture: Sony Honda Mobility (SHM). The prototype EV they unveiled at Sony’s presser will be marketed under the brand name Afeela. The idea is that the cars will eventually be able to drive themselves, allowing passengers to relax with content created by Sony, like games, movies, and even AR-like experiences. SHM plans on taking pre-orders for the vehicle in 2025 with deliveries to customers in North America in the spring of 2026.
MSI RadiX BE2200 Turbo
Wi-Fi 7 is still a ways away, but a trickle of early prototype devices flowed out of CES. (We saw models from Asus and MSI, and we suspect we missed a bunch.) MSI’s first Wi-Fi 7 effort gets the cool-concept nod for its quirky superpower: motorized antennas. Four tower-style antennas, with a flat profile, rotate mechanically, each on an axis, and reposition themselves automatically to optimize for the signal conditions of the moment. If a device enters the network and changes the dynamic, or that Ikea bookcase you put up this afternoon starts blocking signal, the RadiX BE2200 antenna motors will kick in and make the most of the signal you have at the moment.
Now, whether this is an innovation or a gimmick remains to be seen; after all, beamforming tech already exists, and operates instantly, without motors. But points for trying! This early version rotated a bit in fits and starts; it was merely a built-out illustration of the concept. MSI noted that this probably is not a 2023 product; Wi-Fi 7 is still too new, and if it follows the path of other Wi-Fi specs, the RadiX is probably more a 2024 effort. But we think it would make for the ultimate irresistible cat toy—you may have to cage it to keep the antennas from getting swatted clean off.
Frore Systems AirJet
We reported on the decloaking of AirJet by Frore Systems in late 2022, but 2023’s CES was the company’s real coming-out party. AirJet is a completely new approach to cooling electronics, notably laptops. The company showed off two modules, the AirJet Mini and AirJet Pro, which aim to eliminate conventional cooling fans in space-constrained, thermally challenging environments. Each super-thin AirJet module (they can be connected in series, side by side, for added effect) activates under an electrical charge; inside the enclosure, the charge vibrates a special material layer at a variable rate. The vibration and module design together create a suction force that draws in air from the top (through tiny slots atop the module) and expels it out through a vent at the edge. The intensity with which the vibrating surface draws in air, and the flow rate, allow for effective heat transfer from its copper bottom surface.
The main benefit: no need for spinning fan blades, and no need to factor in the attendant thickness of a fan housing and mechanism. The modules are wafer-thin. In the demos we saw involving laptop cooling, the AirJet modules would be positioned at either end of a typical laptop cooling apparatus, in the place where a fan would be positioned, at the end of long heatpipes. In one example we saw, heat from the GPU or CPU was being transferred along a heat pipe and vapor chamber to a heat sink, on which the AirJets were mounted.
Because the Airjet modules so small versus conventional laptop chassis fans, laptop designers might be able to reclaim some prime real estate inside their chassis for other hardware, or just to reduce overall size. Plus, in addition to the very small Z-height, the Airjet models require only a tiny clearance gap above them to draw in air, allowing for more potential thinning of their surroundings. (Fans tend to require more space above them, to lesser effect.) Frore Systems is talking with PC OEMs, and it’s likely that we’ll see the first implementations of this promising technology later in ‘23. We’d also think it would have potential for highly dense, hot-running mobile devices like smartphones.
Cooler Master Cooling X
Cooling X is a concept from the venerable Cooler Master for a “fully liquid-cooled PC.” Big deal, you say; PC builders have been watercooling CPUs and GPUs, both in one system, for ages. But how about with no fans on the radiators?
That’s the concept behind Cooling X: The entire chassis is a passive heatsink designed to pull the heat from flowing liquid. Mounted on the inside panels are plastic sheets with flow channels built into them. They resemble the distro plates used in PC chassis by modders looking to show off the flow of coolant.
Here, the “distro plate” is more utilitarian, designed to maximize the surface area contacted by the flowing liquid over as much of the case side as possible. It circulates the coolant in a thin layer across the entire surface of the case side, with the case side acting as a big heat sink. No fans, no noise, no problem.
Thermaltake CTE Form Factor
Thermaltake is no stranger to experimenting with case form factors, orientations, shapes, and materials. The new CTE form factor is a creation of the company; it’s not a motherboard size standard or something similar. It stands for “Centralized Thermal Efficiency,” and rather is about motherboard positioning within a PC case.
We’ve seen PC chassis designs that resemble CTE in some fashion in the past, notably from SilverStone. In it, the PC case has the motherboard rotated 90 degrees from the norm, so that the CPU and GPU areas can be treated in different “zones,” of a sort. With the motherboard in this orientation, the CPU ends up close to the front panel (rather than in the upper-left corner), and your video card runs vertically, up and down the rear half of the case. This rotation also helps accommodate today’s enormous high-end video cards, like the GeForce RTX 40 series.
Now in a typical 90-degree-rotated case, your motherboard’s I/O ports would exit the top of the case (and usually have a cover or other solution to route and hide your cables). Where the “centralized” comes in: In the series of CTE-based cases that Thermaltake showed off at CES, the cases had ports recessed away from the top, with the motherboard centered in the chassis cavity. The idea here: You could put fans or an additional cooling radiator above the motherboard, in addition to in the front or on the side of it. Your I/O ports will likely require some additional care to access (and some covers to block the view of them, since all the CTE cases shown were very high visibility glass). But it’s an intriguing idea for extreme PC builders looking to provide cooling from every side possible.