CES, AI, And Your Music
It's been some years since we went to the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Despite missing the winter desert sun in Las Vegas (especially in the UK, where the sun disappears around mid-November only to return some time in April), Las Vegas had become a busted flush for high-end (or 'specialty') audio. Some audio brands still attend the event, but the relevance of the show waned for the audio world in the 2010s, and by the later part of the decade it had become unsustainable for audio.
As the name changed from the Consumer Electronics Association to the Consumer Technology Association in 2015, so the CES subtly changed emphasis, moving increasingly toward wearable tech, health tech, and most recently Artificial Intelligence.
While embedded AI in consumer goods is still something of a novelty (who really needs an AI-enhanced kettle?), it's set to dominate the consumer electronics market. And, it's likely to do so fast. Although high-end audio no longer attends the show, that doesn't mean it is immune to the same market forces. AI is coming to your audio system! Get used to the idea.
For many, it's not 'coming'; it's already here. Those who use systems like Amazon Music are already playing host to some very smart algorithms designed to direct you to your next stream, download, or purchase. But that's only the start, and I think it might be a good thing!
While we should remain cautious about AI's ingress into our lives, the nightmare Skynet or The Matrix scenario where humanity ends up destroyed or enslaved is still a few years away. While we wait for our robot overlords to turn us into batteries, we might as well enjoy some of its benefits.
I think audio AI could allow greater room interaction and compensation. It could make our electronics more robust, more adaptive, more interactive, and make the best performance all the more attainable. Also, expanding on the music curation of existing music platforms such as Amazon Music, Tidal and Spotify, like a good DJ, I think AI will open up new musical avenues for listeners, and unlike a DJ, those choices can be extremely personalized.
Although hopefully, there will still be some time before we get an AI orchestra....
As we went to press, we learned of the passing of Jim Winey, founder of Magnepan and the inventor of the magnetostatic (or planar-magnetic) loudspeaker, aged 89. His contribution to the audio industry was immense, with his company representing one of the Founding Fathers of high-end. He will be greatly missed and our thoughts are with his friends and family.
Finally, congratulations to Larry Hoffman of Canada, who won the outstanding Java Hi-Fi Single Shot integrated amplifier in our recent competition. Well done!