Flaherry-WoodsAlong with several of her Rockwell Collins’ colleagues, Emily Flaherty-Woods is attending CES®, the global technology event, January 8-12, in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES is one of the world’s premier events to see, hear and feel how technology is reshaping our world … especially how it’s impacting the aviation and aerospace sectors. Emily is sharing her thoughts on this year’s show in a daily blog for Insights followers.


Today at CES, I explored the North and South Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The North Hall is the main showcase location for most large automotive manufacturers and vehicle technology exhibitors. The South Hall has a wider variety of technology marketplaces, but is the primary location for augmented and virtual reality vendors. Here are some of the major technology trends I observed in each hall.

North Hall – Vehicle Technology
So why is a flight deck systems engineer interested in future automotive technology? Ideas and inspiration! Believe it or not some of the great technology that we see first in cars is, with some tweaks here and there, applicable to aircraft. In fact, automotive designers and engineers face some of the same challenges as aircraft designers and engineers: vibrations/turbulence in the cockpit, human-in-the-loop system design, and durability and robustness requirements.

The North Hall of the CES convention center is packed with major automotive manufacturers and vehicle technology providers showcasing their most innovative concepts and high-tech research products. Companies like Hyundai, Nissan, Mercedes, Toyota, and Honda each have their own futuristic vehicle prototypes on display. Although each of the designs is unique, there is a common thread connecting all the concepts: autonomous vehicle technology.

car-1-day-2.jpgMost of the companies’ autonomous vehicle prototypes focus on Level 3 and Level 4 autonomy, which will still require drivers to stay in the loop and operate certain parts of the route. Thus, most of the concept vehicles have minimalistic but user-friendly vehicle interfaces incorporating technologies like touch screens, gesture-based controls, and eye tracking or facial recognition systems.

Additionally, most of the designs incorporate some form of “emotion recognition.” Emotion recognition uses big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and operator physiological monitoring to improve the driver’s experience. Physiological information such as facial expressions, voice tone, skin conductance, heart rate, etc. is used to characterize drivers’ emotional responses to certain scenarios. The emotion response data can then be used to train autonomous systems so that they behave in ways that please operators.

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One example of an emotion recognition system in action is a scenario in which the autonomous vehicle acts in a way opposite to what the operator expects. For example, if the vehicle accelerates through a yellow light when the operator expects the vehicle to decelerate, it could trigger an adverse reaction from the operator. That emotional response information would then be used to train the vehicle’s AI such that, in the future, the vehicle makes more conservative and pleasing acceleration decisions for the driver.

Emotion recognition systems could also be useful in future aircraft with increasingly autonomous systems. These concepts may be helpful to characterize situations that require more explainable autonomy—providing information as to why the autonomous system is behaving in a certain manner—to build trust amongst the autonomous system and operator.

In addition to the many concept cars and driving technologies, there is an overwhelming amount of vehicle technology showcased concerning smart, vision-based sensors. Many companies showcased intelligent sensors such as LIDAR and radar with built-in AI, for obstacle, landmark, and pedestrian detection and tracking. These vision-based sensors are marketed as high fidelity, low cost, and easy to integrate into exiting autonomous vehicle concepts. These sensors will need to be mounted onboard autonomous vehicles of the future to enable higher-level autonomous operations.

South Hall – Augmented and Virtual Reality
In recent years, a number of high-quality, consumer-ready AR and VR headsets have been productized by large technology giants such as Microsoft, Google, and Oculus. These major AR and VR players have come to market with a complete solution, high-quality optics, head tracker, and a compact head-worn device.

vr day 2

Today, many small- to mid-sized companies showcased and demoed their latest augmented and virtual reality products. However, few of these companies offer a complete solution that will compete with the major AR and VR players. Some of these companies have technology components, such as high-resolution optics, which are comparable to the major players, but are lacking a complete solution to be productized for the consumer market. Developing a complete AR or VR headset is no small feat, and it seems the biggest hurdle for most companies is providing a high-quality, head-tracking solution. In the coming years, as AR and VR become more mainstream, I am sure we will see more small- to mid-size companies revealing complete AR and VR solutions that can compete with today’s technology giants.

vr2 day 2

Another exciting day at CES! Now, to put my feet up and get a good night’s rest. I cannot wait to discover more technology at CES, and look forward to sharing my thoughts with you tomorrow.


This year I have the fantastic opportunity to attend CES, one of the world’s largest technology showcases. There are more than 4,000 exhibitors ranging from small startups to the biggest technology brands in the business. The technologies showcased at CES cover a wide range of the consumer technology market, including automotive, digital heath, connected home devices, robotics, virtual reality and gaming. However, the focus of my trip, and of my daily summaries, will be on innovative and disruptive technologies that could influence the aviation industry. After just one day scouring the showcase floor, several technology trends have started to emerge: autonomy, artificial intelligence, and augmented (or virtual) reality. It seems wherever you look in the CES exhibition halls there are products addressing the need for future autonomous systems, deep learning techniques, and innovative twists for traditional augmented and virtual reality systems. Discussed below are a few of the most interesting technologies I observed today:

Smart Cockpit Designs
Concept CarOne company features three different concept car cockpits. The first concept car vision is targeted to enter service in 2022. This design features five LED displays, three touch-screen displays in the dashboard, one center touch-infotainment panel, and one rear-view camera display. Perhaps the most interesting feature in this design was the Active Surface Interior Panels, which consists of an OLED, covered by a touch layer, and then finished with a thin wood layer. These panels offer a sleek and clean finish for touch features embedded into the center console.

IMG_1509 car 2The second concept car is designed for a 2025, level 3 autonomous system. This design features a narrow panoramic display across the dashboard, a windshield display, a stow-away dashboard display and a gaze detection system. This design incorporates two operating modes—manual and autonomous—and the vehicle automatically configures the displays and content based on the operational mode.

IMG_1508 car 3The third design is a concept for a level 5 autonomous vehicle. This concept features an innovative vehicle living space using a variety of advanced technologies such as a retinal scanner to unlock the vehicle, biometric monitoring to automatically adjust the temperature for each passenger, and transparent OLED displays for side windows.

Virtual Reality Headset
glasses-1.jpgAnother company is showcasing their latest generation, virtual reality headset, which provides a 210ºx130º field of view and 5K resolution image made using custom, dual, Fresnel lens. The headset is lightweight, offers a three-point head strap, and can support multiple head-tracking solutions. This product is impressive and offers a truly immersive experience. Never have aliens seemed so real as in this demo.

“Brain Sensing”
IMG_1506 glasses 2Multiple startup companies are showcasing unique “brain sensing” technologies. Brain sensing seems like a concept straight out of the movies, but at the root of this technology are small physiological sensors that can monitor brain activity, similar to traditional EEG devices. Most companies feature the brain sensing devices as small sensors integrated into lightweight glasses or virtual reality devices.IMG_1504 glasses 1 The emergence of lightweight, noninvasive, low-cost brain sensing technologies in the consumer market may open up new opportunities in the aviation industry. Specifically, this technology could provide new methods for actively monitoring a pilot’s physiological conditions in the cockpit.

What a day! I can’t wait to discover more technology at CES tomorrow, and look forward to sharing my thoughts with you throughout my trip.

Posted by Rockwell Collins