So many gadgets, so little time.
Such is the conundrum while trying to cover the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the annual tech mecca to Las Vegas every January which serves as a window to the near future.
After all, this industry-only event – now in its 50th year, in fact — spans nearly 2.5 million square feet of showroom floor space – that’s the equivalent of about 43 football fields – so it can be difficult to play around with all the futuristic tech on display.
OK, no small violins, please.
With that in mind, the following are a few assorted highlights from the show, ranging from the practical to the quirky.
Winner of the Last Gadget Standing award at CES, the Matrix PowerWatch is the world’s first smartwatch you don’t have to charge up. PowerWatch operates on thermoelectric power, fueled by your own body heat, so you’ll never have to recharge or replace its battery, says its CalTech inventors. Take that Apple Watch. Launched on Indiegogo and available in July for US $169, this watch can also measure calories burned and show the amount of power generated from your body. The rugged aircraft-grade aluminum timepiece functions as a smartwatch that wirelessly syncs with your smartphone, automatically adjusts to the current time zone, and has changeable watch faces.
Beam me up, Scotty
To create the very first smartphone that can analyze molecules, Israeli startup Consumer Physics has partnered with China’s Changhong, and the result is the H2, due out this summer in Asia and by the end of the year for North America. With its built-in infrared spectrometer, this slender 6-inch Android device lets you scan an object and immediately receive feedback on its chemical composition – whether it’s food items (like fruits and vegetables, dairy products and meat), medication, and even body parts. For example, scan a strawberry at a supermarket to see how sweet it is or find out your body fat percentage by placing the phone on your bicep. Find a pill that’s not in its original bottle? It can tell you the name of the meds.
Along with other automakers, Hyundai was at CES with its self-driving, “autonomous” vehicles, on-hand to take journalists for a spin around the Las Vegas strip (sans driver), but the South Korean company also another – potentially life-changing — innovative mobility solution in the form of a wearable Iron Man-inspired robotic suit. Hyundai’s Exoskeleton concept could give paraplegics the ability to walk, along with assisting the elderly or augmenting someone’s existing physical abilities in an industrial or military capacity. Again, this is proof of concept and not a product that will be available in the near future – though some journalists did get a chance to test-drive the exoskeleton.
Thin is in
Imagine a television so thin you can hang it like wallpaper. Such as TV exists and LG Electronics wowed the crowds at CES with it. Unveiling its top-of-the-line W Series LG Signature OLED TV, this 77-inch television measures an unbelievable 2.59mm thin that was affixed to a wall using magnets (it’s even too thin for a stand). With a 4K OLED TV, each of the 8 million or so pixels are self-illuminating, therefore no backlighting is required. The picture quality proved extraordinary with dark blacks and whiter whites than the contrast you’d find on an LED-backlit LCD TV, plus Active HDR (high dynamic range) makes the images pop even more. Sony showed off its first OLED TVs, as well, including its impressive flagship model, the Bravia A1E, while Samsung’s QLED panels also made a few Best of Show lists.
Imagine carrying nearly 700,000 photos or 530,000 songs on your keychain? At CES, Kingston took the wraps off its 2-terabyte DataTraveler Ultimate GT, the world’s highest capacity USB Flash drive (2TB is the equivalent of more than 2,000 gigabytes). With up to USB 3.1 performance, you could also speedily transfer large files to and from a laptop. Available in February and with no price announced just yet, this DataTraveler Ultimate GT is made of a zinc-alloy metal casing for shock resistance, and includes free technical support and a 5-year warranty. A 1 terabyte version will also be available.
AR gets real
Whether it’s a child playing alone in their room or mom or dad tucking them in, SpinTales by TILT adds a magical augmented reality (AR) experience to story time. Launch the app, hold up the tablet or smartphone and look at the Jungle Rug or Enchanted Duvet ($99.99 apiece) through the camera lens, and cartoon characters seemingly come alive on top of the rug or duvet and pillowcase – as you read classic tales like Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk or the Three Little Pigs. Not sure who will enjoy this modern twist to story time more: the kids or the parents.
If you could make your way through the crowds, Samsung’s booth had a number of fascinating products, including a high-tech washer and dryer. Called FlexWash and FlexDry, respectively, these machines were designed to save you time, energy, and money. FlexWash is a front-loading washing machine with over five cubic feet of capacity – the largest in its class – while a top-loading second compartment adds another cubic foot of capacity that operates independently (or at the same time if you want). This top section is ideal for smaller loads, delicates, or to separate clothes by colour. Similarly, FlexDry has two compartments: a larger front-loading drum and a smaller top-load drying compartment. And yes, there’s an app that notifies you when the load is done. The pair should be available in March for $4699 (for the matching pair) or sold separately.