The Consumer Electronics Show for 2020 has come and gone. And, of course, it brought with it a wide assortment of gigantic TVs, foldable phones, futuristic computers and robotic wonders: All the sorts of things you’d expect when the words “consumer” and “electronics” show up in the same sentence.
But instead of talking about the latest version of a 150-inch TV that costs as much as your house, I’d like to take a few moments to look at a few of the fun new gadgets presented that might have flown under your collective radar.
For instance, one little robotic newbie of note is a little guy called the Samsung Ballie. In a way it’s a cross between Alexa and a tiny BB-8. Now don’t get too excited, Star Wars fans, it won’t be fixing your computer systems or navigating your X-wing fighter anytime soon. What the tiny ball-shaped robo can do, though, is follow you around with built-in cameras and sensors and control your smart home devices for you. So, you want a small rolling companion to wake you up in the morning, turn on the TV and get a fresh pot of coffee going? You’re set.
Another Samsung venture into the future of A.I. is something called the Neon Project. No robot walkabout this time, but its supposedly a good-sized leap into the realm of super-realistic digital people. Samsung Technology and Advanced Research Labs (Yes, that is STAR Labs for you D.C. Comics fans. Is there a theme developing here?) called their creation an “independent and virtual human being.” An intelligent and learning video chatbot with its own unique personality, if you will. So, your Neon won’t be able to instantly tell you the population of Thessaloniki, Greece, but it can talk with you about your dream trip to the Greek Isles … while appearing to be a very interested human guy or gal. This could be cool, as long as we don’t hook them up to our national defense system, that is.
While we’re talking about the future, there’s now a new gadget available for all of you who have bought into the sci-fi-worthy idea of a dystopian doomsday tomorrow. The Hydraloop is a highly sophisticated water-purification system for those who have a yearning to reclaim their wastewater and make it, uh, un-wastey. OK, you probably won’t want to gulp back a tall cool glass of the end product, but you can use it to wash your clothes and water your garden and stuff. And, hey, you’ll be king when it starts raining radioactive sludge in a year or two.
Of course, if you’re actually planning for a happier tomorrow, the Motion Pillow from TenMinds might be the gadget for you, especially if you have a significant other with a tendency to saw logs like a lumberjack at beddy-bye time. This memory foam pillow has four airbags and a sensor-based sleep pressure monitoring system. When it hears you snoring, it gently inflates in such a way as to shift your head until you stop—sorta like the high-tech version of a spousal elbow to the ribs, only without a bruise. Supposedly it’s like sleepy pillow magic … with a not-so-sleepy price tag of a $400.
OK, now for something that could amount to a version of teen road trip torture. (Parents, pay attention.) They call it the Carkit AI Roxie Car Karaoke. (Your ears are already starting to bleed, aren’t they?) Anyway, this gizmo is exactly what it sounds like, a kit that turns your car into a mobile karaoke booth. Plug it into your accessory socket, stick the long-range microphone on the dash, and use the Roxie’s voice assistant to cue up all your favorite tunes from the music player app of your choice. Rock on, road-trip family, rock on!
After that full-throated experience, you might have need for the new Phonak Virto Black. What is it? Nothing short of an incredible new hearing aid. But it offers more than just hearing enhancement, it also comes packing Bluetooth streaming, cell phone call pick up, and some fancy tech that filters noise in a crowded room and boosts voices at a distance. Super-hearing anyone? Oh, and if you’re packing super hearing, why not strap on some super strength, too. The Sarcos Guardian XO is the equivalent of a portable exoskeleton that you can easily slip into and suddenly be able to lift 200 pounds with one arm. Delta Airlines is reportedly already testing this mech tech out with their baggage handlers. And a commercial model is said to be available later this year.
There were lots of other memorable devices at CES such as MamaRoo’s moving Sleep Bassinet, which simulates everything from tree swings to a car ride to help the little ‘uns drift off to sleep, and the Bosch Virtual Visor, a clear car visor that “watches” your face and digitally shades your eyes when the sunshine glares too brightly. But one of the fun toys that stood out to me was something very retro that was totally futuristic, too.
The Stern Stranger Things Pinball Machine: Yep, that’s right, a full caliber pinball wizard joy toy from the legacy pinball company. But this isn’t any old random pinball machine: It also features a first ever video projector that displays images and animations directly on the playfield, creating dramatic interactions with gameplay action. The center of the playfield features a unique ramp that doubles as a screen. So, you’re not just hitting some old silver ball, you’re jumping into a direct battle with the Demogorgon. (It’s accompanied appropriately by an ’80s synth soundtrack.) The creators say you might even get to take a trip to the Upside Down.
So, there you have it. Just a taste of some of the wonders that make up your typical CES event. Makes you want to slip off and see all the whizbangs in person next year, doesn’t it? Hey, you could pack up the teens and the Roxie Car Karaoke and make it a road trip. Woohoo.