For one glorious week each January, tech geeks reign supreme. With products ranging from smelly-shoe solutions to toilet paper delivery systems, this year’s Consumer Electronics Show featured devices from more than 4,400 companies. CES highlights the future of technology with lots of cool new gadgets today.
Here’s a rundown of the highlights. Which do you think might become most popular?
Samsung wants to reinvent the ball with a simple rolling robot friend. But Ballie’s technology is anything but simple. The artificial intelligence companion has a camera that can record and send video. The bright yellow orb can also communicate with other smart devices. Ballie might follow you around the house, answer your questions, wake you up, turn on the coffee pot, and give you the latest headlines. Its embedded camera allows this high-tech tennis ball to guard your house too, setting alarms and patrolling rooms. What’s more, Ballie can entertain your pets—because who’s got time for that?
Tech company Actronika focuses on how humans and machines work together. It creates software and hardware that allow users to feel what’s shown on a screen. Today’s virtual reality headsets already let gamers see and hear imagined worlds. But Actronika’s new haptic (feeling) jacket allows users to touch and feel those experiences too. Jacket wearers can sense movements and environmental conditions such as heat, wind, heartbeat, and so on. Get kicked in a computer soccer game? With the haptic jacket, you’ll feel the hit. Ouch.
The brainiacs at BrainCo want your head in the game—literally. They’ve developed a headband called FocusFit that converts brainwaves into numbers. The numbers translate into code that can turn on lights or race toy cars. Athletes already use the bands to test focus levels. Studies show that mind training can improve performance, even without any other training. And students, beware! BrainCo is selling the headbands to schools, so your math teacher may actually be able to read your mind.
For some people, bike riding beside a lake just won’t cut it. Enter the Manta5 Hydrofoil Bike. Aquaphiles (people who like water) can ride into and over bodies of water. The Manta5’s bike-like body features hydrofoils (literally “water-blades”) instead of wheels. Wave-riders can start on land, off a dock, or in deep water. Electric pedal assist helps riders get up to speed enough to glide over the water for up to an hour. This aquatic e-bike won CES 2020’s Best of Show in the Rideables category. Ride on in, the water’s fine!
Today’s kitchens are getting smarter. Appliance companies are debuting high-tech gadgets in every nook and cranny. New refrigerators will track inventory, plan recipes, and create shopping lists for what you’re running low on. (I’m looking at you, milk jug!) Some even calculate how long an item has been in the fridge. (Still you, 2%.) And if a smart fridge isn’t your style, how about a robotic veggie-chopping arm, an oven camera to mind your cookies, and another to send pix of your best culinary efforts to Instagram?
The oddly popular, self-balancing, upright wheeled transport called Segway is getting an update. A so-called “first class” chair, the S-Pod, looks an awful lot like the floating loungers in Pixar’s Wall-E. With the S-Pod, Segway may have stumbled upon a great truth: Most people like to sit—even when they’re in a hurry. The giant, egg-shaped, two-wheeled rolling chair uses a joystick and requires riders to lean forward and back to control speed. Like its forerunner, the S-pod is for short drives or tooling around spaces like airports or malls. The bright side of this device is the happy potential for disabled persons. And at speeds of up to 24 miles per hour (twice that of an ordinary Segway), the S-Pod will let users kick back while they simultaneously zip into the future.
Here’s news for your nose. A portable device promises that stinky athletic shoes, hiking boots, everyday flats, and even dress heels can smell like new. Shoeblast is the invention of South Korean startup SmartreumBang-E. Kick off your kicks and place a flashlight-sized device in each shoe. Shoeblast detects moisture and uses hot fans and infrared and UV light to dry out the insides. The device even kills bacteria. “Shoeblast is a dehumidifier as well as a sterilizer for shoes,” explains marketing manager Young Kang. Just relax and smell the fresh Nike Airs.
A “tiny” electric fire truck can fit into tight spaces such as parking garages or shopping centers. At just 6 feet, 5 inches tall, the mini fire engine carries the same equipment as a traditional truck (between 9 and 12.5 feet). Electronics companies Panasonic and Tropos collaborated on the pint-sized vehicle. Designers say the tiny truck “is ready to serve in spaces large or small, indoors or out”—and would be perfect for “tight metropolitan areas.”
Charmin wants to solve the dreadful problem of being stranded on the toilet without paper. Its solution: a two-wheeled robot that fetches a fresh roll. The six-inch RollBot has the face of a bear—like the cartoon one in Charmin’s commercials. The bot wheels right up with TP on top. But RollBot won’t trundle to the rescue anytime soon. Procter & Gamble, the company that owns Charmin, says the bitty bot won’t be for sale. “Car companies have concept cars, but P&G has concept bathrooms,” says Marc Pritchard, head of Procter & Gamble’s brands. Too bad. This is one product most folks would love to see rolled out.