Every year – shortly after New Year’s Day, the tech industry and journalists who cover it, gather in Las Vegas for the annual CES, which used to stand for Consumer Electronics Show. The event fills up the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands Expo Center along with hundreds of satellite events taking place throughout Las Vegas during the nearly weeklong festivities, which include press day and other pre-show previews.
I like to look at individual products, but my main objective is to assess trends –what types of products are being shown and which ones are being talked about. Also, I’m not alone in taking interest in the issues that concern the tech industry and those who might regulate it, which is why a lot of government officials attend this show to talk about privacy, smart cities, transportation policy, security and more. I covered Ivanka Trump’s keynote fireside chat, where she claimed that President Donald Trump’s policies are behind our record unemployment and argued that even though there are plenty of open jobs, there remains a significant number of people who don’t have the requisite skills.
Not everything trending at CES is new. For example, last year there were a lot of autonomous vehicles on display, and that’s even more true this year. There were also some 8K TVs, but this year there are a lot more. In 2019, we saw fitness gadgets evolving into health and diagnostic tools and – like other trends that take hold –there are even more of them at the current exhibition.
Omron showed a combination blood pressure monitor and electrocardiogram tester for the home.
Last year, there were some sneak previews of foldable phones, but now there are real ones such as Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, with Motorola’s foldable new Razr slated to come out soon.
TV maker TCL showed off a prototype of its own foldable phone that it will likely release later this year.
But it’s not just phones that fold. Lenovo showed off the X1 Fold, billed as the first foldable Windows PC. I got to play with an early prototype last year and was impressed at how they could make a PC fold like a book, but I’m not sure I want to spend $2,500 on one when it comes out later this year.
Dell, Asus and Microsoft also showed off foldable PCs, which are really hybrids between PCs and tablets. While I’m glad to see well-heeled companies experimenting with new form factors, I’m not convinced there will be much of a market for them, but time will tell.
The Alcatel 3L doesn’t fold, but it does have a 48 megapixel camera at the astoundingly low price of $155, according to CNET. It will roll out in some countries this quarter, but it’s not clear when or if it will come to the U.S.
TVs are always big at CES, and each year they get bigger. I remember when 55 inches was considered big, but now it’s on the small side as an increasing number of consumers opt for 65-, 75-inch or larger TVs. But, each year, some company shows off a really really big TV like Samsung’s 292-inch OLED display. That’s 24 feet of TV. It’s not yet for sale at any price, but if it were, it would cost tens of thousand of dollars plus the cost of having to either rebuild your living room – or perhaps your whole house – to accommodate it.
Speaking of big bucks, last year LG showed off a prototype of a rollable TV, and this year’s it will go on sale for, according to CNET, $60,000. In some parts of the country, you could buy a house for that price. It reminds me of that movie screen my dad had that rolled down and out of the way, only this one rolls up from a cabinet and – since it’s a TV – doesn’t require a projector.
This year we saw a lot of health and fitness products including several designed to improve your dental health. I spent some time with a dentist working for Colgate who showed me a smart toothbrush that has sensors that detect “biofilm buildup” in the mouth, and through a companion smartphone, shows you where to focus your brushing. The company claims that it can prevent plaque, which can lead to gum and tooth problems.
As always there were some oddball products. Menta5 is a bicycle that you can ride on water. In a podcast interview, CEO Greg Johnston told me that the company has designed the first hydrofoil bike using hydrofoil technology and a propeller. Like most land e-bikes, there is an electric assist as well as pedals. One reason for the electric motor is to get enough speed to lift the body of the bike out of the water to reduce drag and increase efficiency.
The wackiest product at the show has to be the Charmin Rollbot, a bear-based robot that delivers toilet paper. I have to admit, I’ve been in a situation where this would have come in handy, but I’m not sure it’s destined to be a real product. The Rollbot, along with a smell sensor of the bathroom, is a product of Charmin’s “GoLab.” I kid you not.
I laughed when I saw the Samsung Ballie, but the rolling little robot, that looks like a tennis ball, may actually have some uses. It rolls around the house to entertain you, the kids and the dog and has a camera to check up on things. It can also follow you around the house and “understands you, supports you and reacts to your needs to be actively helpful around the house,” said Samsung co-CEO H.S. Kim, as he played with it during his CES keynote.
Larry Magid is a tech journalist and internet safety activist.
Published at Fri, 10 Jan 2020 12:00:51 +0000