I’ve attended the CES show, the annual showcase of consumer electronic products from around the world, for over 30 years. But I gave it up a few years ago when I tired of the terrible traffic jams, the miles of walking each day, and the inefficiency of back-to-back meetings held in different hotels miles apart. Exhibits became scattered among a half dozen hotels, making it impossible to see more than a small fraction of the exhibits. And this year was worse with major streets closed off for construction during one of the biggest shows of the year.
Thanks to the Internet,however, it’s now possible to get a better view of what’s new, important and interesting.
While much of the show this year was filled with the expected – TVs, phones, audio equipment, computers, home automation, etc., the show highlighted the latest trends in AI and EVs. Like 3D TV several years ago, when everyone jumped on the latest hot trend, deserving or not, AI was this year’s “buzzword.” Anything with an algorithm or with software decision-making suddenly turned into an AI device. There is no shame in consumer product marketing.
EVs are becoming hi tech devices in their own right, with in-car enterntainment and information systems along with self driving technology. EVs are platforms for new technology, bringing new innovation to the automobile in dispays, lighting, and driving. All of the major automotive companies showed more imaginative designs than ever. The basics of an EV car are much less complex than conventional cars, allowing many new companies from all over the world to enter the business. For example, VinFast, a Vietnamese company, introduced as a concept car, the VF Wild, a mid-size electric pickup that got a lot of attention.
For those jealous of the self driving features starting to show up on some new cars, Comma, a San DIego company, offers a kit to add self-driving to 250 different makes and models of cars. They supply cameras , wiring harnesses and all you need to add the capability. $1250. A friend has added it to his Toyota RAV4 and raves about it. The website has videos that provide more details.
Among the new announcements, I found a few hardware items of interest for those that are on the road:
Swarovski Launches the first smart binoculars
Swarovski Optik combined a binocular with image recognition to create the AX VISIO, a binocular that can recognize the type of bird you’re looking at using it’s AI functionality. The 10X32 pocket sized binocular runs off of a rechargeable battery and has several modes including birds, squirrels, photo, and movies. It lets you send images and movies to others or save them on your phone. It’s a clever device – more like a camera with computer, but it’s priced in the stratosphere at $5000. Expect to see plenty of less expensive knockoffs from others, because it won’t be difficult to duplicate using, of course AI!
The new Withings BeamO is a 4-in-1 connected checkup device this is to the thermometer what a Swiss-army knife is to a butter knife. The multiscope, as it’s referred to, contains the sensors that are used on an ECG machine, stethoscope, thermometer, and pulse oximete to measure a number of your health indicators. The company touts it as a device than can be used with a telehealth call, sharing the information with your doctor, although I’ve yet to meet a doctor who has much interest in consumer grade health monitors. $250.
One product that seemed to surprise everyone was the Rabbit R1, a pocket-sized block-shaped device that’s intended to be an intermediary or interface between the user and their phone using Aritficial Intelligence. The concept is that you would use this device to interact with all of your apps, rather than opening each app as needed. By using its AI capabilities it would know what action to take (app to open) when you made a request. For example if you asked it to book tickets from San Francisco to San Diego, it would seamlessly open a travel app, find and reserve your flights. Many of its actions would be based on learning how you’ve done it in the past. The reaction to it was positive and the company announced it sold out it’s entire inventory of 50,000 the day it was announced.
It’s being compared to the Ai Pin, a $700 device, discussed in a recent column, that is intended to use AI to do something similar, but requiring it’s own cellular service and without some of the features of this product. Some reviewers note that if the Ai Pin was not already dead in the water, the Rabbit finished the job.
Timekettle X1 Interpreter Hub
Frequent travelers have been promised for decades, pocket sized devices to instantly translate conversations when traveling to a country speaking another language. But nearly all were gimmicks that were impractical to use. But now the Timekettle X1 Interpreter Hub promises to make it all possible.
The TimeKettle X1 delivers real-time translations in 40 languages, claiming it does so with nearly no latency and high accuracy. The device has a screen that displays transcriptions of your conversation and two earbuds that two people can wear for real-time in-ear translations during one-on-one conversations. $700.
ButterFly Travel Charger
The ButterFly Travel Charger is the world’s smallest portable charger for simultaneously charging an iPhone and Apple Watch. Unfolding the aluminum shell reveals a MagSafe charger for your iPhone and a magnetic fast charger for your Apple Watch. It also converts into a display stand for your night table or desk. It comes with a 30 watt power adapter, international plug adapters, and a carrying bag.
ButterFly also morphs into a display stand that supports the new StandBy mode on iPhone (turning the phone horizontaly displays a bedside clock) or Nightstand mode on Apple Watch. ButterFly includes a 30W Power Adapter with four international Plug Adapters so that you can stay charged anywhere in the world. So while the device is tiny, it still requires a wall transformer. $130.