The taxi line at the airport was my first clue that this year’s Consumer Electronics Show wouldn’t be quite the blowout it’s been in years past. Maybe it’s the split of the show across three venues that’s the cause. I’ve been coming for 8 years now, starting off my new year in the artificial paradise that is Las Vegas, and taxi line or not, I know CES gives a good sense of the tech zeitgeist. With new things coming in smart watches, smart homes, cloud computing and the Internet of Things, the tech landscape has come a long way in the past 8 years…and so has CES.
The CES exhibitors never unload the big stuff at the press preview—it’s not the place for groundbreaking announcements—but there were a few interesting things to see. As you’d expect, we were swimming in new gadgets for home security, wearable cameras, and wearable sensors for tracking and health. Here are a few worth mentioning:
1) Drool cool: Have you ever awakened with a crick in your neck from falling asleep with massive over-the-ear headphones on? Neither have I. But I understand it’s a problem among the youngs. SleepPhones to the rescue! SleepPhones take a plus headband and embed headphones it, helping you fall asleep and stay asleep while listening to your soothing tunes. This bluetooth-enabled device lasts up to seven hours and can double up as a sleep mask. No wonder their tagline is “pajamas for your ears!” No word on what they can do for your morning breath.
2) Panaromic punch: The 360° Giroptic camera enters a highly competitive landscape, but this is one HD camera I’ve been looking forward to. I love this market, but most of the entries that I’ve reviewed (read up on them at my blog, photoinduced.com) have, ahem, sucked. Giroptic’s offering is programmed for real-time video streaming, and it includes GPS sensors for geotagging plus 3 microphones for surround sound. If the product proves to be any good (and I hope it does, given that it hails from France which, for some reason, has been a real hot-bed of this kind of tech of late), maybe I’ll just buy a few of them to rig up around the living room to create my own bizarre talk show.
3) Beats Beats: Marshall is a venerable old name in audio tech with a long-standing reputation for great sound. We all know that twee audiophile sensibilities took one to the tender bits with the advent of digital music. Digital compression isn’t kind to sound quality. Better quality digital files are joining improved headphones to heal some of the damage. The latest entry from Marshall are a case in point. Called the Major II headphones, Marshall’s new product delivers deeper bass and better sound encased in a durable vinyl finish with improved ergonomics and ear caps. Under $100, and this solid workhorse is going to kick Beats’ butt.
4) One Ring to rule them all: Well, rule smartphones basically. This Bluetooth enabled biometric ring maps gestures allowing users to launch any application on their smartphone with just a single gesture. Is this the birth of a new way of interacting with our digital devices? I hope not. Just because something can be done doesn’t mean that it should be. I mean, really, who looks back on, for example, acid washed denim vests with any kind of fondness?
5) Let me take a #Allie: For those who weren’t impressed with a 360° angle, several manufacturers such as Real Tech are building video cameras with 720° field of view. RealTech’s IC720 is just 2.7” wide and has no blind spots. This is a great product for home security and adrenaline junkies alike.
6) Holy smokes: The Roost smart battery turns your smoke detector into a smart device with a built-in Wi-Fi antenna. It uses a audio sensor to spot when it’s time to get out the stepladder and change the battery. You get an alert on your app at a decent hour instead of an awful chirp at 3 am. Sound great (and steals something of Nest’s thunder, too), but consider this: How long do you keep an app on your phone? Will you still have it 5 years down the line…which is probably when you’ll need it? If you’re anything like me, it will have been deleted a long time ago.
7) From “Oh sh*t!” to “Oh well…”: I’m particularly drawn to the announcement of glass protective screens for smartphones. Who hasn’t picked up a dropped phone to find a spider’s web of cracks where that cute picture of your dog used to be? Considering the awful solutions we currently have for screen protection, this could be a real benefit.
I’ll be back with more from Monday’s first preview day and throughout the week with more updates on what’s going down out here in Vegas. I’ll leave you with this thought: A company called Lima is offering a new take on storage solutions. Lima lets you store all of your files from all of your devices in an encrytpted cloud—7TB worth—freeing up the storage on your devices. There’s a one-time cost for the hardware, and then you have access to all of your materials on any device when you connect to the internet. It sounds great, but consider this: a whole bunch of companies I’ve seen announce cool products one year are gone by the next. Lima’s just a Kickstarter now. I think I’ll wait a bit before I trust them with my digital life.