15 Game Changing Tech Products At CES 2018
From artificially intelligent ear pods to multisensory virtual reality cabins, here are the most innovative personal tech products at CES this week.
Fifty years ago, at the 1968 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Douglas Engelbart unveiled and demonstrated the use of the first computer mouse. Until then, humans had interacted with computers mainly through binary or alphanumeric input such as punch cards and keyboards. The mouse allowed us, for the first time, to touch and click in digital space. It let us imagine that we could emulate the rules and behaviors of our physical world on the screen of a computer, and by extension, it suggested that computers could help us create a new hybrid environment. With no mouse there would be no virtual reality.
It is also one of the reasons why CES is so big today. More than 3,900 exhibitors and 170,000 attendees will gather in Las Vegas this month around technologies that promise to affect every aspect of our lives—and every single one of these innovations is deeply concerned with how humans and machines interact. Some devices may not be as transformative as Engelbart’s invention (although even a smart door flap, for instance, is game changing for pet owners), but many suggest real shifts in how we might live and work someday.
Internet of Things (IoT) technologies such as smart thermostats and digital companions like Alexa or Google Home have become ubiquitous, and we are now accustomed to the idea of controlling devices through touch screens or voice commands. Now the goal is to bring back the satisfaction of haptic (touch- based) responses—with, for instance, Flic, a 21st-century smart hub that can be pushed like a 20th-century button, or Kuri, a robot companion that rumbles with a purr when she is stroked.
Smart capabilities are also entering areas of our lives where we might not have thought we needed them. Simplehuman now has a trash can that responds to voice commands, and Wanderwatch uses on-screen prompts to encourage kids to play outside and is equipped with GPS to help parents keep track of their whereabouts.
Kids, in many ways, are the new frontier for smart technologies. A recent study found that almost all parents who own a digital assistant are comfortable letting their children use it. But regulators still have concerns about security and privacy—Germany recently banned the sale of kids’ smartwatches, labeling them “spying devices.”
IoT technologies have certainly influenced architecture and design in a general sense: Conference rooms and hotel lobbies, for example, will never be the same. But some of the devices on view at CES are concerned more fundamentally with the creative process itself.
The big focus this year is on accurately translating the real world onto digital platforms. Instrumments 01 seeks to replace all measuring tools with a single penlike device. It captures dimensions, describes curves and profiles, and even defines surfaces, and then uploads them to an app. Also, 3D cameras have become increasingly sophisticated, scanning spaces with greater accuracy and translating scans into a variety of useful formats, including 3D models and floor plans.
A sizable portion of the CES show floor is taken up with VR, AR, and mixed- reality offerings, all of which have implications for architects and designers. Realfiction’s DeepFrame, the world’s largest mixed-reality display, offers the tantalizing possibility that we will one day be able to stand on a build- ing site and see a yet-to-be-built structure in front of us, mapped onto the actual landscape rather than a virtual one.
One of the drawbacks of virtual reality is that it privileges the sense of sight over all others. With VR goggles on, people may see themselves in a different space, but their senses of touch and smell anchor them to whatever room their bodies are located in. True sensorial immersion is still a dream from the future, but Sensiks moves one step closer to that goal with its Sensory Reality Pods. With cabins that sync scent, temperature, and even airflow within a single VR experience, the company hopes to revolutionize treatment of dementia, PTSD, and brain damage. At the very least, it will make for an engaging, if ex- pensive, addition to a spa or hotel lobby.
Exploration was the source of inspiration for two of this year’s CES Innovation Award winners, although in different ways. Blueye Pioneer , the first professional-grade underwater drone available to consumers, allows users to peer under the ocean’s surface, even in rough waters. Meanwhile, Mars headphones, a collaboration between Japanese and Korean tech giants, break down language barriers through simultaneous translation. They are reminders that even as we continue to be enticed by digital spaces, there is still much to learn about the physical world.
You can find our latest coverage of CES 2018 here.