Based on its prime position in the industry, the Consumer Electronics Show seems like it might be around forever. Put on every year in Las Vegas by its trade association, the event is a gadget spectacle that can be used to determine trends people will be working on for years. With deals completed on the fly, no one attending has time to see all the products. So we’ve gathered the best here based on what we think were the most interesting combinations of innovation and commercial potential.
Before we get to gadgets, though, let’s make one thing clear: CES matters because of the people that make the tech world successful. They include makers, distributors, and the general public. Whether it’s coders who’ve pushed to make a feature work, attendees that give product managers immediate feedback, or marketers that find the best way to sell, it’s this mixed bowl of people that give the event its flavor.
Having said that, let’s check out what they were all raving about.
Even in the digital age, the sound of a beautiful machine can still be thrilling. That’s the biggest takeaway from one of CES’ most talked about gadgets, a split-flap mechanical sign called Vestaboard. Connected to wifi and controlled through mobile apps, the machine brings the sounds of the industrial age to ours and mashes them up with instant messaging, Twitter, Slack, IFTTT, and anything else that can be sent on text.
Known as “clacking boards” at turn-of-the-20th century train stations, the new machine is essentially an old-school message board. But with the ability to show up to 161 characters at a time on a 23 x 9 grid, plus colors, it can be the most fun messaging board ever. Plus, it might make you feel like you’re in an old-timey movie.
2. Tetra Heatworks Dishwashing Machineon
On a first look, this seems like a much prettier version of a regular dishwasher. But it’s actually using a cool branded tech called Ohmic Array that uses graphite electrodes to heat water more efficiently. According to the manufacturer, this efficiency comes from a three-sectional design that separates detergent, the spraying and heat tech portion, and a draining box.
Just like with any new innovations, the washer also comes with mobile application tracking that you can use to check on water pressure and cycle progression. In terms of efficiency, spacing is also a really nice feature since it’s small but packs in at least two place-settings of dishes and can be placed safely on a counter-top. It’s expected to go on sale for $300.
3. Peloton Treadmill
Approximating the outside world inside your home has always been a part of the exercise market. But Peloton is getting closer than others to making it a reality. Its home-to-home social network of spinning bikes, led by live-streaming-and-screaming coaches, has now been adjusted to treadmills.
Just like with the spinning bike, the Peleton Tread has high-end materials and big screens. The running belt is made of heavy-grade slat pieces sitting on probably the most durable ball-bearing system on the market. And reports says it’s easy to start a run through presets, while large dials help adjust speed and incline levels on the fly.
But since social is where it’s at, and being at the top of the leaderboard of your friends group is awesome, Tread might lead people to more health accountability.
Oh, there’s just one thing. It will be $4,000 when released later this year.
Security gadgets are always a fun category to look for at CES and this year didn’t disappoint, with many companies finding ways to operate more secure and connected homes. But the one standout to me this year was the Aura gadget because it made me think of laser security systems from the movies.
Instead of infrared sensors or cameras, the Aura actually picks up the invisible wifi signals bouncing around a home, figures out their pattern, and if there is a disturbance in them, it will figure out if there’s an intruder in the room. Read that again. It picks up a disturbance in the force! Umm, yes, and once that happens, the gadget will send a signal to an emergency response system to figure out what’s going on. It’s very cool.
The Aura is already available for $200 to cover about 700 feet worth of space. There’s no word on whether crazy catz will be able to avoid its recognition technology.
5. Smartphone Stabilizers: DJI Osmo Mobile 2 and Dobot Rigiet
GoPro recently announced it struggled to grow revenue in 2017, so it seems clear that specialized camera companies have a rough future. The reason? Smartphones are used for video by more people more of the time. In that vein, it was inevitable companies would improve the pro quality of video-taking with cinema-style stabilizers.
One of the top stabilizers at CES, the DJI Osmo Mobile 2, was built by a company better-known for cheap drone gadgets. From the beginning of the show, attendees raved about the quality of the smoothness its videos produced and about how well the attending mobile app worked with it. But more impressive was the price, which at $130 is half of competitors’.
Another company trying to get market share in the same arena is Dobot. Its Rigiet stabilizer does a lot of the same things the Osmo Mobile does, such as motion-lapse photo gathering and tracking of subjects that are moving in place. While more expensive than DJI’s, its solid construction materials may make it more durable.
6. L’oreal UV Sense
Many people forget they need to watch their sun intake even on cloudy days. So L’Oréal will help them with a tiny gadget that detects UV exposure and sends troublesome readings directly to their phone. Look at that guy’s finger up there in the pic. That blue thing is it. Tiny.
So the gadget looks like paintdrop on top of a nail but actually stays there. The sensor has an NFC antenna and holds up data for up to three months. Created with the help of design star Yves Behar, this device could be the beginning of a series of wearables that disappear into your life only to tap you on the shoulder, or finger, when you need them.
7. Screen Modularity from LG and Samsung
Think of innovation in screen tech this year as the beginning of a type of Fruit Roll-Up future: Soon you’ll be able to watch your favorite show on a screen you can roll out from a cylinder and take pieces off of it at will, like said candy, to match your size needs.
LG’s 65-inch big-screen roll out of a short narrow tube made people freak out. The Korean company previously prototyped smaller versions that didn’t work but this time, the G brought the heat. Able to be placed against a wall, the OLED display uncoils and maintains structural integrity to watch comfortably without worries of billowing.
The Samsung Wall impressed, on the other had, by splintering into multiples. Made with separate MicroLED panels, the 4K screen helps those constrained by market-research TV-sizing to choose how big they want screens to be. Looking at this from a software perspective, coders will need to think about how UI changes as the shape of screens change as well.
8. Mecha Prosthesis
Last year, the bionic research company Furrion placed a giant robot in the middle of one of the major halls at the Las Vegas Convention Center. I remember seeing a sign promising it was the future of mecha transportation, the movie Pacific Rim come to life, but really just seemed pathetic. It looked like they’d simply welded big white tubes together and called it a day. But this year they came up with evidence that it’s real.
Furrion brought a video of a moving mech in the Vegas desert, with real connection between a person’s movement and a large, 15-foot structure. According to representatives, it should move within a few years at 20 MPH. While the company didn’t specify how long it would take to get a finished mecha, it’ll be fun to turn into the robot racing league when they finally pull it off.
9. Short Edition
It seemed like many gadget-makers at the show were trying to find new ways to connect the cultural influence of the web to tactile, human experiences. Whether that’s because people are becoming desensitized to software interactions or something else, we know it’s a trend. And one of the most charming products we saw matching this ethos was Short Edition.
The device prints out stories on the fly, like a receipt, with a button press. You can choose between those of different lengths and subjects, all searchable on the company’s site. And if you’re feeling, for example, a hankering for classical prose, you can see what’s available on the site and send it to the machine to print. In fact, if you think of yourself as a budding short story writer, you can submit text on their site and have someone a world away read them on paper (and maybe even give you feedback.)
The machine’s value is a bit discrete but potentially heart-warming. Who doesn’t want to be inspired by the written word while in line at the DMV instead of staring at a dude’s neck hair?
The VR/AR dream is to walk around in real-life without constraints while being part of the virtual or augmented world. Facebook’s Oculus has promised to deliver a cordless device, the Go, later this year and Google finally came through at CES.
The Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream is also a cordless headset that helps the wearer know where she is wearing it. No, it’s not a full device that you can walk around the block yet but you can definitely move around in space without worrying about tripping. The device does this through two cameras that follow the wearer’s motion.
But what makes it interesting within Google’s ecosystem is the ability to see pictures in 3D you take with a separate camera, the Mirage. This gadget takes 3D 180-degree photos and videos that when uploaded, can be watched on your Mirage Solo. Expect this whole package to get folded into a single device in the future.
Follow Jose Fermoso on Twitter @fermoso