Day two of the 2017 CES was just as packed as Day One, with plenty to see in booths both big and small.
An eye-catcher is LG's OLED tunnel demo, which features hundreds of OLED TVs that surround you, displaying a gorgeous display of colours, images, and lights. Audio accompaniment through Dolby Atmos adds to the fully immersive experience. Stand in the middle and marvel at the sights and sounds all around you. When the twinkling lights appear, you feel as though you're physically moving amidst a night sky. It's a sight to be seen - and heard - and worth checking out if you're attending the show.
And while companies like LG and Samsung are stealing the show with innovative booths and demos of everything from ultra-thin OLED TVs to washers and dryers that do double duty and can wash multiple loads at once on different cycles, some smaller companies are standing out as well.
At an evening press event on January 5, OmniCharge caught our attention with its portable charging device that can power up everything from your smartphones and tablets, to a MacBook, Microsoft Surface, or Lenovo computer. It has special kit attachments for each type of computer, as well as USB, and a Qi wireless charging pad on top. The unit itself charges up in about 2-3 hours, and offers flow-through charging so you can plug it into the wall and keep your device consistently charged up. Smart features regulate the temperature so when you have multiple devices charging at once, it won't overheat. You can charge a 13" MacBook about 1.2 times per charge. There's an ultra-portable unit, or get the whole she-bang with the pro-level model for heavy on-the-go users for US$299.
Remember the Quik Pod? Toronto-based Wayne Fromm is back with a new invention - a universal mount for smartphones that lets you stick the device to just about any surface, then use the Bluetooth remote (iOS and Android) to trigger the shutter and take a selfie - no stick needed. Use it in the car, stick it on the wall or a mirror, or even your bike handles, and enjoy snapping or shooting video. It also comes with a tripod base. It will be available in February for about $20.
A common theme among new smart device brands is comparing their functionality to Amazon's Alexa, naturally, through the integration of voice control to do fun, useful, or practical things. With the Woobo toy, for example, a rep compared it to Alexa with a teddy bear. Kids can ask the furry friend interesting questions, and engage in mult-interactive conversations and even role-playing. For example, ask Woobo to pretend to be a firefighter, and it will engage in conversational play with the child, asking him to help it fight fires, or save someone. The idea is to foster imagination, curiousity, exploration, and discovery. The rep notes that one child had a half hour conversation with a Woobo, which promoted him to then visit the local library to read up more on the critters. Still in its prototyping stage, Woobo is set to ship some time in October for about US$150.
Another company comparing itself to Amazon's Alexa is Hello Egg!, It's similar to the Amazon Echo in that you can ask if questions about the weather, sports, news, to play music, and more. But it adds some interesting new elements. The first is that it will turn toward the person asking if a question, staring at you with its oversized eye. The second is the library of curated recipes. Targeting people like millennials, you can ask the device how to make something basic, like an omelette, pancakes, or fried chicken, and it will walk you through the process step-by-step, both with text, audio, and displaying video instructions. At any time during the process, you can ask it to go back, forward, stop, or repeat a step. For anyone who cooks and often does so with his smartphone or tablet at his side, being able to get all of this information strictly through voice is appreciated. However, while the device will launch with "hundreds" of recipes, it only includes a curated selection, so while you'll find a basic recipe for pancakes, you won't be able to get more detailed, searching for more complex or specific recipe ideas. Aiming for some time in Q2, Hello Egg! will sell for about US$300-US$350.
Also using a "Hello" moniker is Hello Zee, an interesting power smartphone case that offers wireless charging, additional memory, and lighting for any device. It's interchangeable because of all of this functionality is housed within a square piece that fits inside the case. So if you buy a new phone, all you need to do is get another case to wrap around the unit. A full set is US$80-US$200, depending on how much additional storage you want. And cases on their own are about US$25. While the concept is clever, the device itself isn't the most attractive. Because it's Apple-approved, a small square piece sticks out of the bottom of the case where the Lightning connector sits. However, Hello Zee found an interesting way to utilize this by adding a loop and chain so you can clip the device to your belt loop or backpack and keep it safely on a chain.
In the we-don't-really-need-that-but-it's-cool category is the Hale Orb, a sphere-shaped device that communicates with a Bluetooth dongle you plug into the HDMI port of your TV to control the playback of photos. Display your favourite album, from Facebook, Instagram, or another source, then spin the top of the Orb to scroll through. Tap it to select a photo, and shake to "Like" it. Essentially, it's a remote for photo scrolling. It won't be available until next summer, though, for about US$150 or so.
Back to LG, the Tone Studio Wearable Personal Speaker is a neat idea. Drape it over your neck, and enjoy an immersive, personal listening experience through the four external speakers. While the audio volume is ideal for the wearer, those around them aren't plagued with the same volume level. And the wearer is still fully aware of his surroundings. To switch to a fully personal listening experience, pop out the earbuds from either side and plug them into your ears. It's great for listening while on a bicycle, for example, especially in places where it isn't legal to have something in your ears while riding. And it can also be used to take calls. Pricing and availability is TBA, but we can expect to see them in the U.S. some time in Q1.
Dog & Bone's LockSmart Travel is a neat version of its existing Bluetooth Lock that's made specifically for travel. In addition to the ability to remotely unlock it, or set an unlock schedule for certain users, it also offers tracking. So you can keep on top of where your luggage is while you're waiting for it to come off the carousel in an airport, for example. If somehow your luggage ends up elsewhere, crowdsourced tracking means other LockSmart users may be able to help you pinpoint its exact location. The TSA-approved device is available now for US$60.
But most interesting from Dog & Bone's booth is its prototype Earmade Bluetooth earbuds. Like many others, the Australian company is making its first foray into the Bluetooth headphones space, and adding an interesting and clever new concept. Place the buds in a heating dock, and they will come out luke warm. Place them in your ears, and the materials will mold and adjust until they fit perfectly into your ear canal, then expand for a secure fit, similar to standard ear plugs. This offers both a comfortable and customized fit, as well as effective noise isolation. They offer up to six hours play time, and will come with two sets of inserts, the heating dock, and a carrying case for about US$159. Availability is expected for some time in the second quarter of this year.
iFace is solving the issue of having to affix small magnets to the back of your phone or phone case in order to mount the device on a magnetic mount with its patent-pending case, which comes with the magnet built right in. Because the piece in the phone is just metal, it won't demagnetize other devices (say, a hotel room key stored in the same pocket of your jeans.) The cases are about US$20, and iFace offers a number of mounting options, like vent and dash mounts, though the case will work with any magnetic mount.