This year's CES, as always, was chocked-full of plenty of goodies of all kinds, from small and clever gadgets, to massive flying vehicles and even a luxury yacht.
Here are some more items that were must-sees from different parts of the show.
In south hall, which featured innovations in areas like health tech, fitness, and smart home, the Bot Boxer was a fun demo worth trying to get your adrenaline going. The machine is more realistic for gyms than it might be for someone's home - unless you're serious about training and have a spacious, at-home gym. Designed for martial arts and other combat sports, the high-tech training machine consists of a robotic punching bag, a set of sensors, and a screen and computer with software that works with you to help you train. Engage in regular sparring with the bag, which recognizes your strikes and moves to escape them, or run drills as the machine senses you force, direction, and precision and provides tips, such as to punch harder, or in the right way or on the right side. I tried the demo, it was a fantastic workout, with the bag successfully escaping my punches many time, encouraging me to work harder. The software is cloud-based, so you can access your training data from a smartphone, and you can use any boxing gloves, or your bare hands. It costs U$20,000, so it's no small investment. But for those who are serious about training, or for gyms looking to differentiate, it's a smart option that's worth looking into.
Over in the Venetian area of the Sand Expo Convention Center, tucked away in a series of rooms, Creative Labs was running a really compelling demo of its Super X-Fi amp, which promises "holographic audio." Using the app and your phone's camera, snap photos of your ears and the front of your face, and it maps them to create a listening experience that's personalized to you, given that every individual perceives sound differently. Once the process is complete, connect the amp to your smartphone (an adapter is necessary right now for the iPhone), and listen with any pair of earbuds or headphones. (Creative does have a list of ones that have been certified for use with the amp, but you should be able to enjoy improved sound with any pair.) The idea is that a speaker soundstage is reproduced in the headphones, so you'll hear music as you might using a surround speaker set-up, regardless of the source, versus hearing it as though it's being piped through the headphones. We listened to a number of sources, toggling between turning Super X-Fi on and off via the button on the amp. From movies to music, it was impressive: we'd often have to take the headphones off to truly believe that the sound was only coming from them, not the speakers that were in the room. But the most impressive demo was when listening to a live recording of Ella Fitzgerald chatting with the audience, and breaking into a rendition of My Funny Valentine. The source: "crappy" mono YouTube audio. Yet with the headphones, it felt like we were at the concert. The SXFI Amp, which was first shown in prototype form at last year's CES, is finally ready for prime time, and sells for US$150.
Back in the main area of South Hall, we were drawn by the delicious scents coming from the Moodo booth. There, the company was showcasing its line of smart home scent diffusers. Each cube-shaped one comes with slots for four capsules of different scented oils. Mix and match, then use the app to control which scents you want at different times, or combine them with different intensities for each to make your own scent combinations. You can set schedules, so you get lavender in the morning and Christmas tree at night, for example. And they can be controlled via Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and IFTTT. Each capsule can run for up to 60 hours at the highest intensity, and you'll receive a push notification to your phone once it's about the run out. They come in black or white for US$140 with a set of four scents to get you started, and refills come in four-packs for US$30 each. The company also has a version for the car that essentially replaces the old-fashioned air freshener. The unit can sit in the centre console, and plugs into the car's adapter, or pull off the top and clip it to the vent. It will sell for US$40 for one unit plus a set of four scents, and US$4.95 per additional refill once it becomes available in late February/early March. The company offers 28 different scents in total among eight families.
On the fun tech side, Sphero Specdrums Rings is a neat way to get kids interested in music, and combining sounds. Place the little rings on your fingers, than tap any surface, and it will play a specific sound, based on the colour of the item. Use it with the app, which has tons of sound packs you can access for free, or create your own. The rings work through an accelerometer that detects taps and gestures, a light sensor that can recognize colours, and LEDs that indicate and illuminate tapped surfaces, along with Bluetooth Low Energy. Tap it on a granny smith apple, for example, and it will play the specific tone associated with the colour green, like a cymbal. Tap your blue shirt, and it will play the sound associated with blue - perhaps a percussion drum. The only "colours" it doesn't recognize are black and white, or really dark tones. One ring is US$65 or get two for US$100; the double set will be available starting in February. It comes with a play pad featuring different colours to get you started.
We stepped into the vast section of the show known as Eureka Park, which is essentially the Shark Tank of CES. Start-up companies from around the world showcase their innovations of all kinds, hoping to make their mark. Many of them have crowdfunding campaigns running on social media. Lumzag caught my eye with its Smart Bags, for which the company has already raised US$700,000 on Indiegogo. Features include global tracking, an open alert to prevent theft, a back view camera, WiFi Hotspot, missing item reminder, inside light, and a wireless charging power bank - pop your phone into an adjustable slot on the strap, and it will recharge via Qi. But what's particularly neat about this bag is that all of these things are powered through a charge pad that you simply plop the bag on top of once you get home for it to recharge. It's a 10,000mAh battery which can power up the features for about two weeks, depending on use. You can also add a second battery pack if you're a power user. The discreet back camera is ideal for those traveling to foreign locations or crowded spaces, or for women walking alone at night. If you sense someone might be following you too closely, casually pull out your phone and sneak a peek at the live feed from your phone. You can also record photos and videos if you think someone looks suspicious. The anti-theft feature includes sensors on every pocket. Put a special sticker on your valuables, like your camera, phone, headphones, and laptop, and you will be notified if one is missing. But it's also useful for forgetful folks: if you close the bag up without inserting one of these essentials, you'll be alerted to grab it. The full-sized backpack will sell for US$520 once it's available in February; but early backers will get theirs first for US$289.
If you visited the North Hall of the show, you couldn't miss the massive 78-foot yacht that occupied a large section of the show floor. And if you didn't make it to North Hall, chances are you heard all of the buzz about it. The yacht, by Furrion and called Adonis, marks the first time a yacht has appeared at CES. Show-goers lined up in droves to check out the interior, which included several bedrooms, bathrooms, sitting area, hot tub, and full kitchen. Why was it at CES? This is a fully automated, smart yacht that uses Furrion's Angel AI to control everything from the music to the appliances. It uses facial recognition to recognize its owner and learn his likes and dislikes to recommend items from a retailer, or a restaurant worth visiting. Say "Hi Angel: and the built-in voice module smart speaker will perk up and respond to the command you give after that. The mirrors aren't just standard mirrors: they're smart, too. Ask it to display the weather or news as you get ready in the morning, or play your favourite TV show. Want to watch on an actual TV? The yacht includes Furrion's own Sense TV, which features proprietary Vibration Smart technology to ensure a stable picture when you're at sea.
Another eye-catcher in the North Hall was the Bell Aerospace Nexus VTOL aircraft, which show-goers simply liked to refer to as the "air taxi." Weighing 6,500 pounds and with eight-foot articulated ducted fans, the monstrous aircraft looks like it's right out of a movie. But it can lift from the ground vertically like a helicopter, but rotate 90 degrees to fly quickly like a plane. It can fit on a 40 x 40-foot landing pad, and uses hybrid electric power. It can fly a distance of 150 miles in about an hour, and fits four people, along with the pilot up front. The idea is for it to be used for inter-city travel, such as to take passengers from one side of Los Angeles to the other. The goal is to get this thing in the air by the mid-2020s, at which point we might very well be able to say that flying cars are real.