Now that I've had a week to let the overload of tech goodies I saw at CES sink in, sift through my notes, photos, and digest all of the information, I've devised a list of 7 items that were my favourite from the show.
First, it's worth noting that this was no easy task. Imagine passing by thousands of gadgets for five days straight, only having time to learn more, and get hands-on, with a small fraction of them. And then trying to pinpoint a couple that you'd call "the best." But alas, as I think back on the show, these are the items that keep coming to the forefront of my mind as the ones that made the most impact, and had the most "wow" factor.
LG's Rollable OLED TV
This one's a no-brainer. Any sane-minded person who went to CES went home telling all of their friends and family about LG's rollable OLED TV. Sure, it was technically announced at last year's CES, and shown to select individuals. But this time, it was out on the main show floor, for all to experience. And despite how simple the concept, it was a marvel to witness. The 4K OLED TV is 65" in size, and boasts LG's new a9 Gen 2 intelligent processor. Cables are neatly hidden away, out of sight. When you want to watch TV, the display slowly rolls up from inside of the housing. When you're done, and want a more open concept space, roll it back inside. The housing can also function as a standalone speaker when you aren't watching TV. I, like many others, stood and watched several of the TVs smoothly move up and down from their housing, over and over again, shooting video and taking photos of it.
Samsung Space Monitor
At a trade show like CES, the last item you'd expect to be "wowed" by would be a boring old monitor, right? Yet one of the most exciting items at Samsung's booth was its Space Monitor, which employs a "why didn't someone think of that sooner? clever design concept. The screen comes attached to an articulating arm that lets you push the display flush to the wall when you aren't using it, then pull it out closer to your face once you're ready to get to work. Cables are hidden discreetly in the base, so it's a totally clean set-up. It comes in a 27" size, and up to full 4K resolution.
Royole Corporation FlexPai Foldable Screen
LG's rollable OLED TV wowed show-goers when it comes to big screen design, but Royole Corporation showed how foldable technology can be effective applied to small screened devices, like smartphones/tablets. It's a tablet that folds up like a book to function as a half-sized smartphone as well. When fully folded out, you'd never realize the device can fold up to be more compact unless you look at the underside. Sure, you won't get an ultra-thin footprint. But on the cool factor scale, this device sits pretty high up.
Pocketalk Portable Translator
I was so impressed with this handy little device, I visited the company twice. The first time, the rep impressed me by talking into the unit in Japanese, as it translated what he said to English. I then spoke back in English, and it translated what I said in Japanese. I went back to try again and ensure it worked as well as I thought. There were a few hiccups where the translator missed parts of what I said, or misinterpreted something he said. But some of them were likely due to connectivity issues on the busy show floor. And it always got the gist of what we were trying to say. How does it work? Select from two of 74 languages, press and hold the button, wait for the beep, and talk. The unit will display translated text of what you said (or asked) on its tiny screen, as well as dictate it audibly. The other person in the conversation can do the same, translating from their language to yours, and so continues a conversation. I can imagine having one in my pocket when I visit a foreign country, or even while traveling to somewhere like Quebec, where I might need some help with French translations. Waiting for a tram during the show, a fellow show-goer wanted to ask me for help, but there was a language barrier as he spoke only Spanish. How that translator could have come in handy! The device is US$299, and comes with two years of 4G connectivity, so you can use it anywhere in the world where there's wireless connectivity. After the two years expire, you can subscribe to a plan for US$50/yr., use your own SIM card, or just use Wi-Fi.
Creative Labs Super X-Fi Headphone Amp
A fellow journalist convinced me that I just had to check out this demo, so I popped over while I was at the Sands Convention Center to see what all the fuss was about. Over in the Venetian, 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 Android smartphone, and listen with any pair of earbuds or headphones. (Creative has 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. It was a worthwhile demo, and we predict this device will be getting tons of attention this year, especially once the Air and Air C headphones with Super X-Fi built-in launch as well. Note that it technically doesn't work with the iPhone, but you can get around that by using a USB-to-USB-C (female) adapter and the official Apple Lightning-to-USB Camera adapter.
It's been a year since I've attended a Krav Maga class, but trying out the Bot Boxer at the Sands Convention Center brought back my love of the sport. And it provides a neat and high-tech way for athletes and fitness enthusiasts to train. 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 times, encouraging me to work harder, or letting me know when I needed more power, or hit the bag on the wrong side or in the wrong way. 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. It's more realistic for gyms to buy one for its members to use for training.
Lumzag Smart Bags
There were more start-ups peddling their goods on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo then ever at CES, particularly in the Eureka Park area of the show. How does one select a favourite, or even have the chance to learn about a small fraction of them? We did our best to make the rounds, and one innovation in particular caught our eye for a number of reasons. These bags come tricked out with all kinds of tech: global tracking, an open alert to prevent theft, a WiFi Hotspot, missing item reminder that will notify you if an item is missing or you're about to leave the house without it, 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 there are two features in particular that I liked about these bags, which have already raised more than $700,000 on Indiegogo. The first is that the bag itself recharges by simply plopping down on a thin charge pad. Set it down, and everything inside will recharge for your next trip. You can even add a second battery pack if you need more than the two weeks or so of power that the 10,00mAh battery can provide. Second is the discreet back camera. As a woman, there's no more terrifying feeling then walking on your own at night, or in a large crowd, and feeling like you are being followed. Grab your smartphone to pretend you're texting, and pull up a live view of what's behind you. If you sense something (or someone) bad, record photos or videos. 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.