CES 2017 is officially underway, with plenty of innovation in all categories of consumer tech. From drones to headphones, gorgeous TVs and smart home gear, there's plenty to see.
Beyond the typical audio, video, mobile, wearable, and networking themes, a few other categories are emerging this year: pet tech, kid tech, and smart tech seem to be key areas of growth this year. And apparently the massage chair business is booming given the marked increase in company's exhibiting their appreciated resting places throughout the show floor.
As suspected, Bluetooth headphones are a big part of this year's show. And with the category essentially becoming mainstream, more affordable earbud models coming to market from brands like Wicked Audio and House of Marley.
Wicked Audio is known for its sub-$100 line of wired earbuds that make for perfect grab-and-go items, or secondary earphones. And the company, distributed in Canada by Calgary-based Curve Distribution, is making its entrance into the Bluetooth wireless space with several new models ranging in price from $40 up to $100. Starting off the line are the Omen earbuds, which come with Bluetooth 4.1, in-line controls on the cable, and a five-hour battery life. The step-up Bandido ($60) adds the company's new neck lock system with magnets that connect the two sides at the back of your neck, while the inline controls remain at your front. The Raider ($80) adds an attractive walnut housing and improved driver, while the top-line Wicked One ($100) offers a wider frequency range through dual 6mm drivers, eight-hour battery life, and the ability to pop the buds off and connect them to a 3.5mm wired cable should the battery run out, or you simply wish to go wired.
House of Marley's (HoMedics Canada) has two new models in its wireless Bluetooth line: the Positive Vibrations 2 Wireless headphones, and the Smile Jamaica BT. The Positive Vibrations 2 wireless are made from FSC-certified wood, recyclable aluminum, and REWIND fabric, and offer 10 hours of play time. They incorporate controls and a mic, plus a removable cable and one-button remote. They come in black, silver, or the neat denim finish, and retail for US$70. On the in-ear side is the Smile Jamaica 2 (US$60), which is made from the same FSC-certified wood and recyclable aluminum, plus REGRIND silicone. They offer up to eight hours of play time, and come with a comfortable neckband, onboard mic, and three-button wireless controls. The tangle-free braided cables tuck neatly into the silicone neckband for cord management and storage. Adding to the signature House of Marley look are genuine sapele, maple, beech, and walnut wood accents and anodized aluminum trims.
House of Marley's new Smile Jamaica BT Bluetooth wireless earphones
On the mobile side, there's no surprise that fashion cases, portable charging banks, and power cases are in abundance. One neat alternative to the standard screen protector is the Qmadix Invisible First Defense liquid glass screen protector with NANOtech. Simply wipe your phone's screen clean, then apply the solution with the included cloth. Wait for it to cure for about five minutes, and be on your merry way. It takes about 24-48 hours to fully cure, but once complete, your phone's screen will be protected without adding any kind of film to the device, or the risk of cracks, bubbles, or other annoyances that can occur with other screen protection options. It is, indeed, invisible. The solution is anti-bacterial as well. One of the biggest benefits, however, is that the protection is universal: you can use it for any device screen up to about 10" in size. That also includes the curved screens found in devices like the Samsung Galaxy lineup. The protector is US$30, and stateside, you can spend US$10 more for an insured version whereby Qmadix will refund you the cost of a repair should your phone's screen crack or break within a year of applying the solution (up to $100).
Qmadix's Joey Lasko with the Invisible First Defense liquid glass screen protector
On the power end, Phonesuit's Flex Card Pocket Charger is a nice, portable charger that can provide a small battery boost in the case of emergency. Clip it onto a keychain via the loop, and opt for the 1,200mAh or 2,000mAh battery option, which can provide from 60%-100% boost of your phone's battery when in need. Cost is US$12.99 and US$19.99, respectively.
Whoever said the flash drive was dead and would go the way of the floppy disk thanks to the cloud was wrong, if Kingston has anything to say about it. The company is showcasing its DTGT USB 3.1 flash drive that boasts a whopping 2TB of storage space. Set to be available this quarter, there's no set pricing yet, though a representative tells us that it will cost in the US$0.40-US$0.45 range per gigabyte. Do the math, and you're looking at at least $800. But being able to carry an entire portfolio of work, library of high-res music, movies, or other content literally in your pocket, is an incredible thought.
For the business crowd, Epson's super-sleek Powerlite 1781W projector is an eye-catcher. Weighing just 4 lbs., it's a super slim 3LCD data projector that you can take along with you for business presentations, photo slideshows, and other content. It sells for US$800.
One of the coolest products we've seen today in the portable/mobile category, however, is Sony's FES Watch U. Launched in September as a crowdfunded project backed by Sony, the watch has an E-Ink strap that can change design by simply tapping a button. The idea is to have one band that you can wear with multiple outfits, or to suit different moods and styles. In addition to the included designs, you can also add your own devices via the mobile app, converting photos into patterns. The watches are officially on sale via Amazon for about $300. In addition to the watches, Sony was also showcasing products like a clutch purse using the same changing pattern texture.
For anyone who has kids in the 5-12 age group, you likely known the obsession that can happen over Lego. And the latest product is bound to get tons of attention. Set for release in August, Lego Boost combines the love for the traditional building toy with coding and technology. Use the pieces in the set to build one of five items, from a cute cat to a robot or a guitar, with the app guiding you along the way. Once it's built, you can program commands in the iPad app, telling the robot to dance, for example, or making the cat wag its tail. As kids get older, they can use the app to get direction on how to build the basic structure of something like a car, then use their own creativity to finish it off in their own desired designs. The set will sell for about US$160.
At top: Curve Distribution's Kyle Duszynski shows off the new Wicked Audio Bandido Bluetooth wireless headphones that incorporate a magnetic neck locking system.