Sure, CES has only just begun. But pre-show events have been happening for the last two days, including the press conferences, and we were in Vegas early to check out some of them. Not surprisingly, several products already stand out for their cool factor, clever designs, and/or innovative technology.
Views were polarized on this TV, which can rotate on a base from the standard horizontal landscape position to effectively portrait mode to minic an oversized smartphone. It does this in sync with a Samsung S10 or higher smartphone, or by using the dedicated rotate button on the included remote. Why would you want to do this? The concept will likely appeal to the younger generations, including Gen-Zers, who love using social media, including sites like Tik Tok, and might want to view certain images, videos, or other content vertically. The Sero TV - Sero, by the way, literally means "vertical" in Korean - also has some other cool features, including the ability to "cast" content from a compatible Samsung device to the big screen by simply tapping the mobile device to the side of the TV, and AirPlay support. No word on when it will be available.
Drinkworks Home Bar by Keurig
Originally launched in limited markets in November 2018, since the pilot program was so successful, this device has now been redesigned and is back. What is it? The product of a collaboration between Keurig and Anheuser-Busch, it's a small home appliance that keeps cold refrigerated water and CO2 and can accept different mixed drink and cocktail pods to serve up drinks. It works just like a Keurig coffee machine: add water, pop a pod into the slot and close it, place your glass on the dedicated spot, push a button, and wait a few seconds. The pods come in more than 24 different flavours, including hyper-concentrated mixes of popular drinks like Moscow mule, cosmopolitan, and margarita, and in tubes of 4 for US$16 ea. The machine itself sells for $299. For those concerned about the environment, the pods are recyclable through a partnership with Montreal-based Loop, which will break down the PET plastics. Sadly, because of the tight regulations, it isn't yet available in Canada.
Belkin and Devialet combined their respective expertises to create the Soundform Elite Hi-Fi Smart Speaker + Wireless Charger which, as the name suggests, is a hifi speaker that can also charge your smartphone while you play back tunes from it. The speaker marks the first of a larger audio portfolio for Belkin. It offers up to 90dB SBL of max volume, fast wireless charging, and works with Google Voice Assistant for using your voice to control music playback, controlling other compatible smart home devices, getting answers to questions, and more. Devialet worked on the acoustic architecture bringing its patented SAM (Speaker Active Matching), technology that renders the original intent of the content creator with high-fidelity sound reproduction, and ‘Push-Push' Woofers architecture. Devialet's signature woofer configuration cancels any vibrations while ensuring a deep, impactful sound with implosive bass considering the size of the speaker, says the company. This allows for a steady wireless charging experience for Qi-enabled devices up to 10W without sacrificing impactful bass levels. The Soundform Elite will be available some time in February 2020 for an MSRP of US$299; Canadian availability and pricing has not yet been confirmed. Belkin plans to roll out more audio products in the coming months to follow.
Pictar Smart Selfie Stick
It was easy to pass this booth by, thinking it was just another selfie stick with a button on the end to trigger the shutter. But it's actually much more than that. You can control an iPhone or Android that is secured inside the extendable stick, including zooming in and out, switching between front and rear cameras, and even scrolling through different photo modes. You can also push a button to angle the phone back and forth on a rotating hinge so you can get the perfect perspective shot. The basic one sells for US$80 and a new version, launching on Kickstarter, will sell for about $10 more and adds a detachable headlight. It extends up to 32.7" and can run for up to 800 selfies per charge, depending, of course, and how long you take to perfectly frame each shot!
Ovis by ForwardX Smart Luggage
Instead of rolling your luggage alongside you through the airport, your luggage can dutifully follow you as you keep your hands free to chat on the phone, gesticulate as you talk, or simply enjoy not having to carry anything. The suitcase works with a companion band that you wear around your wrist like a bracelet - it looks like a basic fitness tracker. When you're ready to move, press a button on the suitcase, let the camera see you, wait for the light to turn green to confirm the connection, then start walking. The luggage will follow you through the crowds and around obstacles. If at any time it loses the connection because of something in the way or because you walked too far, the light will turn red and the band will vibrate. Go close to it again and it will reconnect. At US$799, it's a high price to pay for a fun feature. And the battery only lasts for up to 20 miles and the band for one hour so it's barely enough to get most people through an entire flight experience (have you ever walked from one end of Toronto Pearson Airport to wherever you need to go?) Though it does fully recharge in three hours. What's more, it would be far more useful for heavier checked luggage than carry-on. Nonetheless, it literally turned a lot of heads at CES.
Roybi is a super cute AI-powered STEM-based toy for kids that aims to help them learn language, including both their primary language and others. Geared towards kids aged 3+, it includes more than 500 lessons and stories and personalized learning sessions. It has emotion detection and can deliver smart reports so parents can see how their kids are doing, including information like how many new words a child has learned, how many words they correctly spelled, and how much time they spent with the robot. It's ideal for use in both school and at home. US$199
What sets this smartwatch apart from the pack is its understates analog design that looks just like a basic wristwatch along with its ability to check for Afib and sleep apnea as well as everything else you'd expect from a smartwatch. It does activity, sleep, calorie, and heart rate tracking, and shows smartphone notifications on a tiny digital screen on the watchface. But it can also take an ECG to check for Afib: press and hold two side buttons for about 30 seconds if you feel palpitations and like something might be wrong and it will tell you if your heart rhythm is slow, high, or normal. You can keep track of readings in the app. Meanwhile, an SpO2 sensor can track any instances of sleep apnea while you're asleep so you can analyze your sleep patterns and how many instances you had once you wake up. It has a waterproof sapphire glass face, sub-dial that shows progress towards daily step goals, and works with other third-party apps like Strava and MyFitnessPal. It comes with a 38mm or 42mm band for US$249 and US$299, respectively.
Muse by Interaxon Brain-Sensing Headband
The latest version of this headband works with Go-to-Sleep Journeys to help you meditate with calming voices from a meditation teacher. Now in a comfortable soft, breathable fabric, it is also flexible so it can fit more head sizes and is easier to bring for travel. Like previous Muse devices, it measures your brainwaves in real time using ECG, along with your heart rate, breathing, and meditation posture. I tried it at a pre-CES event, lying in a comfortable chair with a pair of headphones on (the band itself doesn't have built-in headphones so you need to use a separate pair.) Journeys range from "Enchanted Forest" to "Underwater World." As the woman's calming voice spoke to me, I found myself drifting away from the hustle and bustle of the show and into my own quiet oasis. I was only lying down for a few minutes but almost fell asleep! Once finished, view your results in the app. According to mine, while I felt calm, my mind was still busy with thoughts as I was only 20% calm. My heart rate, however, did drop considerably. The app also reported that I was still about half of the time. It sells for US$350 and you can subscribe to meditation journeys for US$13/mo. or US$95/yr.
Samsung Music Wall
With this new Music Wall feature, you can play music from your phone on a Samsung soundbar, but also use your TV to showcase an accompanying visual show. The visual effects appear and pulse in tune to the music, so what you see for jazz, for example, will be much different from what you see if you're playing heavy metal. It's both mesmerizing and hypnotic.
TCL 10L, 10Pro, and 105G Smartphones
TCL got a ton of "oohs" and "ahhs" at its press conference when the company confirmed that all three of its upcoming new smartphones, including a 5G model, would sell for under US$500 to make them more accessible to the average consumer instead of just those who can afford a four-figure device. Details on the devices are still under wraps, set to be revealed at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month.
Plume Motion Aware
At an invite-only event prior to the show, Plume discussed its plans to offer a new feature with its WiFi pods: motion detection. Using the pods, which users typically plug into outlets all over the house to help improve the WiFi signal, and a connection to virtually any WiFi devices in your home, will be able to detect motion and report that to you. It will also be able to detect not only when there's motion and where based on the device that picked it up, but also who is responsible for it by recognizing their specific devices, like a smartphone. While Bell Canada's Shawn Omstead was among those on the panel discussion about the future of the smart home (Bell is a Plume partner), there's no word on when this feature might be available in Canada.
BodyGuardz Over-Door Camera
This really clever security camera is the perfect solution for cottages, Airbnbs, rentals, and travelers. Rather than install an outdoor camera or video doorbell, this camera simply sits at the top of the door and screws in so you get the camera on the side that sits outdoors and a screen on the opposite side indoors so you can see who's at the door. It functions without wires and can slide on top of any standard door so you can take it with you to an Airbnb to keep track of your belongings, or even use it in a dorm. US$279.95
Nixplay Digital Photo Frame
The digital photo frame is back! While these products had their heyday in the early 2000s, the category fell to the wayside. But Nixplay found a way to make it appealing again through frames that can not only display photos at up to 2K resolution, but also lets you upload photos remotely to the cloud to appear on frames anywhere in the world. This means you can get grandpa and grandpa a frame, mount it on their wall or place on a table, then send new photos to it of the grandkids every few weeks or month that they can enjoy. Or buy one for your own house and set new photos to play based on the occasion, like Christmas, a themed party, friends, and so on. There are several models and sizes, ranging from metal to wood finishes and from 9.7" up to 15.6". Pricing ranges from US$180 up to US$350.
A once prominent speaker brand in the ‘50s, Braun is back with its new LE range of speakers, all of which are carefully crafted and balance form and function to keep with the prestigious brand name. There are three models in the series: the LE01 flagship smart speaker with wide dynamic range, the mid-sized power LE02; and the compact LE03. All three promise immersive, room-filling sound and include Balanced Mode Radiators (BMRs) to combine vertical and horizontal dispersion to deliver a 180-degree stage, custom woofers, neodymium motors, lightweight aluminum cones, and monolithic class-D integrated amps. An interesting feature is TalkTo by DSP Concepts, which features Multichannel Acoustic Echo Canceller (AEC) software that cancels the sound from the speaker so the mics can accurately hear a user's voice for Google Assistant voice commands.
Ampere Side Pocket Smart Fanny Pack
Fanny packs are back in style, and this one is super smart through the addition of a slim built-in wireless power bank that can charge up your phone wirelessly while it's housed inside. When the power bank itself needs to be recharged, it can be removed and placed atop any wireless charging surface to get juiced up again. It can charge a smartphone about one to 1.5 times over. The pack comes in five colour options and is waterproof with an interior RFID sleeve. You can wear it around your waist or crossbody. See charging status from the phone charging indicator window. It works ideally with the Ampere Unravel fast wireless charger, which folds up to be a compact square then folds out to recharge up to three devices simultaneously, like an iPhone, Apple Watch, and Airpods. About US$120 for the Side Pocket and charger, but you can also buy each separately. The Unravel sells for US$69.