Technology is often more about things we want versus things we need. And this is certainly the case in the Eureka Park startup exhibit area within the Sand Convention Center.
Both the Sands Convention Center and the Eureka Park exhibits cover innovations in a wide range of emerging categories like health and wellness, virtual reality, robotics, kids and baby/education tech, smart home, and more.
Scouring the exhibits on the final day of the show, one would expect things to be quiet. And while the Sands Expo, which was buzzing through the first three days of the event, was a bit quieter, Eureka Park was packed with activity and excited attendees looking to find the gadgets and gear that could be the next big thing in consumer tech.
Wearables, in particular, have moved far beyond typical activity tracking, heart rate sensing, smart gear control functionality, and even beyond clothing, to include a myriad of devices with diverse functionality. Some are truly useful, and others fall more into the "cool" category.
There's, for example, the Nimb connected ring, which has a panic button on its side that you can use in case of emergency. That might be an elderly person who has fallen or is feeling ill, or a young woman walking on her own at night who feels as though trouble is brewing. Press and hold the side button for three seconds, and it will vibrate and send your location to emergency contacts you set up, and/or first responders. If there are other Nimb users nearby, your call for help will go to them as well, so someone can stand in and help if needed. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and once charged, the battery lasts for about two weeks. Available now for pre-order, pricing will be about US$129.
Breathalyzers have always been a hot category at CES, and a new Wearable Alcohol Sensor from Proof Wearables is taking the concept to a different level. The device is worn around your wrist and looks like any standard activity tracker. But it measures the levels of ethanol that you sweat out of your body while drinking, and will determine your blood alcohol level. A representative says that when tested against standard breathalyzers that measure via breathe blown into a straw, this model shows similar levels. Then, refer to the app to see how long it will be until you're sober, and exactly what time it would be. You can view friends' levels as well. It can also send an alert to friends and family, who can ensure that you are being safe. The company plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign soon, but anticipates that the device will be on the market before the end of the year, and sell for anywhere from US$100-US$150.
A wearable subwoofer? Sort of. The Loffelt Basslet is worn around the wrist, and adds a physical dimension to sound by offering vibrating bass along with the track you're listening to through the headphones. It communicates via Bluetooth with a 3.5mm dongle that you place between your headphones and smartphone. The idea is to provide a psychoacoustic feel so that, over time, your body is tricked into hearing additional bass. It's almost like the D-Box theatre experience for personal sound. Availability is anticipated for February for US$199.
Wearables and fashion continue their collaboration at CES. And while smart and connected bags, purses, and phone folios are common, what we haven't seen up until now was a fashionable men's wallet with some connected features. The HButler model fits that bill, with a thin battery pack and wraparound charging cable inside so you can give your phone a quick boost of power. It has both a microUSB and Lightning tip, and 2,500mAh battery that will give your phone one extra charge. Made of genuine leather and available in three colours, it will sell for about US$110.
The ladies aren't forgotten, as the company also makes a full line of fashionable leather purses and clutches, in genuine or "vegan" leather, with Lightning and/or microUSB adapters and small and light battery packs hidden inside. Beyond the tech capabilities, they are just simply gorgeous bags.
The Active Protective wearable offers hip protection for the elderly or those with mobility issues. It's a smart belt that's worn around the waist, and will automatically deploy airbags if a fall is detected in order to reduce the impact on one's hips.
The Mio Slice is a standard wristworn activity tracker, but adds an interesting element through the Personal Activity Intelligence (PAI), which uses algorithms to measure movement, and heart rate intensity. It will analyze your activities, then advise which ones earned the most PAI "points" to help you improve your lifestyle. If you keep your PAI score above 100 each day in a week, you know you are staying healthy, even if you spent one day working out and the next simply lounging on the couch. It will also show you what heart rate intensity level you need in order to improve your overall health.
I reviewed the Thermos Smart Water Bottle a few months ago (it was also included in my gift guide), and it seems the concept is taking the health industry by storm, with several other companies launching similar models at the show. It makes sense: one thing most wearables do not track is your hydration, unless you manually input the data whenever you have a glass of water. One of the most feature-rich ones I saw was the iBottle Flip, which not only tracks how much water you're drinking and sends you reminders to drink more in order to meet daily goals, but it also functions as smartphone stand by flipping up the top, flashlight via detachable base, and portable charger through microUSB.
In the cool and unique category is the Arovia collapsible 24" monitor, which packs up into a small case, then pops up to reveal a full-sized screen from which you can watch movies or display presentations from a connected smartphone or other compatible device. Battery life is anywhere from four-to-10-hours, depending on the brightness, and the device has a USB-C port. While the screen being shown in Eureka Park is white, the inventors say they're working on a gray version that would allow for better contrast. The screen is made from a patent-pending material that does not wrinkle, allowing you to scrunch it up to fit inside the casing versus rolling it as is the case with typical projector screens. With the Kickstarter campaign now complete, the hope is to make the product available within the next six months, for a price of about US$500.
You've likely seen the Modo Bags by now, clever luggage on which you can sit, then scoot around the airport. While the luggage, which meets carry-on size specifications, is about double the weight of a standard carry-on bag (about 20 lbs. versus 10), you won't be carrying it anyway! And for business persons who like to travel light, it can make the perfect companion for an overnight trip. Plus, the interior is spacious enough to fit a few pairs of pants, shirts, and shoes easily. It has a side pocket to house your smartphone or other small items, and two USB ports for charging them. You can quick charge the luggage in about 15 minutes, or charge up the nano crystal battery for about 90 minutes before heading out. The seat is comfortable, made from Memory Foam, and while we saw the standard black, Modo will be coming out with other fun colours. Place your feet on the pedals, then pull the lever to go forward, and tap the brake to stop. There's no reverse capabilities, but scooting around it is quite easy. It can go for up to 8 miles per hour. This piece of luggage, however, won't be for the budget-conscious: it's about US$1,495 for the carry-on. But the stress you'd save in having to walk around the airport rolling a bag behind you might be worth every penny. And let's face it, it's just, quite simply, super fun. Check out our Facebook Page for a video of the Modo Bag in action.