Small Planet

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Dispatches from CES 2017

Welcome to Westworld.

smallplanet

Winter is here, and with it comes the unstoppable goliath that is the Consumer Electronics Show. CES is a member of that small, special club of conferences whose impact goes far beyond the convention hall. It is a national story, an event planner’s nightmare, and a PR agency’s dream. However, because of the sheer size (preliminary estimates say 170,000 attendees this year), sometimes interesting quirks of the show don’t get as much play. We’ve cut through the clutter to bring you visions of the future from the desert.

 


 

Saturday, January 7 – Cadillac’s Subscription Service, Gorilla Glass, and the Winnebago of the Future

 

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Forbes did a very nice roundup of smartwatches, spotlighting the new Misfit Vapor and an interesting entry from Casio that includes GPS. While the watches skew towards “rugged,” everybody in the sports watch category definitely upped their design game.

The focus on autonomy and assistants has overshadowed other car-related announcements at CES. Cadillac is launching a car subscription service called BOOK for $1,500 a month, and they made a very hip commercial to prove it.

Through an app, subscribers can swap out any current-year vehicle in the Cadillac fleet whenever they want, and their next car gets delivered by a “white-glove” concierge service. (Please, please be wearing actual white gloves when dropping off the car.) No contract, no maintenance, no registration, and total freedom to switch out a convertible for an Escalade.

The Winnebago of the future is here. We love our cars, so let’s just go the distance and make them a functioning part of our house. That’s Hyundai’s bet with Mobility Vision, which will “blur the line between mobility and living and working space, integrating the car into the daily lives of users.” Your car will apparently dock to your house and detach when you are ready to leave, perhaps even becoming a mobile living space for extended trips. In Hyundai’s bright future, furniture will move easily between the home and car, which for anyone who’s moved between 3rd floor walk-ups in New York City is the true miracle.

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Big things come in small packages. Kingston’s 2 TB USB thumb drive can hold 70 hours of 4K video…or way, way too many family photos. Sure, it’ll probably cost $900, but can you afford to not have every file you’ve ever owned in your life in a 2-inch zinc-alloy data stick?

Band of the hand. Some people don’t just love bass, they need it flowing through their bodies every time they listen to music. At home, in the office, on airplanes, in the bathroom — everywhere. That is now a reality via the Basslet, a wearable subwoofer that connects to your phone (and VR goggles) and vibrates on your wrist.

We spend a LOT of time at Small Planet wondering which cute AI assistant will ultimately gain true sentience, then rise to power and enslave humanity. The much-hyped, Alexa-compatible LG Hub Robot is this year’s front-runner, and directly competes with Amazon Echo and Google Home. Our adorable new overlord comes in different sizes, has an expressive, animated face, and can control many different LG devices.

More fun things: Corning’s Gorilla Glass brings smartphone glass to the automobile, Nick Offerman discovers revolutionary social messaging, and the true potential for intelligent highways.

 


 

Friday, January 6 – Wallpaper TVs, Toyota’s Intriguing AI, and the Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift

 

Toyotai

If there’s one thing CES loves more than cars, it’s TVs. While Panasonic brought out the big guns yesterday (Mickey Mouse and, um, the mayor of Denver), and 4K Ultra HD televisions have gone into high gear, LG’s new Signature 77W7 4K TV is quickly becoming one of the stars of the show. About the width of a credit card, they’re calling it the “Wallpaper TV” and it’s pretty amazing.

Looking for that perfect Valentine’s Day gift? Sleep Number unveiled the Sleep Number 360 Smart Bed, which includes an anti-snoring component (when snoring is detected the bed changes position). It tracks biometrics and includes a warming feature, but let’s get back to the snoring. More than anything we’re curious to actually try it in a battle scenario. Couples of America, please discuss.

 

The Verge is doing great coverage of CES, including a running list of innovative home gadgets. In the midst of all the smart hair brushes, toothbrushes, and trash cans, there are some gems. Take a look at the cute and much-needed Leka smart toy for children with developmental disabilities.

Mattel’s kid-friendly Echo competitor Aristotle answers questions, reads bedtime stories, and plays Q&A games. The device “shares” personalities with Alexa, which is very handy for adults, but now means your child is being constantly monitored by an ever-present robot with split personalities who tracks all of your habits and needs. Parents of America, please discuss.

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Your bike is watching you. LeEco’s new smart bikes feature online navigation, speedometer, compass, fitness tracking, and walkie-talkie tech so you can talk to other LeEco bike owners. All the gear is water-resistant and runs on a rechargeable battery. The design looks pretty great too.

For years Disney theme parks have embraced wearables, and Carnival Cruise Line got the memo. Carnival’s CEO had a prime speaking spot yesterday and unveiled OCEAN — the OneCruise Experience Access Network. Part of the network includes an Ocean Medallion passengers receive in the mail before their cruise. Guests use the medallion to make reservations or order drinks.

Let’s get back to basics for a moment. You figure light bulbs…geez…what else can we do to them, right? Wrong. Helia light bulbs from Soraa are LED lights aiming to replicate natural sunlight. They emit blue light in the morning, then gradually reduce the amount of blue until the sun sets. The bulbs sync with a smartphone app and are (surprise) Alexa-compatible.

More vehicular progress: Honda’s balancing act, Nvidia and Audi’s 2020 plans, and Toyota’s cute and futuristic AI.

 


 

Thursday, January 5 – Smart Beer, Smart Collars, Smart Cars, Smart Everything

 

bmw

The running joke for a few years now is that CES has essentially become a car show. It’s true, check out Business Insider’s concise list of automotive toys at CES here. From Faraday to Ford, the buzzword predictably thrown around is “millennial” for all the new smart cars, as automakers nervously eye trending numbers and Uber usage for that age group. The most trivial (yet amazing) new thing — “Personal Zoned Audio” designed so the driver and the passengers can be listening to different music!

Speaking of cars, for all the excitement of BMW’s new virtual dashboard, we took notice of another of their projects, the BMW Connected Window, which you shows the view outside as well as visualizations of other content (weather, appointments, etc.). As tech companies move into cars, it’s fun to see automakers take their years of design and UX knowledge and apply them to the connected home.

BMW Connected

Everybody loves Alexa. Based on yesterday’s early announcements, the gold rush is on for voice commands in the home. Lenovo’s Smart Assistant allows you to use your voice to control lights, thermostats and kitchen appliances. Whirlpool’s taking no prisoners either — customers will soon ask Alexa to turn on their washing machine or change the temperature in the stove. Behind the scenes the tech partnership wars are on full display, with Amazon and Google making pacts left and right. Take a look at CNET’s running list here.

Look, we love beer. But we’re the first to admit that “smart” is typically not in the top 5 adjectives we use to define our consumption of it. Thinfilm perhaps realizes this in its savvy embrace of the term while showcasing craft beer bottles that provide consumers with “brewmaster videos, pairing recommendations, and other information from the brewery.” Behold: Bringing the Tasting Experience into the Living Room.

Every year CES presents Innovation Awards to a diverse bunch — see the full list here. Very cool stuff, including the PowerUp FPV paper airplane drone (“Drone technology with a personal touch”). Create your plane, then receive a live video stream to the included VR viewer.

It makes sense, really…of all things doesn’t a dog collar need to be smarter? LINK AKC agrees, so they are unveiling a smart collar and corresponding app providing you with GPS/location tracking, the ability to monitor daily activity levels, a remote-controlled light, and a temperature monitor to check your pet’s environment. A compelling bonus link in their announcement: “TRENDING: Why Dogs Eat Poop and How to Stop It.” Perhaps a project for CES 2018.

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The UK’s Mirror has embraced the strange and unusual at CES. (Please read the sections on hair-growth helmets, hypersuits, and vibrating shorts).

Drones are everywhere on the show floor, but one of the most intriguing additions to the genre is at Powervision (Booth #25441). The PowerRay is an underwater drone targeted ostensibly to fishermen, but full of possibilities. It can dive down almost 100 feet underwater, and uses sonar to detect fish another 40 meters below. From the boat you can view images and video via an app, or use their VR Goggles to control the drone (do not do this while steering the vessel).