If you’re a big fan of the latest tech trends and gadgets, then the Consumer Electronics Show, widely known as CES, is the event for you. It’s an enormous trade show that invites people from around the world to show off some of the latest in smart products, office or gaming equipment, and home accessories. It’s also an annual opportunity for attendees to listen to presentations, watch product launches, and chat with exhibitors about the industry.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 put a halt to a lot of in-person gatherings — including conventions and shows like CES. But that didn’t deter the organizers of the event. This year, CES went all-digital, managing to pull off three days of online exhibitions and announcements.
Here’s a look at some of the quirky items and ideas that were shown at CES 2021.
Masks, masks, masks
The possibly permanent, pandemic-driven changes in our lives haven’t gone unnoticed by the exhibitors at this year’s CES. A few companies decided to take a whack at innovating face masks by combining them with tech. The AirPop Active+ Smart Mask combines a lightweight, breathable mask with a sensor that can connect to an app on your phone. With the sensor, users can track fitness metrics and monitor the air quality around them.
MaskFone is a mask from Binatone that aims to solve the ‘muffled voice’ problem someone might get from making a call while wearing a face mask. It features a Bluetooth microphone and earbuds to help keep the conversation clear.
But it was the concept design from Razer that stood out among the crowd. Called Project Hazel, this smart mask aspires to “improve social interaction” with a transparent shell and lights that will show off the wearer’s pearly whites in any situation. The mask also includes “Razer VoiceAmp Technology” to amplify any smothered voices. In order to reduce the amount of medical waste created by disposable masks, Razer has made its smart mask out of recyclable plastic with replaceable ventilators that can be removed and sterilized.
Lastly — with Razer being the gamer-focused company it is — the mask also has RGB lights on the outside. Because you’re not a gamer unless you have RGB lights all over your rig.
A couple new innovations are looking to make your shower more fun and sustainable. Ampere’s Shower Power attachment is a Bluetooth speaker that provides music for your personal rendition of Singin’ in the Rain. It’s powered by the water flow of your shower, offering about 80 hours of music when the shower is running and 17 hours of music when it’s off.
L’Oreal is focusing on sustainability with its new showerhead, Water Saver. The company claims it will help people save 80 percent of the water they use for showers without reducing the water pressure. It does this by making water droplets ten times smaller while accelerating their speed. Water Saver was made with salons in mind, but a consumer version will be available to the public as well.
Getting help with the kids and home
Parenting has kicked into overdrive thanks to COVID-19. Juggling their work demands, kids’ school demands, household errands, and many other responsibilities introduced by the pandemic has pushed some families toward completely burning out. It’s no surprise, then, that there’s a lot of tech out there hoping to alleviate some of that stress.
Psychologists have found that tired parents can go into autopilot and make major mistakes — including leaving their baby in a hot car. To prevent these accidental deaths, Italian company Filo developed the Tata Pad and Tata Band to alert parents of the presence of a child in the car. The device’s sensors connect to a parent’s phone via Bluetooth to send notifications and calls, as well as send GPS location data to five emergency contacts. Filo is hoping to bring their products to the U.S. soon.
In other news: You’ve heard of lab-grown meat, but what about lab-grown breastmilk? For some parents, feeding their babies breastmilk can be very difficult. Sometimes work schedules are too demanding. Or maybe the breastfeeding parent can’t produce enough milk, their infant has difficulty latching, their milk dries early, or other medical issues. BioMilq wants to solve this problem by creating “cultured breastmilk” using the parent’s mammary cells. The company will nurture the cells, test the milk they created, and then send the final product to the parent. It’s a pretty wild idea that could potentially shake up the baby industry.
Speaking of serving, Samsung is looking to help out families with chores by providing a few new robots for the home. The first robot is called JetBot 90 AI+, an A.I. powered vacuum that uses LIDAR, 3D sensors, and an object recognition algorithm that allows it to navigate rooms and avoid delicate items. It can also double as a security camera for the residence.
The second robot is Bot Care. This robot has been around since 2019, but the company revealed an updated version during CES 2021 that will act as a personal assistant for users. It can remind people to take regular breaks, monitor their schedule, and hang around as a companion. According to Samsung, it uses A.I. to learn and respond to your behavior.
The last robot is Bot Handy, a sleek robot that lives up to its name with its far-reaching hand. This is another robot that uses A.I. to figure out how much pressure it needs to hold an object. It’s basically a butler that can pick up and tidy a messy room, set the table, load the dishwasher, and pour you a drink. As amazing as this sounds, Bot Handy appears to be a concept and isn’t available for purchase.
Keep cluttering that kitchen
All right, “clutter” might be a bit harsh. But anyone who loves cooking knows counter space is a precious commodity in the kitchen. If anything is gonna take up that space, it better be damn useful.
Whether a 50-pound ice-cream pod machine counts as “damn useful” certainly depends on the person. The ColdSnap is a Keurig-like machine for frozen treats like ice-cream, smoothies, and frozen cocktails. All you have to do is insert a recyclable aluminum pod into the machine and it’ll whip up a cold dessert of your choice within a couple minutes. Unfortunately, just like a Keurig, each pod is but a single serving, which can create additional, unnecessary waste that’s ultimately bad for our landfills and struggling recycling centers.
Another machine that demands counter space is the Cuzen Matcha Maker. This is a $369 device that will grind green tea leaves into a matcha powder and brew them into a hot cup of tea. The on-the-spot grinding gives the green tea a fresher, smoother, and richer flavor for matcha lovers to enjoy..
With a price tag that high, however, it’s tough to say whether buying a machine that only blends matcha is worth it. The cost is even harder to swallow when you consider that Sharp already made a tea machine for Japan that not only ground and brewed fresh matcha, but also brewed other teas (black, herbal, chai) and heated milk for matcha lattes. Sharp’s machine also kept the ground matcha in a conveniently detachable compartment so you could use the fresh powder for other dishes — like delicious pastries.
Bring the beauty department to your home
The beauty industry is also playing around with technology to offer more options to consumers. At CES 2021, L’Oreal presented a lipstick device that could blend the liquid from three pods to create any color the user wanted. It’s called the Yves Saint Laurent Beauté Rouge Sur Mesure Powered by Perso. (Yes, its name is a whole-ass sentence.) This gadget creates colors based on what you choose using the app. Then, once the liquid makeup is released, you blend the three colors together to get your desired shade. L’Oreal plans to create similar pods for skincare and foundation in the near future.
“Smart perfume” isn’t a phrase you’d hear most people uttering, but this is CES and anything can be turned into a smart product. Anything. This is where Ninu — a new brand of smart perfume/cologne — steps in. Similar to the customized lipstick, Ninu uses an app to create “endless variations” of perfumes suitable for any situation or mood. Powered by A.I., the app can gradually learn the wearer’s preferences to make good suggestions. The device isn’t quite ready to go public just yet, but a crowdfunding campaign is set to launch sometime this year.
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