WELCOME TO OUR CES 2021 liveblog archive! The WIRED crew wasn’t in Las Vegas this year; the show was moved online due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. But even a global health emergency can’t stop the march of consumer technology. There were still plenty of gadgets, apps, electric vehicles, smart-home appliances, brain-training headsets, and sex tech to tell you about. These are all our musings from our team during the show, including photos, written dispatches, trends, and, of course, more than a few lulz.
Updated Thursday, January 14: We’ve finished CES, and concluded our regularly scheduled liveblogging. We hope you enjoyed it! Below is a long list of highlights from CES. You’ll find a mix of different kinds of products and tech thoughts from start to finish.
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Our WIRED CES 2021 Coverage
- The ‘Best of CES’ Awards
- 15 Best Devices at CES That You Can Buy Now
- The Future of Phone Design: Rolling Screens
- It’s a Big Year for ‘Clean Tech’ at CES
- What to Expect From the First Virtual CES
- All Our CES Coverage
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Lasso Will Actually Recycle Your Recycling
In early 2018, China decided to stop accepting the world’s recycling, which has led to many municipalities (my own included) dumping diligently sorted bins at the nearest landfill. Your recycling probably isn’t actually recycled.
The Lasso is, according to the company, the first closed-loop domestic recycling appliance. The machine has been public for just over a year, but it’s been in development for more than 10. The idea is, you’ll feed the Lasso your recyclables (plastic, glass, and metal). It will steam clean them, remove labels to prevent contamination, intelligently sort the materials, and then quietly grind up your recycling before depositing it in the internal storage bin. Once the Lasso fills up (three to eight times per year or so), you’ll get a push notification in its companion app to schedule a pickup where the company will come scoop up your recycling—and make sure it actually gets recycled. The closed-loop recycling guarantee means that all of the materials will be repurposed, and they won’t end up in a landfill or the ocean.
Preorders for the Lasso are available now, and the price will likely be $3,500 or less if and when it is finished. The company anticipates shipping the first units next year.
This Sex Toy Can Stimulate You to the Beat of Any Song
Satisfyer’s Love Triangle air-pulse sex toy made quite an impression at this year’s CES, running away with two CES Innovation Awards, one for the toy and one for the Connect app. The handheld spanakopita-shaped toy features air-pulse stimulation and vibration for an all-around titillating user experience.
In addition, it connects to Satisfyer’s new app for iOS and Android, allowing you to customize vibration and pulse patterns, even set it up to stimulate you to the beat of any song you’d like. Yes, even medieval Gregorian chants, if you’re into that. Perhaps the most impressive thing is the price. Sex toys get expensive quickly, and Satisfyer has managed to keep this premium sex device at just $50. You can even buy it today!
Pocketalk Updated Its Translator for the Covid World
The translator company Pocketalk isn’t new, but after the Covid-19 crisis started last year—when it donated hundreds of translators to medical facilities, first responders, and teachers dealing with remote schooling—the company realized it needed to make some changes to the device that was once aimed at travelers.
The Pocketalk Plus, which is available for purchase as of yesterday, has a larger screen with bigger text, making it easier to translate when you’re 6 feet apart. (And because it has Bluetooth connectivity, you could even connect it to a speaker.) When having a conversation, you’ll no longer have to click the direction of translation, like English to Spanish and then Spanish to English; the Plus automatically detects it. The company told me that accurate, fast communication is the goal, especially when non-English speakers need to get critical information about vaccines and other Covid-related health questions.
I was able to try out both the smaller S and the new S Plus. They’re both simple to navigate and output clear translations, but the Plus is truly nice to use, and it gets nostalgia points because it looks kind of like my first cell phone. It has a screen with different region’s flags so you never have to guess what language someone might speak; just have them point out the flag and choose the right language. The company even made a dedicated product for the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo.
Airthings Can Now Analyze the Risk of Indoor Virus Spread
Unlike the rash of cleaning products meant to purify the air or blast surfaces with UV light, Airthings sensors are content to take a passive role. Normally they monitor indoor air quality for problem makers like radon and mold. Now the Airthings’ Wave Plus subscription plan offers businesses the ability to analyze rooms for virus risks. The sensors don’t detect the virus itself. They instead use other factors to assess the risk of virus transmission, monitoring temperature, humidity, and the number of people in a room (based on CO2 emissions from people breathing) and then rank how easily the virus might move around the room. If the rating is poor, it suggests timely solutions like increasing airflow, humidity, or kicking any extra people out of the room.
This won’t guarantee a room is completely safe, but it could offer another layer of caution in the effort to prevent the spread of Covid.
Telemedicine Could Help Address Health Care Disparities
My favorite parts of CES are the sessions where technically minded people come together to discuss practical solutions to today’s problems. When it comes to health care, the Covid-19 pandemic brought many horrifying inequities to light. But in a panel discussion, Dr. Lisa Fitzpatrick of Grapevine Health, Katie Ryder of Maven, Iris P. Frye of Parity Health Information and Technology, and Halle Tecco of Natalist had some very simple solutions to address those inequities.
The first, most obvious solution is that telemedicine can do a great job of care-matching—giving patients access to both providers and care advocates that can appreciate their specific needs—especially in areas where queer care providers or providers of color might be scarce. While even low-income households might have access to a smartphone, broadband is harder to come by; both should be included in Medicaid. And when asked for a dream wish for 2021, Dr. Fitzpatrick’s answer was simple: It should be free and easy for patients to call, email, or text care providers with questions. We can’t right every historic wrong, but surely at least one of these should be easy to solve, right?
The Biopectal OptiBP App Measures Your Blood Pressure With Your Phone
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is known as “the silent killer.” It’s almost always asymptomatic, kills up to 60,000 Americans annually, and requires constant monitoring. We’ve already taken a look at several pieces of hardware meant for remote heart monitoring at CES this year (they’re below), but this is the first piece of software that we’ve seen.
In the very near future, you’ll be able to download the Biospectal OptiBP app to your Android phone (the iOS version will be released later this year) and use its camera to optically check your blood pressure. The results are faster than, and just as accurate as, a blood pressure cuff, and they have been validated in peer-reviewed studies, with regulatory approval in the United States slated for later this year. It’s already being used globally, with the support of the World Health Organization and the Gates Foundation. And most importantly, the app has been tested on the hardware that patients actually own, like 5- to 10-year-old smartphones.
Afraid of Leaving Your Kid in a Hot Car? There’s a Device for That
Every year we hear horrific news stories about babies left in hot cars, so it’s no surprise that tech companies are trying to prevent that tragedy. The company Filo is one of them. In 2020, it launched the Tata Pad safety pad for older children. This year, it debuted a small band meant for infants that attaches to the car seat’s seat belt, called the Tata Band.
Both devices have capacitive sensors to detect the presence of a child, and they connect to your phone via Bluetooth. When that connection is lost (because you’ve left the vehicle), but it still detects a child, the parent is notified with three levels of alarms. The first is a notification, the second is a call, and the third alarm sends calls and messages to predetermined emergency contacts who can access the GPS location of the Tata. If your phone is off, it will still notify the emergency contacts.
Tata is not currently available in the US, but the company says it hopes to be soon. We have covered other baby safety products before that are available. There is also the eClip from Elepho, though we haven’t tested that yet.
Hide Drugs From Your Kids in These Bluetooth-Unlocked Boxes
Secrets! We all have them, and chances are you don’t want anyone snooping through yours. The $549 Trova Home is a smart storage box that only specified users can unlock via Bluetooth. It can also be bolted to the ground for extra protection.
Trova advertises its stashes as “accessible through biometric scanning,” but you have to use your phone’s fingerprint scanner. And if the battery dies, you’re just going to have to raid someone else’s stash tonight. In addition to the Home, Trova also sells smaller to-go sizes that you can use to stash stuff like credit cards .
A New Way to Help Save the Bees
Beeing’s B-Box might be my favorite thing from CES this year. It’s designed for the backyard beekeeper. As long as you have some outdoor space (it takes up about 1 square meter, so even a balcony works), you can help pollinate your area, take care of a bee swarm, and get fresh honey.
The B-Box differs from any small hive you can buy by incorporating the company’s BeeSecure device, which is placed inside the hive and helps beekeepers monitor the health of their swarm, providing a snapshot of the temperature, humidity, and movement within.
The design is unique as well, with a chimney for the bees to enter and exit out of. The company explained to me that bees typically defend the door of the hive, but given that the chimney opening is about 7 feet above the ground, you can observe your swarm without disturbing their natural flow.
The design also makes harvesting safe and easy by separating the extra honeycomb (bees need to eat the honey too!) from the rest of the hive. Pulling a lever signals the bees to return to the lower hive; they can exit but can’t reenter the honeycomb area. When it’s time to harvest, you can collect it without the need for special protective clothing.
PopSockets Get Magnetic
PopSockets are a great way to maintain a firm grip on an oversized smartphone, but leaving them on the back of your phone all the time can be annoying, and it can even disable wireless charging. Thanks to the iPhone 12’s MagSafe system of magnetically attachable accessories, PopSockets has a better solution. The iconic PopGrip is now MagSafe-compatible, so you can easily pop it on and off your phone. It has a nonslip rubber bottom that makes it longer than usual, but this is to prevent it from detaching from the phone when you put it in a pocket.
It also has a few more new accessories like the PopWallet Plus with MagSafe, a wallet with a grip that sticks to the back of your iPhone that can fit up to three cards, and PopMount, a series of MagSafe mounts that let you stick your iPhone 12 to any surface or to car vents.
These new accessories only work with the new iPhone 12 models. PopSockets says these accessories will launch this spring and summer, though it didn’t share pricing.
Hex Will Fill Your Home With Wi-Fi Waves
Hex Home is a unique way to detect intruders using Wi-Fi. It fills your space with Wi-Fi waves that will, in theory, bend around a person walking through the area, alerting you to motion via a notification on your phone. It lets you monitor your house without cameras. The approach has benefits, but you also can’t directly check in when you get a motion notification, so you won’t know what’s going on.
You’ll need the Hex Command hub that connects to your Wi-Fi and two small “Senses” that plug into an outlet to monitor a 1,500-square-foot area. You can purchase more Senses for larger homes.
The company says the system is “pet proof,” since the sensitivity of the motion capturing can be adjusted to weed out furry friends or robot vacuums. I particularly like that there are three modes: Home and Away, which are typically standard for security systems, plus a Vigilant mode that will alert you of motion without setting off the sirens. It could be good if you want to be alerted of an elderly family member’s movement throughout the day or to be sure your kids made it in after school. Hex is expected to release this summer.
Apple Reveals Next Step in Its $100 Million Pledge Toward Racial Equity
Apple has a habit of dropping news during CES without actually participating in CES, and the company has done it again. This time it’s not a traditional product announcement, but a societal one.
Last June, following the murder of George Floyd and international protests against police brutality, Apple committed $100 million dollars to a new effort it’s calling REJI—the Racial Equity and Justice Initiative—led by Apple vice president Lisa Jackson. Now the company is following through on that, contributing $25 million to the Propel Center, a physical and virtual hub for resources for historically black colleges and universities. It is also contributing $10 million and $25 million, respectively, to Harlem Capital and Siebert Williams Shank’s Clear Vision Impact Fund, and it will open a coding academy in Detroit, Michigan, offering both a 30-day introductory course and an intensive year-long program.
Apple also says it’s making a contribution to the King Center, and plans to work with Dr. Bernice A. King to create conversation guides on issues related to race and inequality. At a time when so many national crises are occupying our attention, not to mention the ongoing global pandemic, it’s a positive thing to see a giant corporation do more than just pay lip service to racial inequity.
LG’s Latest 4K Projector Looks Fantastic
LG’s laser projection tech is among the best around, which is why I’m excited to see its brand-new Cinebeam projector in person. In addition to offering excellent color accuracy, it features LG’s WebOS interface, AirPlay connectivity, and WiSa and Bluetooth connectivity (in addition to HDMI eARC) for audio. Needless to say, this should be one of the easiest projectors to get an image to and sound out of. It’s also capable of massive images: It will fill screens of up to 300 inches, for a truly cinematic experience.
An Upgraded Doggy Door
If you’re willing to replace an exterior door in your home—and drop a cool $3,000—you can give your pet the ability to go outside as they please. This is an interesting concept that also raises my concerns as an extremely nervous pet parent. I mean, what if the mail carrier left your gate open and the dog escapes, or someone grabs them out of your yard? It could be great if you have one of those dogs who wants to go out, then come in, then go out, then stay half in, half out—you know the ones.
In automatic mode, a sensor worn on a pet’s collar will activate the door on its own when they approach it; in manual, you activate it on your phone. There’s video and two-way audio too. Plus, it doesn’t look like a doggy door, which is nice for aesthetics and so potential intruders won’t know it’s there—unless of course, they see it opening.
Sony Reveals a Drone
Sony teased the drone world at CES with some footage of its new Airpeak drone. The company announced Airpeak late last year but didn’t offer any details. Now, at CES, we’ve learned that not only does a prototype exist, but Sony has a new division of the company developing Airpeak.
Unlike DJI’s most popular drones, the camera system won’t be built in. Instead, the Airpeak will be able to carry a Sony Alpha series camera. It seems to be a drone aimed primarily at professional filmmakers, rather than a consumer-oriented drone to compete with DJI’s more popular models. Although niche drone makers have found specialized markets, the broader consumer market remains heavily dominated by DJI.
Segway Is Making Electric Scooters for Kids
Electric vehicles are popular with adults because they’re fast, fun, and don’t make you work very hard. And as the saying goes, what’s good for the goose is also good for the goslings. I’ve started to see more kids on Onewheels around town. As a mom, I have to say that these kids look like they’re having the time of their lives, and also like they’re one ill-timed sneeze away from a visit to the emergency room.
The four vehicles that Segway launched at this year’s CES are all painfully adorable, but perhaps the cutest is the Ninebot S Nano, an electric scooter with a 13.7-mile range that’s intended for children. It has an intelligent voice-assist system and an integrated Bluetooth speaker. It also has a remote control function so you can turn it into a robot for remote gameplay. When I think about my kids getting control of their own remote-controlled transportation, my mind reels, but maybe yours will be a little less likely to raise hell. They’d have fun doing it, anyway.
I’m Totally Into These Innovative New Chairs
Before Covid, you probably didn’t give much thought to your home desk chair. By now, you may have realized that the dining room chair you temporarily moved into your office isn’t meant for eight hours of Zoom meetings.
Tony Mazlish, the CEO of Future Seating, thinks about chairs a lot. He’s been in the business of chairs for more than 25 years. That’s why, when the rest of us started contemplating how to sit efficiently, he was prepared to offer solutions—including to problems people didn’t realize they had yet. The company’s newest launches are unique. There’s the X-Chair X-HMT, an office chair with built-in heat and massage therapy, and the entire lineup of Mavix gaming chairs, designed to make long-term gaming sessions more ergonomic and offer something more streamlined than the chunky race-car-inspired gaming chairs of yesteryear.
Both are intended to provide uncomplicated comfort while encouraging healthy practices—think lumbar support that moves with you and armrests that have adjustable angles. We have tested and recommend the current X-Chair in our Work From Home Gear Guide. I was impressed at how the new models managed to have an ergonomic design that was neither hideous nor clinical.
We’re used to high-tech innovation in smartphones or headphones, but it’s fun to see that same creativity applied to something as mundane as the place you park your butt all day.
GoPro ‘Labs’ Brings New Features to Old Heros
GoPro doesn’t have a virtual presence at CES this year, but it did time the release of GoPro Labs to coincide with the event. GoPro Labs is a way to try out some software improvements for the GoPro Hero 9, Hero 8, Hero 7, and Max 360 cameras via optional firmware (two of which we still recommend). In addition, there are new ways to trigger recording, including using motion (the camera’s accelerometer and gyroscope) to start or stop capture.
Other enhancements include motion-detection improvements, live streaming triggered by connection to a Wi-Fi network, and a new “one-button” mode that shuts down everything but the record button, so you can’t accidentally change camera modes.
None of these updates by themselves are earth-shattering, but they’re part of what we hope is a larger trend, new features and updates for the best camera out there: the one you already own.
Engageli Hopes to Improve Remote Teaching
This afternoon I sat in an online CES session on what the classroom of the future might look like. As a parent during Covid, most of my discussions about remote learning have been punctuated by moans of “When will schools reopen?” So it was refreshing to listen to online founders talking about actionable solutions to problems with remote learning.
Engageli could be described as “Zoom for school,” but better. Among other teacher-specific features, the online platform is asymmetrical, which means that the teacher can keep better control over a class without being constantly interrupted. Teachers can pull out different groups of students onto different screens by using multiple monitors, and the platform protects students’ privacy—no recording, no gaze-tracking. It was also tested on the equipment that cash-strapped students and schools might actually have, like 10-year-old Chromebooks. In the next few years, we will start seeing software and hardware designed specifically for remote learning, rather than hastily repurposed from office work. The more students you can accommodate, the better.
A Cardiac Monitoring Device That Can Track 7 Biometrics at Home
The Covid-19 pandemic stripped hospitals of resources and kept many medically vulnerable patients home. But even in healthier times, patients that lived far away from specialists traveled long distances to visit their doctors for frequent follow-up appointments. This especially applies to patients with cardiovascular disease. If symptoms come and go, it’s very easy for a clinician to miss them. Constant monitoring is key.
Last July, the FDA cleared HD Medical’s flagship product, the HD Steth electronic smart stethoscope. At CES 2021, the company announced the HealthyU, the first intelligent home device that monitors seven different biometrics. It has a seven-lead ECG and can also monitor blood pressure, respiratory rate, lung sounds, heart sounds, heart rate, SpO2, and temperature. HD Medical expects FDA clearance by Q2 2021.
The HealthyU is already being used in clinical evaluations, and the company is currently in talks with partners in the wellness and professional sports fields. Now you won’t have to wake up five hours in advance of an appointment, just to have a doctor listen for a few minutes and declare that “all is well.”
Ordinary Wearables May Soon Track Blood Pressure
You might not recognize Valencell’s brand name, but if you’ve worn a Scosche armband, Jabra or Bose headphones, or a Suunto sport watch, then you’ve almost certainly used Valencell’s sensors before. The North Carolina–based company has made advanced photoplethysmography (PPG) sensors that measure heart rate and oxygen uptake since 2006. Now it’s getting into blood pressure sensors.
Valencell first announced its blood-pressure-measuring sensors—which supposedly offer “cuff-like accuracy”—in January 2020, but the sensors were designed primarily for ear-based devices at the time. This year, it has expanded its sensor kit to work in wrist-based wearables and those worn on the finger. Fitness trackers, smartwatches, and smart rings may soon give you a reading on your blood pressure, eliminating the need for a bulky cuff.
There’s a software component to this too; the data has to be combined with a person’s height, weight, age, and gender to offer accurate estimations of blood pressure, and anytime algorithms come into the equation, there’s room for bias and error. Also, Valencell notes that this technology is not yet FDA-approved, but the company is pursuing clearance in early 2021.
Soon enough, our smartwatches and wearables may be able to monitor EKG, blood oxygen levels, and blood pressure—making them increasingly more worthy of their “smart” moniker.
Cadillac’s Self-Driving Party Van Concept
General Motors unveiled a lot at CES this year, sneaking in news about several Cadillac preproduction and concept vehicles in particular. The one that really caught our eye was the fancy bread-van-like PAV (personal autonomous vehicle), a spiffed-up version of the Cruise Origin. Cruise is an autonomous vehicle firm that was bought by GM back in 2016, and the Origin—unveiled last year—is its first vehicle without a steering wheel. Cruise sees its vehicles as competitors to Uber and Lyft, and the Cadillac version would be for customers who want a more luxurious (and presumably more expensive) ride.
Cadillac was light on the details, but inside there’s 360-degree seating that makes the PAV look more like a mobile parlor room than a taxi. Through hand gestures and voice control, passengers can change the lighting and release scents throughout the cabin, and the driving route appears to be set through a touchscreen.
GM announced no plans to put it into production. It’s easier to keep expectations low with a car if you don’t give it a name.
Find the Right Lipstick Hue for You
I first glimpsed the L’Oreal Perso beauty customization system in a secluded CES hotel suite last January. It was straight out of a spy movie; after being briefed, my colleague Jess Grey and I leaned forward in our seats as the gadget was brought into the room, shiny and full of potential. At the time, Perso was still in development. This year, it’s finally coming out.
Dubbed the Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Sur Mesure Powered by Perso—or YSLRSMPBP for short (just kidding)—the gadget launched in partnership with L’Oreal-owned YSL Beauté to offer customized lipstick shades.
The name is complicated, but the device itself is straightforward: Pop in your color cartridges, pick a shade from the app, and apply using the included applicator. The top of the device transforms into a compact for portable color. The app can make color suggestions (using AI, of course), but you can also choose from options curated by influencers or the user community. Want to perfectly match your lips to your nails? There’s a function for that too.
It’s expensive, priced at $299, and a three-pack of cartridge refills is expected to cost around $100. YSL lipsticks cost around $40 a piece, so frequent use could make the purchase worthwhile. It’s also gorgeous (at least, via Zoom). Rouge Sur Mesure’s price tag might be overshadowed by having access to thousands of color options. There’s a beta sign-up live now, and the full launch is expected this fall.
Can a Vibrating Headband Help You Reduce Stress?
Brain altering headbands aren’t new, strangely, but I’ve never seen one with as low a profile. The Cove, which claims to reduce stress, looks more like a pair of wireless earbuds than a futuristic wearable.
The device vibrates gently behind your ears, which the company says activates the part of your brain that regulates emotions (the limbic system). During a session—Cove says you should wear it for 20 minutes a day—the beta waves in your brain should decrease and the alpha waves should increase, so that after a session, those alpha waves remain dominant. Alpha waves are typically dominant in your brain during restful, meditative states; beta waves are normal during cognitive tasks and “fast” activity.
I wish I could see the Cove in person and try it on to test its comfort. If it actually works, I’d be inclined to use it in public, like in the airport before a flight, which is when I normally stress out. The last thing I want to do when I’m starting to feel overwhelmed is put on a gigantic device that says “Look at me!” However, at $490, I would expect dramatic results.
This Electric Car Is Covered in Solar Panels
What’s got four doors, looks like a mini-minivan, and is covered in 248 polymer-coated pucks on its doors, roof, and hood? Sono Motors’ Sion electric car, unveiled today at CES, and those pucks are solar panels. Combining them with a 35-kWh battery that can be charged through a standard EV charger, the Sion’s maximum range is 158 miles, but it can recharge itself enough for up to 21.7 miles worth of driving each day if it’s sunny. Its top speed of 87 miles per hour is low enough to keep you honest on highways, but high enough that it isn’t a real problem. Solar panels on the doors and roof means it can still harvest some energy when the sun is low on the horizon or if the roof becomes dusted with snow.
What happens if it’s in a hail storm, though? Or a crash that damages a door or the hood? Sono said the solar panels are replaceable and, without giving hard numbers as an example, that the repair cost is similar to replacing a standard non-solar vehicle’s metal body panels when taking repainting costs into consideration.
Built in Saab’s former factory in Trollhättan, Sweden, it must’ve inherited some of Saab’s quirkiness—there’s a built-in terrarium full of live moss beneath the 10-inch touchscreen in the center of the dashboard. Think of it as a copilot you don’t have to feed. Sono plans to launch in Europe first, where it already has 12,600 preorders, and in the US at a later date with a net price of $26,000.
Wait, Your Perfume Doesn’t Have an App?
As both a lover of personal care and a lover of tech, I’m always excited when the two worlds collide. While there’s a long-standing gender gap in mainstream tech products, CES consistently reminds me that there are others out in the world who feel the same way I do. This year, I stumbled on Ninu, a perfume startup focused on making fragrance smarter. Named after Tapputi and Ninu (the first recorded chemist and her researcher), Ninu is a purse-sized device paired with an AI-guided app.
The cylindrical gadget holds three vegan scents housed in recycled glass vials. Users will be able to tweak the scents based on their mood. Perhaps it’ll be spicier for a date night or sweeter in the summer. Scents are manipulated via the app, which features an AI-powered assistant that makes intelligent suggestions and learns your preferences over time. While the specific notes and blends are still in development, CEO and founder Marko Matijević says the company is working hard with perfumers based in Grasse to finalize the first two scent families that will be available: one for women, one for men. When we spoke, he also emphasized Ninu’s sustainability initiatives; by using things like recycled glass and less packaging, the hope is to make the perfume industry greener.
Ninu is not yet available for preorder. The price, scents, and final design are yet to be determined. The current plan, subject to change, will launch a crowdfunding campaign in March and (theoretically) begin production in the second half of 2021. While there’s a real risk that the products debuted at CES never make it to market, I (and my overflowing EDP perfume stash) have high hopes for this one.
Your Lil’ Kids Don’t Need a Screen With a Skoog Cube
As more of us have been driven to shelter in place, we’ve come up against a formidable technological conundrum. Screens are the way that most adults relate to the outside world, but even the easiest tablet can be challenging for smaller kids to navigate. Oh, and also, staring at a screen melts their brains.
So it was a relief to come across the Skoog Cube. Skoog was originally started to help children with disabilities express themselves through music. For CES 2021, it collaborated with Sesame Street (Big Bird knows what’s what!) to debut a sensory cube that doesn’t require any screens at all. A parent-controlled app lets you control soft, squeezable, and glowing RFID buttons for kids to play interactive songs, games, and stories. It sounds much better than restarting an Amazon Fire tablet for a 3-year-old over and over again.
Get Pumped With Moen’s Water Security System
Chances are you won’t know you have a leaky pipe in your house until it’s too late. Then you’re paying for a plumber, new drywall, floorboards, and a bottle of something strong to make the financial hit go down easier. But what if you had … smart pipes?
Faucet manufacturer Moen has updated its Flo water security system with a monitor for sump pumps—those unglamorous water removers that can bail out your basement in the event of a flood. Connect it with the rest of the Flo system, which monitors water flow rate, temperature, and pressure in your house. If something is amiss, it can shut down water in the event of a leak or purge the pipes if there’s a risk of them freezing. It’s all synced to and controlled by a companion app, so even if you’re away, you don’t have to worry about your home falling victim to the Wet Bandits again.
L’Oreal Wants to Help You Save Water
L’Oreal’s quest to “build beautiful products,” as its technology incubator vice president Guive Balooch told us, extends beyond traditional beauty tech. It’s bringing the design philosophy to a sustainability-focused shower head too.
The Water Saver sprang from a partnership with the environmental company Gjosa, and it has versions for salon and home use. It uses a technique called “fractioning” that forces water droplets to collide and reduce in size, while simultaneously accelerating their speed. This uses less water—80 percent, L’Oreal says—without skimping on pressure. The end result is similar to the Nebia by Moen showerhead.
The salon version includes a hair product infusion device that can send products like shampoo, conditioners, and oils directly into the water stream, allowing for a more even distribution of product and easier rinsing. (We’re particularly excited about a better wash without overloading our hair with drying shampoos.) It won’t require a major installation, either.
The home showerhead will not include the infusion device at launch, which is still about 18 months away, but it is sleekly designed. It looks more like a fancy shower upgrade than a piece of water-saving tech. Both versions will provide information on how much water they save each day.
AirPop’s Smart Mask Monitors Local Air Quality
It was only a matter of time. Once masks became a must-have accessory, they started sporting fashion designs, high-tech fabrics, and now, apps. The Halo sensor embedded in the AirPop Active+ Smart Mask monitors the air quality in your current location, which pollutants it has filtered out, and when to change the filter. In Active Mode, it also tracks your breaths per minute and breaths per pace, which you can check on your phone.
Personally, I gauge if my respiration is adequate by how desperately I’m sucking wind. But at any rate, the mask is washable and the sensor has a replaceable battery. At the very least, it looks comfortable, if not precisely, er, useful?
It’s a Keurig-Style Ice Cream Machine
Among the most outlandish kitchen accessories on virtual display this year is the ColdSnap, a Keurig-like device that instantly freezes everything from ice cream to frozen margaritas. Plop in an aluminum pod and 90 seconds later you’ll be tucking into an ice-cold treat.
ColdSnap claims that because its pods (which look like Red Bull cans) are 100 percent recyclable, and because its confections can be stored and transported at room temp before they’re instantly frozen, it saves on ice-cream-related emissions. I’m not sure every can will end up being melted down, but I do like the idea of ice cream on demand. One thing’s for sure: You’ll want a sturdy place to plop the 50-pound behemoth.
Razer Made a Crazy Gaming Chair and a Face Mask
Gaming laptop manufacturer Razer unveiled two of its famous concept devices at this year’s CES. The first of which, Project Hazel, is a clear plastic face mask with RGB lighting and a voice amplifier, and I want one so bad. It’s 2021. We deserve this.
Project Brooklyn on the other hand is a large gaming chair with a screen that rolls up and folds into the back of the chair itself. It’s the more concept-ey of the concept products, but it’s a cool idea. Imagine a gaming setup that doesn’t need a big desk! Just a gaming chair tucked into one corner of your living room.
Bowflex Offers Up Some Peloton Competition
What did you panic-buy this year? Toilet paper, a bread machine, a robot vacuum? Odds are that if you had the means and space for it, you probably also bought an indoor exercise machine to compensate for all the suddenly sedentary time you now have while sheltering in place during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Peloton bike (and app) is currently the undisputed king, but almost every fitness company is now offering a holistic, subscription-based workout app that pairs with their hardware. Even Apple and Fitbit each launched new programs before CES even started this year.
Bowflex’s program is called JRNY (pronounced “journey”), a personalized coaching experience that is now integrated with its new treadmills, bikes, and the upcoming Max Trainer M9. The M9 is designed for low-impact, high-intensity training with personalized, adaptive exercises and a very small indoor footprint. After the trial period, you will have to pay for your JRNY subscription monthly. Or you could always log in with your Disney+ account and spend a pleasant half-hour stepping and watching all the Star Wars movies instead.
GM Is Making Electric Delivery Vehicles
General Motors announced a new commercial brand of electric delivery vehicles called BrightDrop at CES today. The wraps came off two BrightDrop EVs today. The EP1 is a propulsion-assisted delivery box on swiveling wheels. Rather than operating it through a remote control, you nudge it in the direction you want to go and electric hub motors in the wheels kick in to provide power. It can move the EP1 up to 3 miles per hour as a delivery person moves goods around a warehouse or from a delivery truck to a person’s home. Inside there’s adjustable shelving that can fit 23 cubic feet of cargo, weighing up to 200 pounds. You could see one rolling down the sidewalk within the next few months when it launches.
The EV600 is a light commercial delivery truck, like the type you see FedEx and UPS parking all over the streets. It has a 250-mile range, and there’s a panel on the right side (the sidewalk side) of the van that opens up like the awning of a food truck to allow quick loading and unloading of EP1s. You’ll see EV600s on your street later this year when delivery companies begin adding them to their fleets. Keep an eye on the next FedEx Express truck you see—eventually it could be an EV600.
Lenovo Still Loves E Ink
Lenovo is doubling down on its unusual E Ink laptop, the ThinkBook Plus 2. Unveiled at CES last year, the ThinkBook Plus is normal laptop on the inside, but instead of a logo on the lid, Lenovo slapped on an 11-inch black-and-white E Ink display. Think of it as a Kindle on top of your laptop. The ThinkBook Plus 2 ups the size and resolution of the E Ink to a 12-inch display at 2,560 x 1,600 pixels—the same resolution as the IPS display on the other side. That gives you even more room to jot notes (automatically saved to the desktop), see your calendar at a glance, or read an ebook. The ThinkBook Plus 2 will be available in the first quarter of 2021, starting at $1,549.
Lenovo has also updated its ThinkBook 14P and 16P, which run on the just-announced AMD Ryzen mobile processors. In a sign of the times, they are specifically optimized for video conferencing with Full HD webcams, and an AI-based noise-cancellation algorithm to suppress ambient noise when you’re in a video chat.
Dell’s Massive 40-Inch Widescreen Monitor
It’s a fitting time to release bigger widescreens, given how painfully aware many of us have become of our home computers’ screen real estate in the past year. Dell’s biggest model for 2021 is 40 inches, with an astonishing 5,120 x 2,160 pixel resolution.
You can put about four full-sized browser windows side-by-side on this curved behemoth, no problem. It’s a huge screen, so big that some might ditch two full-sized monitors for a single one of these. You can even charge your computer through it, thanks to a Thunderbolt 3 port. There’s no word yet on pricing, but expect it to cost a pretty penny. I can’t wait to see this thing in person.
Just Let Me Relax My Troubles Away in Kohler’s Stillness Bath
Let not the bathroom be neglected! In the urge to improve every square inch of the space you’ve inhabited for the past 10 months, Kohler has debuted a bathtub that seems designed expressly for the purpose of making every tense, stressed-out gadget writer sulk, simmering in thwarted desire.
The Stillness Bath is a Japanese-style square soaking bath that has elements of a luxury infinity pool. It’s wreathed in hinoki wood, and of course it’s smart, so you can fill it at your preferred temperature, turn on atmospheric lights, or dispense soothing essential oils at a soft command.
Fog and water spill over the sides, creating an ultimately false sensation of peace and abundance that will probably dissipate once you process that this tub costs a cool $16,000. It won’t be available until October. Hopefully we’ll all be a little more relaxed by then—tub or no tub.
Stern Pinball Shows Led Zeppelin a Whole Lotta Love
The last of the great pinball manufacturers, Stern makes machines with modern themes like last year’s Stranger Things and old-school classics like that campy Batman show. But the company’s real forte is music machines. Whether it’s the Beatles or Iron Maiden, each machine is chock-full of meticulous details that’ll make any fan swoon.
Stern’s latest entry is a triple threat of Led Zeppelin nostalgia. There are three editions, each complete with real concert clips and all the glamor and bombastic lighting of a live show. Rock along to classics like “Immigrant Song” and “Kashmir” as you roll through replicas of the band’s iconography, including a prominent winged Icarus logo and the legendary Zeppelin itself.
A Heads-Up for Drivers
Head-up displays (HUDs) have been around for years in select car models, but they typically splash only a minor bit of information onto the windshield in front of the driver—speed, engine RPM, and maybe rudimentary arrows for navigation directions—and cover only a small area of the glass.
Today, Panasonic Automotive showed off its 4K-resolution AR HUD, which covers a much larger section of the windshield and mixes two-dimensional information such as vehicle speed, speed limit, and fuel range in the near-field view with three-dimensional overlays of navigation directions in the far-field view, which appear to be cast spatially onto the road ahead. If you’re navigating somewhere, it’ll look like an overlaid 3D blue line is actually painted onto the road surface of the path you’re supposed to take. For those of us who’ve ever heard Siri shout “turn right” and not known which of the two close-together roads she means, 3D navigation sounds like a welcome relief.
Bicyclists are recognized by the AR HUD and tagged with an attention-grabbing yellow bicyclist symbol on the display. It’ll also highlight lane markers, objects in the road, and collisions ahead. The AR HUD has a 180-degree field of vision that can see 90 meters ahead across three lanes, and it can detect and display new information in less than 300 milliseconds.
Just What You Need: A Matcha Tea Machine
Fans of the most elegant form of Japanese green tea will be excited to see the Cuzen Matcha machine, which reduces the entire teahouse prep cycle to the press of a button. You pour matcha tea leaves into the top of the machine, where a ceramic grinder pulverizes them into the fine powder needed to properly brew matcha. The powder falls into the waiting cup of hot water, where a magnetic whisk whips the water and matcha into a frothy, grassy brew.
A single-use specialty device like this raises one question: Is prepping matcha by hand using powdered tea leaves and a bamboo whisk really difficult or time-consuming enough to warrant machine automation? The answer is no. There are a great many machines at CES that tackle similarly easy tasks, when in fact there’s usually nothing overly difficult or time-consuming about the age-old method.
Maybe this one warrants a closer look. Freshly ground tea (much like coffee from freshly ground coffee) tastes better than preground tea, but I can’t tell you whether the matcha the Cuzen makes is any better than traditional handmade matcha. I look forward to testing it. Or you can go ahead and try it out yourself by buying one for three hundred and sixty-nine dollars.
A Lot of Filmmakers Might Use This Camera
Panasonic today touted its new BGH1 Micro Four Thirds camera as “the first micro four thirds camera approved by Netflix.” The box-shaped camera could become one of the go-to devices for filmmakers.
It’s an order of magnitude cheaper than the popular Red Camera, and it’s smaller and lighter. It has the kinds of specs filmmakers need, with support for 10-bit 4:2:0 4K/60p as well as 10-bit 4:2:2 4K video. There’s also support for all the industry-standard gamma curves like BR.2100, V-Log L, and HLG. Perhaps most impressive though is the heat dispersion system, which Panasonic claims allows for unlimited recording time.
Alarm.com’s Flex IO Sensor Lets You Keep an Eye on Nearly Everything
I’m quite intrigued by Alarm.com’s Flex IO security sensor. It uses LTE-M technology, so it works wherever there is LTE coverage—no need for a hub or Wi-Fi, and it’s weatherproof.
The magnetic sensors can be attached basically anywhere traditional security sensors work—things like windows, gates, barns, and chicken coop doors—and a few places they normally don’t. There is also a loop option that monitors freestanding items like bikes, tools, and other supplies where an open-close sensor won’t work. You’ll get notified via the Alarm.com app if someone is creeping on your property trying to jack your motorcycle or set your chickens free, whatever it is people do.
You can set up rules, like being notified if something is opened during a certain time of day or if something is left open past a certain time (like post-sunset if we’re still talking about chickens). If you have an Alarm.com camera, you can set up a rule to trigger video, too. The company says the sensors have an expected battery life of more than two years.
The Flex IO sensor is available now for $130. There is a monthly fee of $10–15 for the first unit.
Otterbox Is Getting Into Gaming Accessories
As if you needed any more proof that 2020 was the year that we all got into gaming, outdoor lifestyle manufacturer Otterbox recently debuted a complete line of Xbox gaming products, including a mobile gaming clip to attach your phone to your controller plus a controller shell, a carrying case, and an antimicrobial screen guard that you can stick on your phone. This collaboration makes complete sense. We already trust Otterbox to protect our food and phones in the wilderness, so why not our controllers?
Learn more about Otterbox’s gaming products here. Preordering starts January 25.
HP’s Latest 2-in-1 Laptop Is ARM-Based—and Definitely Not Leather
A couple of years ago, HP tried to shake up the luxury laptop market by introducing its $1,300, leather-wrapped HP Spectre Folio. It was an odd move, considering leather is a weighty material and likely to upset those concerned about animal rights. But the laptop maker, one of the world’s largest, has come around. At the virtual CES this year, HP is unveiling the Elite Folio, a new, 13.5-inch convertible laptop wrapped in “vegan leather.” Perhaps even more notably, it will run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8CX Gen 2 5G compute system when it ships, meaning it’s an ARM-based, always-connected laptop and should get spectacular battery life. The downside to ARM, judging by Microsoft’s own Surface Pro X, is that the Folio won’t be able to run some types of Windows 10 apps. We don’t have pricing info for it yet.
The HP Envy 14 will also get a significant overhaul this year to include a new 16:10 1080p multitouch IPS display. That extra screen height (compared with 16:9) doesn’t sound like much, but in our experience it’s nice to have. The screen also offers better color accuracy, a trend we’re excited to see a number of manufacturers embracing this year.
—Lauren Goode and Scott Gilbertson
For an Incredibly Precise High
Consuming cannabis isn’t too difficult:
- You take a hit from your pen or bowl, munch on the recommended amount of an edible, or swallow a few drops of oil.
- You wait.
Then you either feel good and stop consuming it, or you repeat steps 1 and 2. In the event that you consume too much, you take a nap and consume less next time. Mode, a smart cannabis device unveiled at CES today, adds some data to the dosage.
Compatible with threaded 510 oil cartridges, this $100 gadget allows users to select a dose ranging from 1 to 5 milligrams. Haptic feedback tells you when to inhale and exhale (something Dosist does for less dough), and because it’s 2021, there’s a companion smartphone app to help you track how much weed you’re smoking and how various strains make you feel.
A device like Mode could be helpful for folks who don’t consume cannabis to get high but rather for specific goals like pain management or curbing anxiety and need accurate dosing and record-keeping.
Of course, you could dose more accurately on your own without spending a Franklin, and you can probably figure out how long to wait before exhaling on your own, too. Asking your local dispensary’s budtender for strain suggestions or taking some notes on your consumption might be worth trying first.
Mode is available for preorder now. Devices are expected to ship in the first half of 2021.
C by GE Renames Itself Cync, Makes More Smart Home Stuff
The former C by GE brand is now Cync, having been sold to Savant. Any current C by GE products you might own, like its smart plugs and smart lights, will, according to the company, seamlessly transition to the new Cync app in March.
The new app will supposedly offer more personalization options, like the ability to preview color and brightness using a photo of your room. This could potentially be useful for scheduling purposes or if you’re trying to plan a post-Covid party (whenever that is).
Cync is also releasing an indoor camera that looks small and unassuming, from what I can tell. I particularly like that you can turn it off and on by simply switching the camera face-up or pushing it down. It’s nice to know that it’s really off when you see that orange color (as shown in the photo above). An outdoor smart plug with two outlets and a fan-speed smart switch are also coming.
A Fully Stocked Soundbar
I always recommend people hook up a subwoofer and surround speakers to their televisions if possible, but sometimes an all-in-one soundbar is all you can fit in your space. That’s where new bars like the JBL Bar 5.0 are really breaking new ground. This single soundbar uses JBL’s proprietary technology to bounce sound around your TV room, and it’s able to simulate true Dolby Atmos object-based surround sound without a single extra speaker. It’s even compatible with Alexa, Google Chromecast, and Apple AirPlay, for all your streaming needs. If you’ve been trying to better enjoy films in a tiny quarantined apartment, this might be the best option around.
Ampere’s Bluetooth Shower Speaker Is Powered by Water
Have you ever wished your showerhead could pump out water and tunes at the same time? No? Well, accessory-maker Ampere’s Shower Power does exactly that. The shower head is compatible with most plumbing, and the affixed speaker pairs with your phone over Bluetooth. Don’t worry, there’s no need to plug the shower head into an outlet. The whole thing is powered by the very water that moves through it. As a bonus, the plastic parts are made from recycled ocean plastic. It was funded on Indiegogo in late 2020 and is expected to ship this May for $100.
This Fridge Makes Ice Spheres
LG showed off a new side-by-side refrigerator at CES this year. The thing most people are talking about is the glass panel on its main door, and you can knock on the glass to turn on an interior light and see what’s inside.
But that’s not the true innovation. The only thing you need to know about the new LG fridge is that it includes a mechanism that makes spherical “craft ice.” Yes, the freezer’s ice maker can pump out boring cubes and pedestrian pebbles, but it can also make slow-melting ice balls that you can put into your glass of whiskey or bourbon for a more delicious beverage that’s less watered down. The ice balls don’t drop out of the dispenser nozzle. That sounds too dangerous. You just open the door and reach into the bin where they appear … automatically. The march of human progress.
Samsung Wants to Fill Your Home With Robots
I’ve been watching all the Star Wars movies and shows with my partner. (I know, I know, I’m 43 years too late.) If there’s one thing Star Wars does well, it’s make droids look helpful—and a bit chatty. At CES, Samsung introduced three droids of its own to make your life easier, though it’s unclear if they will actually hit stores.
Here’s one that will! The JetBot 90 AI+ is going to be available this year. It’s a security camera and robot vacuum in one that uses object recognition and sensors to clean efficiently without snagging cables or other objects.
Samsung’s really exciting bots (in theory) are the Bot Care5 and Bot Handy6, though. The former is a personal assistant that can become familiar with your daily routine and keep you on top of your schedule. The latter is, dare I say, cute, with the ability to load dishes into the dishwasher or pour you a glass of wine. Hello, Rosey?
Acer Sticks by Its Chromebooks
Acer has announced a slew of new notebooks, including the Chromebook 514, which uses AMD’s Ryzen 3000 C-series processor. This is the first AMD-based Chromebook from Acer and the first of many AMD-based Chromebooks we expect to see this year.
It’s a solid contender to replace our favorite Acer Chromebook, the Chromebook 714. The new Chromebook 514 will go on sale in mid-February.
BioMilq’s Lab-Grown Human Milk Is Tailored to Your Baby
Breastfeeding my two children was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. (I was pumping and storing milk in the mini fridge at CES one year.) As a mother, it was a top priority for me that my children get the best food possible in their first year of life—but as a working mom, all that nursing, pumping, and storing food from my own body was logistically inconvenient and physically difficult.
So it’s no exaggeration to say that BioMilq would have been life-changing. The company collects a woman’s mammary epithelial cells while she’s expecting and cultivates them at its facility. When the cells are ready, they’re stimulated to produce personalized human milk for the infant that’s sent back to the mother. In June, the startup raised $3.5 million to optimize production and expand the team, hopefully bringing better feeding options to parents everywhere.
Like to Run in the Dark? These Earbuds Reflect Light
JBL’s new Reflect Mini NC TWS earbuds are designed for people who like to run in the morning or at dusk. They have a reflective coating on the outside of each earbud that’s like the bright paint you see on the white lines of the road, so cars and cyclists can see you while you’re busting through the miles. They also cancel noise, have an IPX7 water-resistance rating, will last up to 7 hours outside of their case, and are compatible with Google and Alexa smart assistants.
The Reflect Mini NC earbuds cost $150 and are available now. We have not tried them and do not know how effective the coating is, but we have liked other JBL wireless earbuds.
V-Moda Finally Adds Noise Canceling to Its Headphones
I’ve been a fan of V-Moda’s jagged Italian designs and durable metal components for years, and I expect the M-200—the company’s first ever noise-canceling headphones—to be no different. The new model borrows its design from the company’s older over-ears, with customizable faceplates for the outside of each ear cup and the same rounded hexagonal design we’ve come to expect from the brand.
Below the surface, they have custom-tuned 40-mm drivers and a Bose-matching 20 hours of battery life to get you from here to there. Time will tell how they stack up to the ever-growing mountain of noise-canceling models, but given the company’s track history, I’d bet these will be among the year’s best.
This Snap-On iPhone Stand Is so Stinking Cute
Moft (or Mobile Office for Travelers) is one of our favorite companies for making affordable, invisible accessories that are both incredibly useful and so simple that you slap your forehead in astonishment that you hadn’t thought of it before. We’re not traveling very much right now, but I’m anticipating that many will still find this snap-on stand for the iPhone very useful. It has a three-magnet design that can prop up your phone in portrait, landscape, or floating mode. It also holds up to three credit cards, and you can attach it to sticky magnet pads that you place around your house to record your weird and lonely kitchen TikToks.
Julian recently recommended it in our Best iPhone 12 Accessories guide, but it’s new to me, so I’m including it!
It’s a Rollable Computer Chessboard
“It’s Wizard’s Chess!” were the first words out of my mouth when I saw Square Off’s automated chessboard a few years ago. You play against built-in artificial intelligence, and the pieces move to the squares on their own via a mechanized magnetic system inside the board. It also connects to services like Chess.com, allowing you to physically play with millions of users around the world rather than relying on a touchscreen app.
Square Off’s latest is a rollable, battery-operated chessboard minus the automatic movements. It’s not as fun, since the pieces don’t move by themselves, but it makes it easy to transport and play against anyone online while at the park—perfect if you just finished watching The Queen’s Gambit.
If you want the magical self-moving pieces, Square Off’s crowdfunded Neo chessboard is finally shipping this June. It’s a lighter, faster, and cheaper version of the original. There’s also the Swap, which is a board that lets you play chess, checkers, halma, and Connect 4 all on the same board.
LG’s OLED TVs Are Ready to Shine Bright
One of the biggest issues with OLED (organic LED) TVs is how bright they’re able to get. With each pixel acting as its own backlight, they look stunning in darker rooms, but if you like watching TV with the curtains open, you’re better off getting a traditional LED TV. LG’s newest flagship TV line will combat this problem with a new technology called OLED Evo. The bad news? These will probably command a hyper-premium price, at least this year.
To help bridge the gap between the expensive OLED TVs and more affordable offerings from competitors like Samsung, Vizio, and TCL, LG has also announced a new LED TV line. QNED TVs (not quite the same as QLED due to the inclusion of LG’s nanocell technology) will feature multizone backlighting and quantum color, for better performance even in brighter spaces.
Time to Recharge … Your Face Mask
Surely we’ve all had the experience over the past 10 months of trying to take a phone call while wearing a protective face mask, and sounding garbled the whole time. (And if you haven’t been wearing a face mask out in public, well, you should.) Hong Kong–based electronics company Binatone thinks it has a solution.
A product called MaskFone—which was teased last fall but is making its “official debut” during CES this week—combines a machine-washable fabric mask with an N95 filter, a built-in microphone, and attached earbuds, so you can pop them in as needed and experience clearer-sounding phone calls. If you don’t want earbuds dangling alongside your mask when they’re not in use, you can attach them to the mask’s magnetized cable clip. And if you sync the mask to Binafone’s mobile app, Hubble Connected, you can bark your Alexa or Google Assistant commands directly into your mask.
Qualcomm Sizes Up Its Fingerprint Sensors
A lot of phones now use fingerprint sensors embedded beneath their displays, but those sensors still aren’t as reliable as tried-and-true capacitive sensors that you see on the back or sides of phones. Qualcomm’s solution: bigger sensors. Its new second-generation 3D Sonic Sensor is up to 50 percent faster and 77 percent larger than before, so it can collect 1.7 times more biometric data from your fingertip. It sounds small, but that larger surface area for your thumb could make a huge difference. It’ll be inside select phones launching in early 2021.
Last week, Qualcomm also announced the Snapdragon 480 5G chip, bringing 5G connectivity to one of its most affordable processor lineups. Its 4-series chips usually power sub-$200 phones and tablets, and you can expect the 480 5G to crop up in such devices very soon.
Ready for a Car With an All-Screen Dashboard?
Who needs buttons when you have screens? Debuting on the Mercedes-Benz EQS electric luxury sedan this year, the MBUX Hyperscreen is a 55.5-inch-wide display that spans the entire dashboard. It’s made up of three haptic OLED touchscreens under one continuous piece of Corning Gorilla glass. The driver and front passenger each get a wide 12- by 3-inch screen, with an 18-inch screen between them for navigation, HVAC controls, smartphone messaging, and media controls. The passenger display can play video, and the driver display shows gauges and all the info you’d expect, such as the remaining range on the electric vehicle.
Mercedes’ press briefing also showed off a UFO graphic that zooms around on the display to demonstrate the g-force the car is undergoing in real-time. Why they chose to measure g-force, I don’t know. Automakers already struggle to keep the driver’s information feed easy to understand, and drivers don’t need to know g-forces. Hopefully it can be disabled.
The MBUX Hyperscreen was created entirely in-house by Mercedes-Benz, and it requires eight CPU cores (processor unknown) and 24 GB of RAM to power it. The tech will trickle to other Mercedes models after its debut on the EQS, assuming buyers really do want an all-touch interface.
Philips Is All In on Teeth and Sleep
Philips generally makes powerful and sleek electric toothbrushes, and like most toothbrush companies as of late, it’s been incorporating smart features into them. Its newest is the Sonicare 9900 Prestige, with auto-syncing so you don’t have to have an app open every time you brush (something we saw and loved with the Colgate Hum). It also claims to personalize your brushing experience, by sensing your technique and adapting in real time. So if you tend to apply too much pressure, it can automatically adjust the intensity.
Philips also has a tele-dentistry service, so you can get answers to your tooth concerns without venturing into the Covid-infested world.
If you care more about your sleep, the company also debuted a sleep apnea symptoms quiz and mask selector at CES. Patients get a photo taken of their face that will determine the best mask for them to wear, which will hopefully make sleeping in a comic-book-villain-style mask a bit more comfortable. However, that will have to be done at a participating location, which might not be available to everyone.
Cobalt-Free Batteries Are Coming
Today at CES, Panasonic touted new batteries with less than 5 percent cobalt and pledged to work toward cobalt-free batteries “in the next few years.”
Lithium-ion batteries power nearly every gadget you own, but chances are you don’t know much about what’s inside your battery. Lithium batteries don’t just contain lithium, they also use cobalt as a cathode material within the battery. Today well over half of the world’s cobalt supply comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and numerous investigations have found child labor and dangerous working conditions rife within the cobalt supply chain.
Panasonic is one of the largest lithium-ion battery producers in the world and supplies the cells for Tesla’s battery packs.
Belkin’s Linksys Hones in on Wi-Fi 6E
Last year was all about Wi-Fi 6, but in 2021, Wi-Fi 6E is all the rage. It’s a huge update that adds the 6-gigahertz spectrum on top of the existing 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands, allowing for less congestion and faster speeds. You need new hardware, but Belkin-owned Linksys says its new Wi-Fi 6E mesh router (the Linksys Velop AXE8400, $450) employs all three bands for speedy performance with any device, even ones without Wi-Fi 6E support. Debuting alongside it is an update to the Linksys Aware app, which now takes advantage of Wi-Fi-connected smart home devices (in homes with an existing Linksys Wi-Fi 5 router) for precise room-by-room motion sensing.
Belkin also has new hardware of its own, the Soundform True Wireless Earbuds with respectable specs, including eight-hour battery life (20 or more in the wireless charging case), environmental noise cancellation, in-ear detection, and IPX5 sweat and splash resistance—and the Boost Charge Pro 2-in-1 Wireless Charger Stand with MagSafe ($100). You can attach an iPhone 12 to it in a vertical or horizontal orientation, and recharge another device, like AirPods Pro, at the base. Both the earbuds and the charger are set to launch in March or April.
Confused about Wi-Fi 6E? Mike explains it below!
What the Heck Is Wi-Fi 6E?
You may see news announcements coming out of CES touting a gadget’s “Wi-Fi 6E” capability. And you may have also heard of Wi-Fi 6, the new wireless standard. So you might be wondering: what’s the difference between Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E?
There’s no difference! Wi-Fi 6E is just the branding the consumer tech industry has adopted to indicate that the device in question has all of the chips and radios necessary to give it the latest Wi-Fi 6 capabilities.
Wi-Fi 6E is a new standard for home networking gadgets—routers, security cameras, internet-connected doorbells—that allows these devices to utilize the 6-GHz wireless spectrum. The wireless router you’re using right now likely has the ability to use the 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands. These new Wi-Fi 6E devices can also access the 6-GHz band, which the FCC recently cleared for consumer use. That extra chunk of wireless band should help make your home network less congested, so traffic can flow more smoothly among all the phones, computers, smart speakers, and streaming boxes currently competing for your poor little router’s attention. This new 6-GHz band is also a higher-bandwidth slice of the wireless spectrum, so Wi-Fi 6E devices can send stronger, faster signals that contain more information.
It’s a great development, but don’t be confused by the branding. If you see Wi-Fi 6E, it’s the wireless boost you’ve been waiting for. Just know that while older devices can connect to a new Wi-Fi 6E router, only Wi-Fi 6E devices will be able to communicate with it on that newer, faster wireless band. (You saw that part coming, right?) Also, if you already invested in Wi-Fi 6 hardware, you will need to check to see if it meets the Wi-Fi 6E standard now rolling out across the industry.
Lenovo Has a Cheap New Android Tablet
On paper, this Lenovo tablet looks like a run-of-the-mill Android tablet, but what makes it stand out is its $230 price tag. For this low price, you get a high-res IPS LCD 11-inch display, the Snapdragon 662 chip with LTE connectivity, 6 gigabytes of RAM, and quad speakers with Dolby Atmos. Also included is Google’s Kids Space, a customizable tablet experience for kids.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay extra for accessories like the pressure-sensitive stylus, keyboard with trackpad, and dock. It’s available this month.
TCL Continues Its Push into Mobile
You know TCL for its TVs, but it’s also nurturing an up-and-coming platform of mobile devices. It showed two concept devices at CES: a somewhat normal-looking phone with an AMOLED screen that can be rolled out vertically to increase the screen size (up to 6.7 inches), and a cylindrical tube you can open up like a papyrus scroll to view a 17-inch OLED rollable display. It’s unclear whether these will launch this year, but TCL says it will release a foldable or rollable of some type in 2021.
It also has more traditional line of smartphones. There are five upcoming models, and we know a bit about two of them: TCL 20 SE has a Snapdragon 460 chip inside with a 5,000-mAh battery, ensuring long battery life; the TCL 20 5G’s Snapdragon 690 processor enables 5G connectivity—admirable specs considering the respective 149 and 299 euro price tags (around $181 and $364). TCL hasn’t confirmed if these will launch in the US (hence the euro prices), but at least one from the lineup will at some point.
Among a slew of other products, like wireless earbuds and a pet tracker, are two new tablets. The TCL Tab 10S is the only one announced to come to the US (in March), featuring a model with LTE connectivity (around $300). But the Nxtpaper is more interesting. It has a glare-free IPS full-color display that’s paper-like with no backlight. That means you can’t view the screen without some kind of ambient light nearby. TCL says this is meant to protect eyes by limiting exposure to blue light and flicker.
Targus’ Has the Pandemic In Mind With Its Latest Gear
Do you find yourself shifting between the home office and your company’s actual office during the pandemic? Targus has a modular backpack for you. Dubbed the 2Office Antimicrobial Backpack ($120), its roomy size and many compartments allow you to transport your entire desk setup from the office to home (or vice versa). That includes fitting a full-size keyboard, a mousepad, laptop, all your power cables, a lunchbox, and more. There’s even an antimicrobial-infused protective finish on several touchpoints, meaning fewer germs residing on the backpack (though that won’t protect you from Covid-19).
Targus’ UV-C LED Disinfection Light ($299) is another product made for the times we’re in. It emits ultraviolet-C light, which has the potential to inactivate the coronavirus, according to the FDA, but research is extremely limited and it requires the right circumstances. This light is designed for use on peripherals like keyboards and mice.
Targus also is leaning on its partnership with Samsung for a new USB-C dock ($110) you can tote around instead of a laptop. It triggers DeX mode on select Samsung phones, the company’s desktop mode when you connect an external display. It has several ports so you can attach headphones, peripherals, Ethernet, a monitor, and an SD card.
LG Teases a Rollable Phone
At the kickoff of LG’s virtual CES press conference, the company teased a rollable smartphone without actually mentioning it. In the video, a person watching the press event we’re watching (meta) held a phone as the screen rolled out, enabling a larger viewing area. There was nothing else distinguishable about the phone. This is likely an upcoming phone in LG’s Explorer Project, an initiative to make wacky phones different from the usual rectangular slabs, like the LG Wing and its rotating screen. This new rollable, which LG aptly named LG Rollable at the end of its presentation, could also just be a concept, but this is the second time LG has teased it.
You may wonder why anyone would want a rollable phone. The idea is, you get the benefit of a foldable display (a much larger screen) without the tremendous bulk. The extra screen real estate can be helpful for watching videos, running split-screen apps, or playing games. Also, it’s just damn cool.
TCL’s 6-Series Aims to Keep Its TV Crown with 8K
While I have yet to see the new TCL 6 Series in person, on paper it seems entirely possible it will once again be the best TV you can buy in 2021. The company has again packed an astonishing amount of tech into what we hope will be a sub-$1,000 TV model.
This year’s 6-Series will once again feature Mini LED backlighting, but the big news is that they will likely be the cheapest TV yet to feature 8K resolution. There isn’t much 8K content yet, but the added pixels, and associated upscaling, should be noticeable, especially on TVs 65 inches and above, which is one of the fastest-growing market segments according to insiders. TCL also announced a new line it calls the XL Series, which features 85-inch versions of its other models.
Motorola Refreshes Its G-Series Affordable Phones
Motorola has four new budget phones for your pickings: The Moto G Stylus ($300), Moto G Power ($250), Moto G Play ($170), and Motorola One 5G Ace ($400). The G-series phones are very minor updates over the 2020 versions. Each has a different Qualcomm Snapdragon processor inside but they all should perform well enough. It’s the big batteries that make them stand out—all of these phones will easily last two days, if not more. If you’re looking for a phone with a few extra perks, that’s where the new One 5G Ace steps in. It adds 5G connectivity, NFC for Google Pay, and much smoother performance.
Unfortunately, these phones all launch with the year-old Android 10 and will only get one update to Android 11 (which Google released last September). You’ll still get two years of security updates.
We will test the new lineup, but I stand by our current Best Cheap Phone picks.
Lora DiCarlo Rolls Out New ‘Heated’ Sex Toys
The sex toy manufacturer Lora DiCarlo, co-helmed by actress Cara Delevigne, is introducing three new toys this year, each of which will feature all-new heating technology to warm things up in the bedroom. The three toys are non-phallic in design, and use a nylon-based thermal conductive polymer to create a consistently body-warming intimate experience.
The collection includes Drift, a warming bullet vibrator; Tilt, a warming vibrating butt plug; and Sway, a dual vibration warming massager (it vibrates on both ends for you and a partner!).
Car Code Bloat
At its CES press event, Bosch highlighted a stat worth thinking about. The typical car had 10 million lines of code back in 2010. Today, it has 100 million lines of code. By comparison, the entire kernel for the Linux operating system had 27.8 million lines as of 2020. According to Bosch, a major parts supplier to the automotive industry, it’s heading toward 500 million lines of code as autonomous and semi-autonomous driving technologies move from concept drawing room to production. An average car is now a lot more complex than the operating system in your laptop.
This App Lets You Scan Your Skin for Trouble Areas
Ever spotted a freckle and wondered where it came from? The Miiskin app makes tracking those easy, so you won’t have to think about if a birthmark has grown or changed color—something that can potentially be a sign of skin cancer. While the app itself isn’t new, the company debuted a new feature, Automatic Skin Imaging, which helps you take full body photos while it scans for freckles, moles, and other skin lesions. It’s somewhat similar to getting a body scan at a dermatologist’s office and particularly helpful for places you can’t see, like your back. Just prop your phone up, and the app will walk you through the process.
It isn’t meant to be a replacement for a dermatologist, but it’s a way to bring changes to a doctor to get checked, and an assurance that nothing goes unnoticed. However, it could be incredibly helpful for anyone who can’t afford yearly visits.
The Automatic Skin Imaging feature is available on the app now, and a new mole sizing feature, which measures freckles and moles in comparison to something like a quarter so you can keep track of them, should be released this spring.
The company says that all data and images that you take on the Miiskin app are encrypted and no other app can access these images, which could show you in your underwear as that’s the only way to really see if anything new has popped up. You’ll also be able to blur any parts of the photo you’d like, and you could intentionally keep your face out of frame. The company is also HIPAA compliant.
Fossil Has New Smartwatches, Sorta
The Fossil Group, which includes watches from a variety of fashion brands like Skagen and Michael Kors, has a slew of smartwatch announcements. Unfortunately, there’s nothing here that’s drastically different from last year’s offerings.
The new Fossil Gen 5 LTE watch, for example, adds LTE connectivity to the Wear OS-powered Fossil Gen 5 that launched in 2020. The new Michael Kors Access Gen 5E is a reskinned version of the Fossil Gen 5E that debuted late last year, and the Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR is the same E Ink watch as the Fossil Hybrid HR with a fresh design. If you were expecting a Fossil Wear OS smartwatch with Qualcomm’s promising new Wear 4100 processor, you’ll have to wait a little longer.
Konka Brings Basic Smart Home Line to North America
The Chinese home entertainment brand Konka is introducing a new line of smart home devices to its North American offerings. With a basic lineup of security cameras, video doorbells, smart plugs, and lights (with some variation in each group), all controlled by a singular app, the company is hoping to make smart home integration simple.
All will work with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa and if you have a Konka TV, which were released in the US last year, you can use that as a hub for your smart home devices.
If the price is right when they’re released later this year, the simple lineup could be a solid option for smart home beginners. Some companies offer a dizzying array of products with miniscule differences, but Konka plans to start with just what’s necessary, For example, its smart lighting options include one A19 smart bulb for most light fixtures, a high hat bulb for recessed lighting, and a light strip, recently made popular again by cool TikTok teens. Its lineup also includes some smart TVs, smart doorbells, security cams, and smart plugs.
This Keyboard App Claims to Reduce
Tipos Typos by 80 percent
In July 2020, the Swiss keyboard startup Typewise raised about $1 million for a 100 percent private “next word prediction engine” that would boost productivity by eliminating typos and providing personalized, tailored autocorrecting solutions. That tech is still being developed. But right now, they have an app with a distinctive honeycomb keyboard that they claim is two-thumb-friendly and reduces typos by up to 80 percent.
This will be an interesting space to watch, as small companies raise their slingshots against giants like Apple and Google. But this small, helpful app already has more than 500,000 downloads, which makes it much more real and useful than most of the weird, wacky vaporware that I’m used to seeing at CES. If it can stop constantly replacing all the you-know-whats with “ducking” in my texts, that alone would increase my productivity by at least 50 percent.
Samsung’s Mini LED Takeover Begins
Samsung’s entire TV line will be getting big upgrades in 2021. First and foremost is the company’s use of Mini LED technology in what it’s calling “Neo QLED.” The tech essentially brings tens of thousands of tiny LEDs into the backlighting system of its top-end TVs—something we’ve already seen from TCL in 2020’s 6-series. This means better blacks and improved contrast. Samsung has also announced a brand new settings menu for new consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, which will make tweaking picture settings a breeze.
On the ultra high-end, Samsung also showcased a brand new 110-inch model that uses a next generation form of Mini LED technology in which each LED pixel acts as its own backlight, similar to the OLED technology we’ve previously seen from LG, but without the hindrances of burn-in, and with the potential for even brighter highlights. We can expect this to be Samsung’s big tech in mainstream (and more normally sized) TVs in a few years’ time, according to a conversation I had with Mike Kadish, Samsung’s head of product marketing. The company also introduced a cool new solar-powered remote, so you’ll never have to search for AAA batteries again.
JLab’s Frames Make Workouts Safer—and Louder
We all like to work out while listening to podcasts and music, but those who spend a ton of time on bikes, runs, or in other shared outdoor spaces know the importance of being able to hear what’s going on around you. That’s where JLab’s new Jbuds Frames come in. The $50 accessory essentially consists of small detachable speakers that can wrap around any pair of glasses. They’re much cheaper than headphones-in-glasses combos we’ve seen before (the Bose Frames come to mind), and they can easily attach to my prescription glasses and shades. Color me excited!
GoSun’s Solar-Powered Purifier Lets You Shower Off-Grid
GoSun’s innovative, solar-powered ovens have long been one of WIRED’s favorite outdoor cooking devices. But in a year wracked by political turmoil, a global plague, and seemingly endless natural disasters, being prepared to live off-grid seems more appealing than ever before. This year, GoSun is launching the Flow, a backpack-sized, solar-powered water purifier that comes with hoses for drinking, bathing, and outdoor cooking.
The Flow joins GoSun’s expanded lineup of solar-powered lights, ovens, coolers, and even a tiny, solar-powered coffee brewer. For less than $2,000, you can put together a complete off-grid living setup in your truck, drinking fresh milk and taking a hot shower every night. And it works whether you’re going stargazing with the kids, or taking off for the hills.
More From WIRED on CES 2021
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- Read all of our CES coverage here