Hundreds of innovative gadgets were unveiled last week at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Here are my picks for the 10 that are most likely to change how we live and work:
Home 3D printing. With several companies introducing 3D printers for home use, you’ll soon be able to produce toys, belts, cups, spare parts, and other plastic items at home as easily as printing a document. 3D Systems (DDD) is launching CubeJet, a unit about the size of a microwave that prints full-color plastic objects. The company also offers CeraJet for producing ceramics and ChefJet for creating fancy chocolate- and sugar-based confections. Instead of buying small objects, you can simply buy the designs online and print them out at home.
Health and fitness monitors. Health care and fitness training are getting better through inexpensive monitoring devices that track everything from blood pressure to oxygen intake, send the results to a cloud website, and allow you and your doctor to analyze the output. IHealth makes a wireless blood pressure monitor and a glucose monitor for diabetics. The Withings Smart Body Analyzer tracks weight, body fat, heart rate, and air quality. Netamo is introducing a broach called June that measures exposure to ultraviolet rays so you know when to get out of the sun. Meanwhile, Fortiori Design is offering the Moxy Muscle Oxygen Monitor for athletes who want to improve their training.
Sleep and relaxation. We’re all going to be sleeping better and relaxing more, thanks to some of the latest gadgets that measure sleep and stress. InteraXon is launching the Muse Brain Sensing Headband, a lightweight headband that measures brain waves to help coach users to relax (think more alpha waves). Select Comfort, maker of Sleep Number beds, has a system called Sleep IQ for its higher-end mattresses that measures brain waves, heart rate, respiration rate, and how much you move throughout the night. It adjusts the bed while you doze to improve your sleep quality.
Eye and hand tracking. If you’re sick of dirty touchscreens, SoftKinetic has DepthSense, which tracks hand and finger motions, allowing you to select items on the screen without actually touching it. Even more impressive, EyeTech is introducing AEye, a device that tracks eye movements so you can operate touchscreens by simply looking at what you want to select.
Drones. While Jeff Bezos’s vision of drones for Amazon.com deliveries may be many years off, unmanned aerial vehicles are being launched now for a variety of other applications. The new Parrot SenseFly eBee is a small drone with an HD camera that’s programmed to provide automated aerial mapping. It’s being marketed to farmers to check on their crops and developers to assess building sites.
Curved-screen TVs. Many higher-end TVs this year are coming with curved screens that provide a more cinematic viewing experience by positioning the outer edges of the screen more optimally for the eye. LG Electronics is so committed to the new feature that it’s even launching a curved-screen smartphone, which the company claims improves the viewing of movies when the device is held horizontally.
Self-driving cars. Both Audi and BMW demonstrated models of driverless cars at the show, which use a host of cameras, sensors, and GPS systems to navigate. While there are several hurdles to overcome, many of these cars’ features–such as sign recognition, lane departure warnings, and pedestrian recognition–may soon be incorporated into existing vehicles.
Bitcoin. The virtual currency is making a push to go mainstream this year. BitPay, essentially a bank for Bitcoins, was signing up new business at CES. BitPay will process Bitcoin transactions for merchants, convert the transactions to dollars, and guarantee the transactions against currency fluctuation. It already has 12,000 merchants signed up.
Bots. Robots are moving from novelty status into more mainstream applications. The show featured several new bots, such as the Grill Bot, for scrubbing barbecue grills, and the Soloshot Robot Cameraman, a camera that can be programmed to follow a specific individual through daily tasks.
Smart homes. Many home appliances, such as refrigerators and washing machines, can now be controlled via smartphone apps. This year’s show featured an even wider range of appliances, door locks, thermostats, and even lightbulbs. The Tabu Lumen Smart Bulb has a built-in computer chip and Bluetooth, so you can change the brightness or color of it through a smartphone app.