Consider this your annual reminder that the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is full of things that are very unlikely to strike much of a chord with actual consumers. Exhibit A: At CES Unveiled, a Sunday-night preview of the show, the two products that drew the most attention were clunky wearable devices that promise to meet needs that very few people have.
The biggest crowds were found at the display for a product called Ring. The promise of smart home technology is that you’ll be able to control everything in your house without lifting a finger. Ring gets close: Users can turn home appliances on and off by waving a single digit in the air. Slogan: “One Gesture, One Magic.”
This isn’t the first we’re hearing of Ring. Logbar, the company behind the product, raised more than $880,000 last spring via Kickstarter. The company admits that the first try wasn’t perfect. It was too big, for starters: The only rings larger go to the winners of the Super Bowl. Also, it was made from zinc, which, it turns out, interfered with the signals it sent to your phone.
The new version, which was on display at CES, is smaller than the original, and the company is using materials that won’t cause any connectivity problems. When it goes on sale in March, they company is aiming to sell for around $130, half the price of the first Ring. The company also introduced an accessory, Ring Hub, that enables infrared communication, allowing people to wave their fingers around to close their curtains, turn on their televisions, or flip lights on and off. If this sounds too good to be true, CES is the trade show for you. But also consider the disclaimer on Logbar’s promotional material, which warns of potential itchiness, irritation, and rashes, “depending on the user’s health conditions.”
The other big draw was Emiota's Belty, which defies satire. In the language of its promoters, it’s a product designed to be worn around one’s waist to enhance “wellbeing.” In English, Belty is a belt that loosens or tightens depending on whether its wearer is sitting or standing. It also notices if its wearer has been sitting for too long. In that case, it vibrates. The point, says Emiota founder Carine Coulm, is to identify early signs of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, both of which are correlated with waist circumference. “It’s the first device to allow you to follow the trend of your waistline over the long term,” she says.
The belt is made from French leather, with a chrome-ish buckle about the size of an iPhone 6. Like the people behind Ring, the founders of Belty acknowledge that it has to solve the size problem before anyone will actually wear it.
Of course, appealing to real people isn't always the primary objective at CES. At last year’s show, for instance, there was the HAPIfork, a cumbersome fork that vibrates when you’re eating too fast. Buzz ensued. Belty is this year’s HAPIfork—weird enough to stand out at CES, doomed to irrelevance the other 51 weeks of the year.