The annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has provided a launchpad for some of the most famous devices in consumer technology: the VCR, CD player, and Xbox. It has also acted as a diving board for things that have belly flopped into obscurity: Apple's Newton and 3-D TV, among them.
While Samsung Electronics, Sony, and LG Electronics have filled the main floor space with the usual array of larger and thinner televisions, a growing chunk of the 2.3 million square feet of exhibit space has been taken up by newer categories, including drones, virtual reality, and even beauty and baby technology. Some of the 3,600 exhibiting companies have sprung surprises in terms of just how far they think technology is going to reach into our daily lives in the next few years.
We'll let you decide whether the following items are must-haves or perhaps need a rethink.
EHang 184 passenger drone
While many drone makers are going small with their devices, Chinese maker Ehang is taking a different approach. It showed off the 184, a quadcopter—wait for it—designed to carry people. Just get in the one-person cab, tell it where you want to go via a computer map screen, and it'll do the rest. Did this year's CES, increasingly a venue for car-related technology, witness the unveiling of a device that's about to make four-wheeled transport redundant?
CleverPet game console for dogs
The white plastic device sits on the floor and uses lights, sounds, and a touch pad to engage canines through puzzles. It rewards them with treats for successfully completing tasks and can adapt the complexity according to how well the pooch is performing.
Ripples for the latte crowd
This device turns coffee into art. It's not another fancy coffee maker aiming to elevate the taste of your favorite brew; it's a Wi-Fi-enabled gadget that will allow you to produce the image of your choice on the surface of your foam. It's $999 for the machine and requires a service plan of $85 a month. That provides access to a content library of images, or you can create your own.
Helix Cuff for 'fashion forward individuals'
The makers of the Helix Cuff refer to their product as a "wearable," one of many at this year's show. Since the cuff is a bracelet, it's fair to assume that it carries out many the functions common to modern wrist-computers, like counting steps or buzzing when someone calls. Nope. The Helix Cuff, which looks like a bulkier, shinier version of the Jawbone UP, is actually just a case for a set of Bluetooth earbuds. The bracelet has a small compartment for the earbuds, and a groove so that users can wrap the cord around the wrist and keep it untangled. The target market, according to the company? "Fashion-forward individuals who crave sleek digital wearables designed expressly for their modern lifestyle."
In&Motion Ski Airbag Vest
Until things go wrong, the In&Motion Ski Airbag Vest looks like a normal thermal vest, except for the small plate of hard plastic in the rear and two flaps of fabric that hanging down the back of a user's thighs. But the vest contains various sensors that notice if you're wiping out, and trigger a canister of compressed gas tucked into the plastic part in small of your back. The entire thing then explodes into something looking a lot like a life jacket just before impact, serving the same function as an airbag in a car. Pierre-Francois Tissot, the company's co-founder, says false triggers are now rare. Later this year, In&Motion plans to begin selling the vests to recreational skiers, for $1,200 apiece. The vests are reusable, but you have to replace the gas canister after every crash.