Archive for January, 2018


The Winner of the 2018 CES and it ain’t a Robotic Dog

As I’ve frequently said … CES is the only place on the planet where you can see tomorrow. This show had an item that I think is earthshaking. Star Trek had its universal translator and the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” had its’ “Bablefish” … now it’s becoming real.

A startup called “Mars” had what looked like a couple of Bluetooth earbuds. The owner of the “buds” puts one in his ear, and the other goes to a person speaking a different language. In almost real time, the phone app translates the conversation into the wearers’ native languages.

Does it actually work? … The robotic voice in your ear aside, it works so well that it may be life-changing for some people.  I used it to talk to someone whose native language is Korean and was stunned. It was effortless to carry on a conversation. I simply can’t count the ways it changes everything for anyone who deals with people from multiple language backgrounds. From business to a more personal nature, this can actually convey your meaning as accurately as though you could really speak Mandarin Chinese. It’s going to be available in several languages and there’s no reason why it couldn’t eventually work on ALL languages. A data link to the web is required … for the moment.    The projected price is about $250 or so.

This is one of those “ah-ha” moments that demands you take a minute and think about what this could mean …

So when you meet someone and they brag about being fluent in six foreign tongues, you reach for your MARS and tell them … “only six?”

Notable Odds and Ends of the 2018 CES

With over 20K+ of new items every year, I try to distill the show down to a few items that were worth taking a second look at. This as you may guess, not an easy task … but here we go.

What is old is new again … a good idea won’t die. Despite the proliferation of the digital camera, the old-school Polaroid still is pertinent.

 

A notable “sci-fi” show is introduced for the second year in a row. This one is “Altered Carbon” from Netflix … If you’re a fan of the sci-fi genre, I won’t tell you that this is the last word in science fiction, but does make you think about what is coming and the consequences of not being prepared. Obviously a very expensive show, and a showcase of how to do a super-premium futuristic … I’ll tell you up front, it’s not what you are expecting. When it’s over, you can see it’s roots firmly in Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler novels. Should nudity and a dizzying plot be a problem for you … this ain’t your kind of show … and don’t even think about watching “Black Mirror” on Netflix that has a similar future tech warning. It’s Altered Carbon on steroids and very well may the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen on the idiot tube.

 

Under the heading of “don’t ask what it costs” is this beast … all carbon fiber and packed with tech, this is a drone that makes you wonder if insurance is available in the event of a “fly-away” or serious crash.

 

Omron showed its automated ping-pong player. While an interesting exercise in AI, it’s a glimpse of what forms the basis of robotic warriors.  Here’s my short video of it in action that will open in a different window.

 

One of my favs at the show was this “pocket drone” from AEE. Essentially it’s about the same size as a “battery-case” and contains a fold-out drone run by your phone … brilliant, simply brilliant. Pull it free from the back of your phone, fold out the motors, link it to the drone app and you’re ready for almost ten minutes of flight. Less than 200 bucks and everything most people would want for a vacation … for some people it will become a EDC.

 

Washing to a Brighter Future

It seems everyday I read the news, there’s a shortage of fresh water.  In areas where salt-water desalination is used, fresh water is truly expensive. In particularly drought stricken states like California and Nevada, they impose strict limits as to how you can use water, even though the “Hollywood elite” doesn’t follow these rules, and simply pay the fines or pay for water tanker trucks to get around rules implemented for us common serfs who can’t wash their cars in the driveway, have a grass lawn or let their kids play in the sprinklers. The “comedian” Amy Poehler in 2016 used a staggering 170,00+ gallons at only one of her residences in 60 days. The ultra-liberal entertainment mogul David Geffen was claimed to have been charged more than $30,000 for consuming 1.6 million gallons!!! In areas like Houston, a tremendous amount of the flooding occurred due to pumping out too much fresh under-ground water and the land actually sinking. So you’d assume anything that would provide a noticeable drop water consumption would be fairly high on the short list of civic improvement items.

While touring the show I ran into a company from Australia and UK that may be able to do just that … Xeros.

A standard washing machine can use more than 40 gallons for a single load … how about a machine that only uses a gallon or so and far less detergent to achieve better results?  Additionally, imagine how much water is used for the laundry in hotels/hospitals? Think of Vegas hotels with hundreds of thousands of sheets and towels being washed everyday.

Their tech involves a seemingly simple solution, but in reality, is a technical marvel. It involves using a white polymer bead slightly larger than a BB. These beads do far more than just remove stains … you can operate with temperatures far cooler (less electricity/gas) and it’s far less damaging. So much so that firehouses using it report their Nomex fire suits don’t wear out as fast … about doubling it’s life. Last time I checked a fire-proof suit isn’t cheap and the cost of those suits come out of the public coffers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The beads you see in the above picture last indefinably. Even if you had to replace them through normal usage, I’m told it’s about fifteen bucks.

And oh yeah, … it filters the waste water so your that the city has less cleaning chemicals to remove from the waste water. If you live in a rural area that means less chemicals that will eventually filter down into your well water.

Fantastic idea, and such a common sense improvement on a basic necessity of modern life … so of course the big washing machine companies like LG/Samsung/Whirlpool would jump on it in a heartbeat? However in face-to-face discussions with those folks, they claimed they’d never heard of it. Initially I assumed they didn’t want any part of such a superior system they didn’t invent, but I quickly realized they had no idea what I was talking about. The folks at Samsung basically stuck their nose in the air and told me if it really worked, they would have been using it.

Amazing that at the largest tech show the world has ever known, some of the largest companies on the planet could be so blind to game changing technology that literally was within walking distance. Everything about the Xeros technology was win-win-win-win-win … less water, less chemicals, less energy, better cleaning and cleaner waste water. I’m hoping after that my discussion with them about Xeros they sent a few spies to see what CES is about … the only place in the world where you can see the future. I’m hoping they brought their glasses …

Not the winner of the 2018 CES

One prominent tech site chose the Sony’s Aibo as the top item of the entire 2018 CES show. Clearly they’ve been visiting the local cannabis outlets as a Sony mechanical dog isn’t new, or news. Their mechanical pets have been around since Bill Clinton was in office. Nothing the “pup” did was anything other than what you’d expect. The ladies at the booth were clearly bored with Sony’s $1500 creation as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another amazing disappointment was the Samsung booth, which was unquestionably the worst I’ve ever seen in almost two decades from a major company. The entirety of the giant booth was cut into tiny glass-enclosed areas that literally showcased … nothing. That is unless you’re really, really into refrigerators. There were none of the famous phones, cameras or literally anything else except refrigerators, washing machines, dryers and some poor guys trying to get the “Alexa/Google” clone “Bixby” to do ANYTHING. I actually don’t know what they were trying to say by such a display … They should have taken five minutes to go the LG area and its jaw-dropping curving OLED canyon.

Another completely uninspiring booth was Panasonic … but that’s pretty much the case every year.    It’s just that this year, they must have hired the same conceptual adviser as Samsung as it was even more of a totally boring mess. After fighting for ten minutes to get through it, I stopped and tried (& failed) to think of anything worth even discussing.

 

Out of ideas

The speaker industry, as I’ve stated earlier, is out of ideas to make a better sounding speaker. The only things they’re promoting is a very 70’ish earsplitting volume level, beyond absurd pricing and trying to make it look like anything but a speaker. This Chinese company felt it better to have it look like … well, you can draw your own ideas. My guess is near the bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A chair?

Not quite a fingernail tatoo

Tech at CES is moving in so many directions that it’s getting hard to think of anything not being impacted (for better or worse) by the march of chips, sensors and cameras.  Beauty products aren’t anything I’ve had any interest in, but I can appreciate how even this field is changing. In one booth in particular I couldn’t help but notice the tech used was straight out of inkjet printers. Called “O2nails” it used a multi-layer process to actually print anything you can think of on a fingernail. Of course, on such a small palette, any image must be chosen carefully.

This process isn’t as cheap as the printers begin at about $500. So more than likely, it’s intended for nail salons.

I chose one of our terriers in her holiday garb for a nail of mine, and due to the printer’s excellent image quality, she looks as unhappy as the full size image.