The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is one of the most hotly awaited tech events of the year, providing a glimpse into what kind of new consumer gadgetry awaits us in the near future. And boy, this year had some doozies!
But with 3,600 companies demonstrating their products over 2.4 million square feet of exhibition space over four full days, you might have missed some of the cooler showcases. Plus, it might be hard to tell what’s simply a prototype/demonstration and what’s actually going to be a product you can use.
So let’s round up the cream of the crop from CES 2016, but focus on what we might actually see in stores this year.
1. HTC Vive Pre + Chaperone
The biggest fear with virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift is slamming your knees into the coffee table while “running” in a game or knocking a lamp when you try to punch out a virtual opponent. HTC launched its own virtual reality headset, called the Vive Pre, and added a new technology called Chaperone.
Put simply, when you come close to a wall or are in danger of knocking a physical object, Chaperone displays a virtual blueprint of the real world, using a front-facing camera. You can also activate this by tapping a menu button.
From a consumer perspective, it makes such virtual reality helmets safer in the home, plus you won’t need to take off your glasses every time you want to grab a sip of your soda. Pre-orders for the Vive Pre start at the end of February, but HTC hasn’t announced a price yet.
2. Samsung Family Hub Smart Fridge
A smart refrigerator is one of those gadgets that can truly change your home. Samsung, LG, and others have been working on these for some time, but the new Family Hub smart fridge from Samsung is really something to admire, and was even highlighted in the company’s CES keynote.
The coolest bit involves cameras inside the fridge that take photos of the compartments, so you can see what you have in stock — or what you’re lacking — no matter where you are, even from the grocery store. Heck, you don’t even need to go to the grocery store because you can order stuff directly from the touchscreen. You can also listen to music, look up recipes, and do all the cool things that today’s best smart fridges can already do.
But the focus here is on “family”. A fridge is where you leave notes, hang up pictures and report cards, and so on. The Family Hub’s large touchscreen lets a family write notes, update and share calendars, post photos and artwork, and make it about the family again.
At $5,000, it is crazy expensive though. Plus, Samsung hasn’t addressed security concerns after its earlier smart fridge got hacked.
3. Razer Blade Stealth + Core
Can an ultrabook actually be good enough to be used as a laptop, while also giving you a high-end gaming PC that can be upgraded periodically? Are desktops always better? Gaming peripherals manufacturer Razer seems to have cracked the code with the Razer Blade Stealth and its Core addon box for GPUs.
The Stealth is a decked-out ultrabook with a 12.5-inch high-resolution touchscreen, Intel Core i7 6500 CPU, 8 GB of RAM, Intel HD Graphics 520, 128 to 512 GB SSD, and the works. If that graphics chip sounds low-powered, don’t worry, there’s a reason for it.
Basically, you have to pair the Stealth with a Core graphics box, which is an external GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) that plugs into the laptop via Thunderbolt for high-speed data transmission. You can fit AMD or Nvidia graphics cards into the Core, and even upgrade them later if necessary.
Yeah, that Core unit isn’t going to be something you can lug around, but this is a great example of a laptop that can be a gaming unit when you want to play games, while also giving you portability when you want to move around.
The Razer Blade Stealth, up for preorders, starts at $999 and goes up to $1,599, and will start shipping at the end of January. Razer hasn’t yet said how much the Core will cost or when it goes on sale, but we can expect an announcement on this soon.
4. The Segway Robot
Intel and Segway came together to show what is possibly the coolest robot at CES this year. Meet the Segway Robot. It’s partly a Segway, so you can zoom around without walking, but when you aren’t using it for transport, it turns in a cool little robot! And it has a fun, likable personality, not like the humanoid bots you’ll be scared of.
Now this robot has “eyes” in the form of 3D depth-sensing cameras and a fisheye tracking camera, which let it navigate without needing input. This robot is also connected to the Internet, so you can move it around with your phone. And this robot has a camera of its own, so it’s kind of your personal photographer too, and it has voice controls.
What’s nice is that it’s built using an open platform, so other developers can easily add “arms” and other attachments or applications to make it do even more than it already can.
5. Lego Education WeDo 2.0
Perhaps the best technology showcased at CES was targeted at those who weren’t even at CES: children.
Lego launched WeDo 2.0, a robotics educational kit for kids in elementary school. It combines the fun of the Lego-building process with simple logic programming. With this, Lego is advancing its participation in STEM education after the NXT Mindstorms kit.
The WeDo Education Kit has all the pieces, sensors, and motors you will need, along with freely downloadable software that works on iPad, Android, Windows and Mac. The software is easy enough for children of that age to use, and the blocks and pieces are safety-checked thoroughly.
The kit encourages students to build robots or learn basic coding. My favorite bit was where Lego said there is no “right way” to build the robot, and so students are free to get creative with their designs. The Lego WeDo 2.0 starts at $159.95 for the core set and can already be ordered.
6. Carl Zeiss Smart Glasses
2016 may or may not be realistic for this one, but it’s so awesome that it can’t be ignored. The much-vaunted Google Glass project is great, but you can’t escape looking like you’re wearing something strange and funny. At CES, optics giant Carl Zeiss showed how to make it fashionable with the Carl Zeiss Smart Glasses.
Much like Google Glass, what you get is a heads-up display on a pair of glasses — but there’s no bulky, futuristic-looking unit here. Instead, the arms of the glasses house the machinery, while an OLED display sits at the intersection of the arm and the lens. Using the curve of the glasses, the OLED display is able to show you information in a way that’s both noticeable and natural.
No word on price or availability yet, but hey, considering how much involvement Carl Zeiss has in the world of technology, I’m optimistic about this one!
Which CES Gadgets Impressed You?
This isn’t a full rundown of all the cool tech at CES 2016, but these are gadgets which we are more likely to see this year rather than in the distant future.
If you’ve been following CES 2016 and found some great tech that wowed you, share with us in the comments. It can be anything from the new Parrot drone to the self-driving Ehang copter. We’d love to hear about all of the great showcases that wowed you!