FOR THE WEEK OF JAN. 15, 2018
Annual electronics show introduces the latest amazing, useful and wacky devices
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It almost seemed like holiday season again last week in Las Vegas, where companies introduced gee-whiz products that could include gifts of the future – as well as home appliances and vehicles designed to simplify our lives. The setting was a four-day Consumer Electronics Show, with more than 4,000 exhibitors and nearly 170,000 attendees -- the world's largest industry event of its type. The Consumer Technology Association began hosting it in 1967, originally in New York City.
Attention-getters at the 50th annual event include a smart lamp that responds to voice commands via Amazon's Alexa or the Google Assistant, while also doubling as a wireless phone charger. Another eye-grabber is a motorized "self-driving suitcase" called Puppy 1 that uses an internal camera sensor to learn who the owner is and then follow that person around an airport, train station or hotel. Sensors let it respond to hand gestures. The Chinese manufacturer, named Forward X, plans to start selling the futuristic bags in August. No price is given yet.
Showgoers also saw personal robots (including one that takes photos), next-generation phones, earbuds that provide real-time language translation and a voice-controlled faucet for hands-free temperature and flow level adjustments. An $800 phone coming this year from Huawei, called the Mate 10 Pro, has a powerful battery that allows more than three days of music playback, up to 22 hours of video playback and up to 25 hours of 3G calling. Even a tech toy, the $99 Play Impossible Gameball, earns attention. It resembles a regular inflatable ball, and is embedded with sensor technology that connects it to an app via Bluetooth. Users can play solo or with friends, indoors or outside, and challenge their skills with mini-games that involve throwing or shaking the ball. Gameball recharges in 20 seconds for another hour of play. And for just $10, starting in August, buyers of SeeMeez can create digital hologram characters with a smartphone, including virtual selfies. A plastic viewer lets them be seen.
In a show sidelight, complaints rose that no women were invited to give one of the high-profile keynote addresses that headline each day of the Las Vegas event -- the second straight year men filled all prime spots. An online backlash generated a hashtag (#CESSoMale) and social media posts. The host group responds that women were on discussion panels and spoke at secondary events. "The exclusive focus on keynotes in my view insults the hundreds of women who are speakers at CES," posts Gary Shapiro, chief executive of the tech association.
Artificial intelligence: Exhibitors showed how A.I. technology lets, or soon will let, vehicles, phones and home appliances adapt to users’ behavior. Coffee makers, vacuums, ovens and even the cat litter box are getting A.I. upgrades.
Voice-command assistants: "I talk to Alexa and Google Home every morning. At some point they should know me well enough that they should know at what time of day what type of information and or content I want." – Alex Wallace, creative and development team leader for Verizon’s Oath Studios, at the show
Journalist says: "Tech trade shows have never been female-friendly. Mostly men attend and speak. After-parties and alcohol binges are a part of the tech conference culture." -- Jessica Guynn, USA Today
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