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CES Day 3: Takeaways and Some Strange Products We Missed

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We’re now on day three of this year’s CES, and clearly the big trend is the excitement surrounding AI devices. With what seems like every major tech company putting massive investments into AI, a wide array of unique robots and virtual assistants have been wowing crowds this year. Virtual reality doesn’t look like it took the kinds of leaps many analysts were hoping for, but remains relevant and growing regardless. And as usual, CES continues to feature a variety of outright funny, bizarre products — many of which are still quite useful.

2017 is the year of the robot

With Amazon Alexa and virtual assistants built on its platform, CES has seen a blooming of robotics and home assistants ready for mass consumption. With bots like Olly that can understand human emotions, a prototype robotic barista from Bubblelab that likes to chat, a mobile house robot named Kuri and Lenovo’s colorfully designed smart assistant, there’s no shortage of robots that could live in our homes and work where we work. The shift hasn’t just been in raw computing capacity, but rather in the humanization of robots, making them cuter, friendlier and more like a pet we’d gladly welcome into our lives. Robots being showcased at CES include a number of useful household companions, with ones that can sort laundry (Laundroid), monitor babies (Aristotle), mow the lawn (Robo Mower) and help out in the kitchen (Mikie).

VR wasn’t quite as big as expected

This is not to say there haven’t been amazing demonstrations in VR — HTC Vive’s TPCast untethering virtual reality from the PC will undoubtedly make the experience substantially more lifelike. Taclim’s VR shoes also showcased some fascinating technology, using haptic feedback to create the illusion of walking on a variety of different types of terrain while exploring a virtual landscape. Along the same lines of VR shoes (and if walking’s not your thing), the Hypersuit gives users a vivid experience of flying. The user lays stomach down on a table, pulling on handles to control their arms to experience virtual wingsuit flying, being Superman, a bird or a bat — anything that might fly.

Laptops have gotten big this year —literally

While there have been exciting developments in touchscreen Chromebooks with Samsung’s Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro, along with the continuing trend of slimmer, stylish PCs, the big buzz this year has been on big laptops. Really big ones.

The Acer Predator 21X is an a monstrous machine, weighing close to 20 pounds and measuring in at 3.27 inches thick. The real appeal isn’t just its size however; it’s that gorgeous 21 inch curved display for immersive gaming. With a resolution of 2560 x 1080 it has a solid resolution, but not the most spectacular one out there. The Predator 21X is catered to people looking for the ultimate desktop replacement packed with powerful features and at least a degree of portability. It sports the latest in processing power with a 7th generation Intel Core i7 chip and dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics cards, along with 64GB of ram. Storage is massive, fitting up to four 512GB solid state drives, and the 21X comes with a variety of ports, even ones that might seem outdated, like Ethernet. The cost isn’t for the budget shopper, coming in at just under $9,000.

The other big laptop generating a lot of buzz this year is Razer’s Project Valerie, another enormous machine with three foldout 17.3 inch monitors each sporting 4K resolution. As far as a creative, immersive, portable workstation’s concerned, it’s hard to imagine anything outdoing this.

Some of the weirdest (but possibly still useful) products so far

Sensorwake Oria - If waking up to regular alarm clocks is a struggle, the Sensorwake Oria might do the trick. It uses disgusting smells to really punctuate the point that it’s time to get up.

Auri Eye Massager - In a future where we might start using VR and straining our eyes a lot of the day, what better way to unwind than with a refreshing eye massage? The Auri eye massager uses water along with warm and cool compresses to get the job done.

Spartan Radioactive Protection Underwear - The idea here is for these boxer briefs to serve as a barrier to protect against radioactive waves emitting from the technology we’re using today.

LG Tone Studio - These are speakers for your neck. This enormous looking necklace-like device creates a personal sound experience without the constraint of headphones or earbuds. Perhaps a bit quirky, but it could be a useful, less confining alternative to day-long headphone use.

CES Day 2: A Future of Smart Homes and Virtual Assistants Take Center Stage

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Smart showers, selfie drones and big upgrades in virtual reality. It's all just another day at CES 2017 as it goes from January 5-8. We’ve seen a lot of amazing products: Artificially intelligent assistants with personality, a transparent television, a three-screen laptop and a powerful smartbrush. If there’s one observable trend so far, it appears that smart devices, outside the typical realm of computers and phones are the star of the show. We’re watching as AI reaches a variety of objects, potentially simplifying and streamlining the way we use ordinary things. Here are some of the most interesting and unusual products being showcased as we move into Friday.

Fisher Price’s Smart Cycle for kids encourages learning and play

A new indoor bike from Fisher Price gives kids the opportunity to exercise, learn and play. The Smart Cycle connects to a TV or tablet and will be available for $150 with the ability to download a variety of apps and games, like a SpongeBob Squarepants educational app from Nickelodeon. Geared for kids aged 3-6, it looks like so much fun, one can hope they’ll release a version for grownups, too.

A smart shower that heats up before you get in

Moen’s U Smart Shower gives users the ability to control the heat of their showers through a simple smartphone app and WiFi connection. The system runs for $1,000 and sends a notification when the desired temperature is ready. Smart installations like this could have enormous implications when working in conjunction with each other, shaving down the time it takes to accomplish daily routines and streamlining the way we do them. While it may at first sound quirky to use a device like this, having a shower with the perfect temperature before even getting out of bed does sound like something we could all get used to.

Nvidia Shield TV and the beginning of a more streamlined smart home

While devices like Amazon Echo have revolutionized the notion of AI by coexisting with us in our living rooms, today’s virtual assistants aren’t exactly subtle. With big speakers centrally placed in the middle of our homes, we might soon see a future where the tech itself is completely hidden and integrated into the walls. Nvidia Shield TV, powered by Google TV, will let users search for shows, look up things on the internet through voice and integrate with smart devices across the home via SmartThings to operate common household tasks like controlling lights or the temperature. However, the real excitement comes with the Spot ($49.99). These tiny little orbs with microphones can connect to various rooms in the house when hung on walls, providing a new level of connectivity without the obtrusiveness of today’s devices. Take these upgrades alongside the personality we’re starting to see in smart devices across the board, and it’s starting to look like we’re entering a world where people might have meaningful, casual conversations with empty rooms, which could be incredibly exciting, or perhaps a little creepy.

If selfie sticks seem annoying, just take a look at selfie drones

The Hover Camera Passport drone is ultra compact (folding down to the size of a small hardcover book) and is equipped with a 4K camera that can recognize human faces and follow them. It comes equipped with a carbon fiber cage encapsulating the propellers so it can be grabbed safely without risk to the people it might be hovering around. A future where floating cameras constantly photograph us in super high-def might just give all of us the feeling of what it’s like to be a celebrity, at least the paparazzi part of it. These types of devices could have a significant impact on news and event coverage of the future (particularly sports coverage), or with military and rescue work by moving into areas that might otherwise be difficult to reach.

HTC makes an enormous stride in VR by untethering it from the PC

HTC Vive’s TPCast is an add-on for the Vive that will allow for even more realistic, meaningful virtual reality experiences than ever before. Allowing users to break away from what has traditionally been the big restriction of needing to be wired to a PC in order to have a VR experience, TPCast allows users to wirelessly connect, creating an even richer, more vivid, realistic experience than ever. The device still has a wire that runs from the headset to a battery back that can be placed in a back pocket, but the added mobility and size reduction of the experience is substantial. The device gets about two hours of usage, which is enough for a rich immersive game, movie or combination of the two. Some of these seemingly minor tweaks are shaping up to be some of the most significant reveals at CES 2017, bringing life and real world possibilities to existing technologies that were previously held back by logistics.

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