CES 2017: Tech preview of Las Vegas’s biggest launches


CES provides a first glimpse at the future.

Pretty much all of the tech giants attend the vast Vegas expo – either to unveil new products or to clinch deals behind the scene.

But in recent years it’s been start-ups that have had many of the most eye-arresting and sensational reveals.

There are more at this year’s show than ever before, thanks in part to crowdfunding. They now have to convince retailers – hunting through the halls for the next bestsellers – that the promise of their concept videos has been delivered upon.

Dozens of start-ups are also there thanks to help from governments and other national bodies – France, Israel, Ukraine and the Netherlands all have stands where they’ll fly the flag for local talent.

But China may make the biggest splash with more than 1,300 registered exhibitors.

“Every year at CES I meet the people who work on the technology that affects our lives and you can see literally every part of the tech industry represented,” innovation evangelist Robert Scoble told the BBC.

Of course, there’s a lot of crud too – the challenge is to distinguish the potential hits from the glitch-ridden flops.

Below, we have picked what could be some of the week’s highlights:


Voice control and other new interfaces

CES marks the beginning of a land grab by three of the leading virtual assistants: Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and the Google Assistant.

The companies all want their voice-controlled AIs to power third-party products. And Amazon looks to have the head start.

C by GEImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
The C by GE table lamp has a central blue ring that responds when Alexa is summoned

The headphones specialist OnVocal will be showing off wireless earphones that link up to Alexa, and GE has also preannounced a table lamp that doubles as a speaker powered by Amazon’s voice service. Sonos too aims to add the facility to its wireless speakers, though we believe it isn’t quite ready to show off its efforts.

But don’t count the other two out.

We know Microsoft is working with Harman Kardon on a “premium audio” speaker, and the firm has teased adding Cortana to other types of products, including toasters. And Google has secured at least one bit of kit at CES – the Aviva speaker – to host its cloud-based intelligence.

AvivaImage copyright AVIVA
Aviva says its smart speaker will be equipped with Google Assistant

One expert suggested others will also try to gatecrash the party.

It’s not all about voice though.

The French start-up Bixi will be making the case for gesture controls. It will be demoing the final design of a gizmo that lets you control smartphones and tablets with a wave of a hand.

More groundbreaking perhaps is the Blitab, a tactile tablet described as the iPad for the blind.

The Austrian innovation produces small physical bubbles in an area above its touchscreen which delivers refresh double lines of dynamic Braille.

BlitabImage copyright BLITAB
Blitab plans to show off an Android tablet with a dynamic braille display

Year of the robot?

We’re still decades away from having the type of androids seen on TV shows such as Westworld or Humans.

But CES is still an opportunity to see how far along more specialised kit has become.

London-based Emotech is one to watch.

Olly robotImage copyright EMOTECH
The Olly robot learns over time how best to behave with different users

It will unveil Olly – a tabletop bot with its own smart assistant that recognises different household members and adapts it personality to suit each one.

The project was developed with help from academics at University College London, Imperial College and Edinburgh University, and has already secured $10m (£8.2m) of investment from China.

There will also be a range of modular robots.

Several companies are backing the concept, which allows users to switch about parts to change skills and manoeuvrability.

UnibiotImage copyright EVOVACS
The Unibot offers changes function depending on which modules are connected to its base

Examples will include Modi, a Lego-style kit that lets owners build a bot out of small cubes – each offering different functions such as motors, lights and infra-red detectors.

Another is Unibot, a robotic vacuum cleaner that trebles up as a mobile home security camera and an air purifier/humidifier.

Meanwhile, OAPs can look forward to Cutii, a robot that resembles an iPad on wheels, which will supposedly become their “companion”.

And there will also be bots that zoom round tennis courts picking up balls, remove droppings from cat litter, and even move physical chess pieces around a board.

RobotsImage copyright ITRI TAIWAN/AUTO-PETS/YUMII/TENNIBOT
There will be a range of robots specialising in niche tasks at the show

Keep an eye out for Laundroid, too. The Japanese clothes-folding machine raised $60m from Panasonic and others for its giant clothes-folding droid following an appearance at last year’s CES.

Some have described the idea as ridiculous.

But it will be interesting to see if it works well enough to go on sale later this year, as planned.

LaundroidImage copyright SEVEN DREAMERS
Potential buyers of the Laundroid will have to make sure they have room to install it

Health and wearables

Pregnancy seems to be one of health tech’s preoccupations this year.

There is both Ava, a sensor-equipped wristband that apparently alerts women to when they are most fertile, and Trakfertility, a DIY sperm count test that tells an associated app what steps the owner should take to boost their numbers.

Ava wristbandImage copyright AVA SCIENCE
Ava claims its wearable will help women “understand” their bodies better to help them get pregnant

And just in case you are tempted to pair off with the wrong partner, Milo Sensors is in town with what it describes as the world’s first blood alcohol wearable.

It’s easy to joke, but health tech is booming and analysts are competing to predict how many billions of pounds it will be worth in a decade’s time.

The ultimate goal is to create something resembling Star Trek’s Tricoder – an all-in-one device that diagnoses any ailment.

An Israeli start-up will be showing off a gadget that promises to get us at least partly there.

Tyto HomeImage copyright TYTOCARE
 TytoCare says it wants to put “health in the hands of consumers” with its diagnostic devices

The TytoHome is designed to let families take heart, lungs, throat, abdomen and other organs’ readings and send them to their clinicians. Its slogan is a “check-up without the check-in”, but medics may need convincing.

There will doubtless be new twists on the fitness tracker too. It would be unwise to suggest the market for such devices has peaked – Fitbit’s app topped Apple’s App Store this Christmas, indicating people are still buying them in droves.

But a more intriguing development is wearables with built-in airbags.

Air bag wearablesImage copyright INEMOTION/ACTIVEPROTECTIVE
At least two companies at CES are trying to adapt the car’s airbag for the human body

ActiveProtective is promising to show off a prototype smart belt for the elderly that triggers a cushioning action over their hips if it detects a fall.

This is a very brief glimpse of what is out there courtesy of the BBC, we will be following CES very closely and more content will probably be shared closer to the time, in the meantime, drop us a comment down below, what’s your favorite piece of tech?

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Jay Gordon-Rolfe
#Blogger, #Proud #Gay, Fiancé to @StevieG26, #Awesome #Autistic & creator of #Random things on @Youtube. Occasionally Tweets about life & Writer of this blog.

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CES 2017: Tech preview of Las Vegas’s biggest launches

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