This is my third review of the annual Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas, a global trade show where ostensibly the newest and greatest advances in technology are exhibited in the coolest “must have” gadgets. From folding tablet screens, to unique wearable health and fitness monitors (including some very sexy jewelry) to enormous TV screens, the items shown make nerds like me swoon.
Except this year.
What struck me is a sad inevitability – as an event like CES grows more and more popular – its original intent is often diluted. It becomes less about what is to be seen and more about being seen at the event. While this in itself is not unbearable – giving CES more mainstream acceptance – it unfortunately attracts every Tom, Dick and Harry who think their inventions are the be all and end all. Many have lost site of the definition of innovation:
The action or process of innovating.
Synonyms: change, alteration, revolution, upheaval, transformation, metamorphosis, breakthrough;
A new method, idea, product, etc.
Let me show you some of the 2016 CES offerings so you can get a clearer picture of my disillusion. I have broken down the offerings into five categories:
SAMSUNG FAMILY HUB REFRIGERATOR
At $5000 this refrigerator offers a 21.5 inch display that is connected to the internet, just in case your phone, tablet or computer is too far away to reach for food apps, music streaming etc. There is an internal camera attached to the display which will show you the inside of the refrigerator so you can check your food items. This camera can also be accessed via your smartphone when you are not home.
While there might be a benefit to seeing your food supplies or lack thereof while you are in the supermarket – at $5000 I think I’d rather just open the refrigerator door manually and either take a picture with my phone or – gasp! write out a grocery list.
Similarly frivolous and too expensive versus their applications are these two items:
Do you get cold feet? These $450 shoes are bluetooth enabled so they can track your foot temperature, activity and tightness of the shoe for adjustments as needed. The shoe styles include the sneakers above as well as heels or pumps.
What about just wearing warmer/thicker or lighter/thinner socks or stockings?
I must admit I would like to figure out how to get a consistently better, less interrupted night of sleep. These headphones track EEG signals while you are asleep and after analyzing sleep patterns send the results to your phone which will “train” you to sleep well.
One problem. There is NO WAY a person like myself, who is a light sleeper is going to even fall asleep wearing these. I’ll stick with a glass or two of wine.
OLD IS NEW AGAIN – DO WE REALLY NEED THIS?
TECHNIC SL – 1200 TURNTABLE
The original Technics SL-1200, was discontinued in 2010 although it was a favorite among DJs for its durability and sound quality. Panasonic is bringing it back, thinking that perhaps the vinyl market has grown again enough to be profitable . At an estimated price of $4000 I am not sure if this gambit will work.
It does bring back a memory, however of a turntable owned by my brother. I am not sure of the brand – perhaps my cousin will remember. The needlearm was extremely sensitive – so much so that my brother didn’t think I was capable of operating the turntable without scratching the record. As I was an adult, I wonder whether this was more of a big brother not letting his little sister touch his toys – see this post for my childhood restrictions.
SUPER 8 CAMERA AND POLAROID CAMERA
I put these two together as they are both old-but-new entries into the camera market and both are considered to be among the hottest things shown at CES this year. Since photography as you well know is a major obsession of mine, I couldn’t pass taking a look.
Ironically the Super 8 camera is actually an ANALOG item with just a few digital components: a LCD flip out screen and a SD (Secure Digital Card: an ultra small high-capacity memory card) for recording sound. The film itself appears to be the sexiest part even though it will need processing. I guess if album purists are into returning to vinyl records, then those still enamored for nostalgia will clamor for this. I am not a video buff (yet) so there is little allure for me.
However, I actually see some use for the new Polaroid camera. Unlike its predecessor it is light and compact. And, unlike the old Polaroids, you can actually select whether the photo is in color, black and white or sepia. Reasonably priced compared to other offerings at
$99 it does have cool zero-ink paper called “Zink.” You can peel off the back and presto! The picture becomes a post-it-note, ready to be stuck onto a wall etc. Do kids still have bulletin boards at home? Nevertheless, this might be a great gift for a young budding photographer.
Despite this past year’s multiple travesties with hoverboards – spontaneous combustion, dads and moms and kids wiping out, these items were in high demand, so it isn’t surprising that marketers are looking for the next big transporter. Here are two:
ONE SEAT DRONE AND ELECTRONIC SKATEBOARD
Ehang, a Chinese drone maker brought a vehicle to CES that have many nerds and geeks alike salivating: a 500 pound, one-seater drone that can fly up to 62 miles per hour for about 23 minutes. I can’t even think of all the problems this machine will cause although it does bring back a childhood memory:
Presently the drone is not legal in the US so you needn’t fearfully look overhead for incoming flying vehicles. I imagine that at $200-300,000 this flyer is going to be heavily sought after by those wealthy few who have to have everything.
On a much smaller scale, the Blink electric skateboard can go up to 6 miles an hour on a single charge for about 2 hours, but it is pricey at a cost of $499. It is also pretty much guaranteed to be the catalyst for as many crash and burns as the hoverboard so expect it to join the latter in many states banned lists.
I did find one item however, that I am very excited about.
SOMAPOD DRINK STATION
Nicknamed “Keurig for Cocktails” the Somabar is a robotic assistant made for one’s home that can make 300 different drinks. Ingredients are housed in the six “pods” (see above) and there is also a bitters dispenser. The pods are dishwasher safe. The dispenser is connected via WIFI to an app that can suggest recipes based upon what you have put in the pods (vodka, gin, etc). Once you have selected the cocktail Somabar concocts your drink.
Preorders are already being accepted on the Somabar website for $429 and the company expects shipping to commence by July. The Somabar is even more impressive than the wine dispenser bar that I visited in Anchorage, Alaska:
I am already thinking of where it will go in my home.