Kicking the tires on tomorrow’s tech 

A surreal step into the future

By Marc Saltzman

Back to its former pre-pandemic glory, January’s 56th annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas boasted more than four million square feet of mind- blowing technology for consumers and businesses alike. Serving as a window into the world beyond, the more than 100,000 attendees mingled with domestic robots that could help at home, fondled foldable laptop-tablet hybrids, gawked at the world’s first “wireless” OLED televisions and tapped on smartwatches powered by artificial intelligence. 

Not everything was super practical, though. There were a few silly and strange findings—like ‘smell-o-vison’ for virtual reality experiences—but hey, sometimes things can be weird and wonderful at the same time.

Join me as I take a few minutes to get you close up and caught up on brilliant home tech, larger than life mobility trends, and state of the art automotive innovations.

Chameleon car
Can’t decide what colour car to buy? She wants red, he wants blue. BMW may just have a promising solution.

The German automaker rolled into 2023 CES with its BMW i Vision Dee (“Digital Emotional Experience”) concept car, a sedan that can switch between 32 colours (at last year’s CES, BMW’s iX Flow concept car could only change between black, white, and grey). The midsizer  leverages an e-ink exterior, not unlike an e-reader’s screen, that lets you quickly switch body colours on the fly, or create your own colour combination—even changing the look of individual panels, wheels and grill.

Also on the i Vision Dee is BMW’s updated HUD (heads-up display), which covers the entire windshield, so drivers can access info, communications, augmented reality projections, and something referred to as “virtual worlds.” Very little beyond the show teasers was revealed but I’m sure it’ll be something else when its road-ready as promised in early as 2025.  I wonder if police forces and authorities will have something to say about this? (Imagine new age bank robbers who can change the look of their getaway car after the heist!).

A smarter smartwatch
Citizen’s CZ Smart Watch leverages IBM Watson machine learning technology and scientific research from NASA.

Consider it a wearable self-care advisor that doesn’t just monitor your activity, health and sleep, but provides real-time biofeedback and predicts patterns (of say, fatigue or high blood pressure). It then offers customized insights and personalized strategies to be your best self. The CZ YouQ companion app on your phone provides a deeper dive on the data.

The Citizen CZ Smart will be out by March 2023, starting at $399.

One cool fridge
Speaking of colour-changing technology, LG’s MoodUP refrigerator—first unveiled in September 2022 at Berlin’s IFA show—garnered quite a bit of buzz at CES. The fridge’s four huge LED panels can display bright colours via its companion app.

Along with matching and changing the decor to suit your kitchen, these 23 colour options (resulting in 190,000 total combinations) have both a fun and practical application: as the name suggests, they can be used to create a mood for a house party. After all, the action is often in the kitchen. On a more practical note, the fridge will also blink to let you know the door is slightly ajar.

A tasty addition: the MoodUP fridge also houses a loud Bluetooth speaker for wirelessly playing audio from a nearby smartphone, tablet, or laptop—and yes, the coloured panels can give you a light show, too, in time with the rhythm of the music. No price or availability has been announced just yet.

One wild laptop
When is a laptop more than a laptop? Lenovo’s Yoga Book 9i is the world’s first full-screen (13.3-inch) dual-screen OLED laptop, which can be used in several scenarios, for work or play. For example, when opened, the bottom screen could have a virtual keyboard, (which you can swap out and use in a variety of  languages) or place down the magnetic physical keyboard (included) to use it like a traditional laptop. How about jotting down notes on the bottom screen with the stylus (also included), during an important Zoom call that’s taking place on the top screen. Or why not open the dual screen, like a book, and read it like a digital magazine? You get the idea.

The Yoga Book 9i will available by June 2023, starting at about $2,500.

Noseworthy news
You can see 360-degree content in virtual reality, hear spatialized audio, and even experience haptic feedback when “touching” items in VR worlds—but smell could  be next from Noseworthy news.

Showcasing its “digital scent technology,” OVR Technology chose CES to launch ION 3, a wearable cartridge-based scent solution optimized for virtual and augmented reality, mobile, and PC desktop.

Resembling an old-school headset you’d wear around your neck (with one arm extending to sit near your nostrils), the “smell-o-vision” device connects via Bluetooth and can emit aromas, like a perfume, in different combinations to create “thousands” of scents.

Digital tats
Not everyone wants permanent tattoos—myself included—but I’d be lying if I wasn’t super impressed with some of the ink my friends have.

Prinker has a solution: temporary digital tattoos. The South Korean company has a small handheld device that lets you apply a temp tat in just one second or so.

Simply position over a body part and it “prints” high-quality ink onto your skin. The tattoos are waterproof, says the company, but can be washed off with a cleanser. 

Not only does the companion app include more than 12,000 existing designs, it also lets you design your own. Resembling a tall stapler, the main tattooing device sells for $279, and ink cartridges to produce about 1,000 tattoos costs $119. Could this be the end of the local tattoo parlour?

Fur real, a dog communicator?
Wouldn’t it be cool if your dog could text you? A company called FluentPet showcased its upgraded FluentPet Connect communication system, which encourages pet owners to program paw-sized WiFi enabled pushbuttons with simple words like “Walk,” “Water,” or “Play,” as examples.

After you’ve trained Fido—with 70 per cent of dogs learning at least two words within a month, says the company—your furry friend presses one of the buttons on the spongy, hexagonal tiles, which sends a “text” notification to your smartphone. On average, dogs learn up to nine words with the buttons, FluentPet says.

Available now for preorder at about $215, Fluent Connect should ship by February. 

A “breathing” pillow?
Japanese robotics firm Yukai Engineering showed off its Fufuly, a soft pillow that “breathes” when you hug it.

That is, the cushion concept subtly expands and contracts to imply inhaling and exhaling. When hugged by a human, Fufuly can slowly transition from a normal “breathing” state to a more relaxed one. The inventors suggest the hugging human will hopefully join in with this slower cadence. The gentle rhythmic pulsation is meant to reduce anxiety, induce calm, and perhaps even lull you to sleep while spooning it.

Mellow yellow
Flush with good ideas, the folks from Withings brought their palm-sized U-Scan toilet puck to show and tell. Put one in your toilet and it will review your urine for nutritional or ovulation info.

The puck’s recorded data is relayed to a smartphone’s U-Scan’s companion app. The company says their sensor can help with early detection of potential health issues and, in case you were wondering, it can automatically detect the difference between each of the individuals in the household.

The U-Scan will cost approximately $665 when it is released in 2023. 

 

For the past 25 years, Marc Saltzman has been a recognized expert in consumer electronics, business tech, social media, and automotive trends. You can see him on CTV, Global TV, and as a keynote speaker across North America. Follow him on Twitter @ marc_saltzman.

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