Next-gen tools and trappings from CES 2018
Future gadgets and gear, as seen at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show
By Marc Saltzman
A collection of really cool products were showcased at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). As always, some dream-concepts will turn into “vapourware,” not even making it to their commercial debut. But no doubt many of the 180,000 attendees, who were like kids in a candy store (including yours truly), will be hoping to have some new toys in their homes or driveways in the not-too-distant future.
Here are a few high-tech highlights from the CES showroom floor and surrounding facilities.
Lap it up
Imagine a Windows laptop that lasts up to 22 hours between charges—which is probably two, three or four times as long a battery life as you’re getting with your current laptop. Powered by a Snapdragon 835 processor, the ASUS NovaGo is the first in a new category of computers called ACPCs, or “always connected personal computers.” Not only does the NovaGo last for hours of use (and up to 30 days on standby), but it can take a SIM card or eSim for always-on cellular connectivity, so you won’t need to find a Wi-Fi hotspot (data plan required). ASUS says the NovaGo—a two-in-one laptop–tablet hybrid—will cost about $999 when it’s released by the summer.
Winner of a Reviewed.com Editor’s Choice Award, as well as top nods from Mashable and Digital Trends, the all-new Dell XPS 13 retains its place as the world’s smallest 13-inch laptop (essentially squeezed into an 11-inch frame). Now it’s also the most powerful 13-inch laptop, thanks to its 8th Gen Quad Core Intel processor. Along with all other consumer and gaming laptops going forward, the XPS 13 works with Dell Mobile Connect, which lets you wirelessly pair your smartphone (iOS or Android) so you can receive texts and phone calls on the laptop. Including new colours of “alpine white” and “rose gold,” the Dell XPS 13 is out now, starting at $1,299.
There was no shortage of voice-enabled Amazon Alexa- and Google Assistant-powered devices at CES this year—from televisions and cars to Wi-Fi routers and even toilets—and there were no less than four different “smart displays” powered by Google Assistant. Rivaling the Amazon Echo Show (available in the US), the JBL LINK View is an eight-inch touch display and speaker that lets you ask Google a question or give a command. In addition to a response from a human-like voice you’ll also see info on the screen, such as a multi-day weather forecast, recipe, photos, YouTube videos and album art for your streaming music. Make free Google Duo video calls through its five-megapixel camera, too. A price hasn’t yet been announced, but it should be out by summer.
For blind and partially sighted people, the OrCam MyEye 2.0 is an artificial vision device with a lightweight smart camera that instantly reads text aloud—from any surface—and recognizes faces, products, money notes and more, in real time. And it’s all packed into a tiny device (the size of your finger) that magnetically attaches to the side of a pair of eyeglasses. Simply point to a menu, newspaper, medication label or smartphone screen and a human-like voice will read you the words instantly. Available soon for USD$4,500—or less with a possible government subsidy—the OrCam MyEye
2.0 could provide independence to those with vision loss.
Driven to perfection
Instead of debuting at the Detroit Auto Show, which took place a week later, Toyota chose CES to unveil its e-Palette, a concept for the future of autonomous (“self-driving”) vehicles. Perhaps one day in the not-too-distant future your vehicle will not only drive you from point A to point B, but also be available for ride-sharing services and on-demand food delivery, and even serve as a mobile storefront that brings products to you instead of the other way around. Toyota is teaming up with Uber, Pizza Hut and Amazon to start with, but the first live demonstration of the Toyota e-Palette won’t be until the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
While we’ve seen a little of the Hyundai Nexo in the past, CES attendees were treated to a proper look at this near-production-ready hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. Due out as early as this fall, it will yield about 370 miles per charge (hydrogen powers the electric motor), and with a significant power boost compared with Hyundai’s first-generation fuel-cell vehicle, the Tucson. Hyundai says the Nexo can go from 0 to 60 mph in 9.5 seconds. The South Korean company sees fully autonomous vehicles being on the roads by 2021—until then, the Nexo can do some pretty cool semi-autonomous tasks, such as pick you up at the end of your driveway or park your car into a tight spot while you watch from outside. The only by-product of a hydrogen vehicle is water or vapour, so the Nexo should be much easier on the environment than gas or diesel cars.
Virtual reality hasn’t taken off as fast as many predicted, but perhaps it’s because of the annoying cables coming out of the back? With some models, you even need to shove your phone inside the front of the headset. Too cumbersome. Instead, Lenovo’s Mirage Solo is the first “self-contained” VR headset that doesn’t need a phone, PC or video game console. Based on Google’s Daydream platform, you’ll download games over Wi-Fi to the local 64 GB of internal storage (or snap in a microSD card), or you can sideload games using a USB. It ships with a remote and will be priced at less than $400 when it debuts by the summer.
How do you fight the growing epidemic of obesity among those who’d rather play with digital devices than be physically active? The answer may lie in the winner of the 2018 CES “Last Gadget Standing” competition. Designed for indoor or outdoor fun, the Play Impossible Gameball ($99) resembles a regular inflatable ball, but is embedded with patent-pending sensor technology that connects it to an app via Bluetooth. Played solo or with friends, you can compete and challenge your ball skills with multiple minigames that may involve throwing or shaking the ball. When the Gameball runs low on power you can refuel in 20 seconds, which yields another hour of play.
Bigger is better
At CES, Samsung unveiled the world’s first “modular” television, meaning it can be made bigger or smaller, depending on your space, by adding or removing panels as need be. At 146 inches wide for its CES configuration, “The Wall” television was a jaw-dropper at the show. But not just for its size and modularity—it is gorgeous, too. This MicroLED television is made up of self-emitting teeny LEDs, much smaller than current LEDs, which eliminate the need for a backlight or colour filter. There’s no word on when it will debut or for how much, but it might be less for home use and more for businesses, such as storefronts. Samsung also unveiled an 8K TV at the show, with four times the resolution of a 4K TV, coming in 2018.
Out this spring is Sony’s X900F, powered by the company’s X1 Processor, and with Dolby Vision, HDR 10 and full-array of LEDs across the back of the panel instead of being only edge-lit (resulting in better contrast, higher brightness and more vivid colours). In sizes up to 85 inches, this 4K TV also has a dedicated Google Assistant button on the remote. It was shown with Sony’s upcoming X9000F 2.1-channel soundbar ($699, out this spring), which matches the television’s décor and features advanced audio codecs such as DTS:X and Dolby Atmos. Although it’s a horizontal sound bar, it has “vertical sound technology” that makes it seem like the audio is emanating from in-ceiling speakers!
LG also showed off its upcoming flagship OLED TV, the super slender LG SIGNATURE OLED TV W8, available in 77 inches.
With preorders starting February 4, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro ($799) made its debut at CES. The smartphone features a sleek design, six-inch display, new Leica cameras (which take some seriously stunning images) and a battery that yields more than three days of music playback, up to 22 hours of video playback and up to 25 hours of 3G calling. Perhaps most importantly, the new Kirin 970 processor offers advanced AI (artificial intelligence), including the ability to predict the apps you’ll use and load them into its memory even before you tap the icon!
For lazy types
Imagine a carry-on suitcase that follows you through the airport. From a Chinese company called ForwardX, the CX-1 has built-in cameras and sensors to follow you around (you know, in case you don’t feel like dragging it on its wheels). If someone tries to take off with the self-driving bag then a loud-decibel alarm will sound, and your smartphone or smartwatch will vibrate. The CX-1 will be available in the summer, but no price has been confirmed as yet.
Although it will only be available in Japan, Sony is back with its Aibo robotic dog—one you’ll never have to walk or clean up after. And, as you might expect, it’s light years ahead of the first Aibo that debuted almost 20 years ago. With advanced engineering for fluid movement, more sensors on its body and AI (including more personality), it was a huge hit at CES this year. Look closely and you can see two cameras—in its nose and near its tail—to help identify family members and map your home environment. Doggone cute!
Marc Saltzman is a recognized expert in computers, consumer electronics, internet trends, and small business technology. You can see him on CNN, CTV, Global TV, and on Cineplex movie theatre screens across Canada. Follow him on Twitter @marc_saltzman.