CES Day 3

January 8, 2016 Comments off

Today was my final day at CES 2016, and on the docket was Tech West at the Sands Expo Center (attached to The Venetian). Full disclosure, I only did Level 2 at The Sands, which is where all the big companies were (and lots of small ones too). Level 1 was nearly just as big, but full of “science fair” booths for startups and other smaller firms without the bigger marketing budgets that, honestly, my feet just weren’t up to.

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Tech West plays host to several hot gadget areas, including health and fitness devices, kids/education, 3D printing and scanning, robotics, and home automation. I’m not the most fit athletic build you’ve ever seen, but I did snoop around and see some interesting stuff that you might be interested in.😉

Upon entering the hall everyone is drawn to netamo’s outdoor security camera display, where they were demonstrating the ability to recognize people vs animals (vs aliens??). I’m hard to see in the pic, but I do have my #3 Russell Wilson jersey on … I won’t be blamed for missing Blue Friday during the playoffs. GO HAWKS! For the record, it correctly identified me as a person, so I’ve got that going for me.

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Withings has gotten a lot of press at CES this year for their new thermometer, but they also had some really nice looking smart watches there too. If that’s your thing, include them in your perspective device browsing.

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I stopped by FitBit’s booth to see if anything caught my eye there. I really like the Garmin device I saw yesterday (I think I want something that combines smartwatch with fitness tracker in a small tracker format) but I’ve already got a data history with FitBit (though I did take a year or so off from using my FitBit One – I just restarted before leaving for CES). While nothing caught my eye for exactly what I’m looking for, they did have their new Blaze to show off. It’s a big device, but I like that the unit itself is able to be popped off one watch band/frame and inserted into another. From a brief conversation with someone at the booth it sounds like their pricing for bands is relatively reasonable, compared to the likes of Apple.

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Peleton has been advertising their new connected stationary bike experience a lot on TV and I was interested to see it in person. I guess 9am is either too early for those party animals, or they were all out riding their bikes – nobody was home at their booth. The bike looks nice, if that’s you’re thing.

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Speaking of bikes, this Japanese company 3D printed one. WOW. They also have a turn-key solution … for whatever you want to turn a key to do. It has WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, and you can trigger anything you want through IFTTT or other methods. Would be cool to be able to turn the Internet off at home with a key. Winking smile

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There were a couple personal breathalizers at the show, though none of them were marketing themselves as “figure out when you’re okay to drive again after getting tanked.” They must have good lawyers. Puff puff and the Bluetooth connected app on your phone can tell you whether it’s time for another glass of merlot. They were even touting integration with Apple Health (remember how shit-faced you got last weekend? no, well your phone does.)

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These were nifty looking glasses (and snow goggles) with a camera in them. The lenses are replaceable, and when they’re out the frames are incredibly flexible.

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The Girl Scouts were there again this year drumming up interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) – especially for girls, I would imagine. I didn’t stay long, since they were also pushing their online ordering website … the one that charged me 33% of my order total for shipping last year, including for the 5 boxes of cookies (money) I donated to the troops overseas. WTF? SCREW THAT MESS. I excused myself before I used unladylike language – and it’s not like the kids made that decision, I’d just end up being the asshole yelling at a Girl Scout in front of 150K people.

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This is a fancy new touch screen remote control. I politely informed them that nobody can feel for the volume down button in the dark without tactile buttons. They hadn’t thought of that. I’m sure they’ll be fine (not). But of course because it’s all fancy they got a CES Honoree award.

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The one thing my wife asked of me this week was to visit the Square Panda booth. They teamed up with Andre Aggasi’s education foundation to develop some really captivating phonics and reading tools, including hardware and engaging apps for the kiddos. It’s really wonderful and I can see our 4 year old getting a lot of use out of this. Do go check them out – my wife already got a pre-order in based on my investigation today.

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Wonder Workshop was also at CES again – we got in on their initial Kickstarter campaign about 18 months ago and got a full compliment of robots and accessories from them for Christmas last year. Unfortunately our 10 year old hasn’t taken to them as much as we’d hoped, but I think that might change. They’re a great tool to teach programming concepts, as you can see in the video. New this year is a catapult. LOOK OUT CATS!

 

Edwin is the world’s first waterproof, haptic, light-up, bluetooth enabled, speaker, nightlight, learning device rubber duck bath toy. Seriously, this little device is really cool! It can be a nightlight, a play toy, a device that lets your child interact with a tablet (IOS or Android) to read books or do educational games. It can be a music box for your child at bedtime with internal tracks or you can stream Spotify or whatever your favorite music service is. I played a little game where the app told you a shape, like “rectangle”, and then you had to both find the rectangle amongst 4 different shapes on screen AND translate that into where on the duck to tap. Check them out at EdwinTheDuck.com.

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Next up is a $450 Liter Robot: Open Air. I got a demonstration – I’m pretty sure it was fake poo. The floor is rubber, and as the thing spins a weight drops to dislodge the stuff that usually sticks to the floor. If my daughter wants to stop having to clean the cat box herself, she needs to save up – the ball is in her court.😉 Oh, and don’t worry – it has sensors to know when a cat is in there so kitty doesn’t go for a spin accidentally.

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Speaking of things that spin, Whirlpool had a big booth this year, as last year. They’ve got designer magnetic covers for your washer and dryer, including a chalk one the kids can get creative with (and then the chalk can get all over your clean clothes). Beyond that, I got a demo of their new fridge design that has adjustable shelves, but not the way you’re used to seeing them. You can slide the middle of the shelf back to make room for taller items from below, which actually has the benefit of making those back coners a lot easier to get too. There wasn’t a 21” tablet on the door and it won’t send you pictures of your current stock level like others I saw at CES this year, but this does seem like a really good idea. If I needed a fridge tomorrow I’d probably go get one of these.

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Your paper airplanes are now powered, controlled by Bluetooth, and remote controllable while sending your a VR point of view. Yeah. Welcome to the future.

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Even the Swiss have been forced to modernize their watches.

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And now, robot dinosaurs.
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HumanScale has some really cool products. If you don’t have a standing desk, for example, you can make a standing workspace with their QuickStand. Your keyboard, space for a mouse, and your screen all instantly raise up with the touch of a lever (it’s counter-balanced hydrolics instead of motorized, meaning you can adjust the height 10X quicker than the standard motorized desk). They’ve got a hydrolic desk too, if you want the full deal. If you have lots of monitors but want to keep things simple, check out their M/Power solution that serves as a set of monitor arms with a power hub and, when combined with an M/Connect USB docking station, allows you to drive all those monitors (and anything else) through a single USB3 cord to your laptop. SNAZZY!

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There are a lot of workout tech gadgets and makers, and a lot of young people hired to work out for the visual enticement of potential buyers. Some of these booths have “dancing” ladies on treadmills, full CrossFit gyms, and basketball courts that track players and the ball in real time. It’s nuts.

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I came across another Redmond, WA company and got lots of GO HAWKS! Sensoria, which happens to be started by a former Microsoftie, has a line of fitness trackers that actually ARE your socks. Great for runners, you can analyze your strike patterns, etc. and get coaching advice from their app. They have more traditional trackers as well. Side note: why is this dude creeping on the mannequin in the sports bra? SHOW SOME RESTRAINT!

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Track your dog for $5/month with this GPS cellular collar.

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Play with your cat from your office and post a picture to Instagram. That’s right, a remote-controlled laser pointer that has a camera in it.

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TomTom: Nobody buys GPS devices anymore, but we heard of these things called wearables so we’re going to give that a go.

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iHealth: with an “i” in the name, it *has* to be good.

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I’m suprised I haven’t seen this pedal-powered bike/car/thing around Redmond.

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LEGO! They’ve got a new LEGO Education kit that seems really cool for classrooms. With one kit you can build dozens of different tools and devices, all powered by a motor and Bluetooth controller. The kit also has a couple different sensors and a programming language so you can teach physical science and computer science at the same time. COOL!!!

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This company has won a crap ton of awards for putting shitty speakers inside of a headband. No joke. I inquired on this line of thinking with one of the founders – he can’t believe it either.

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In the same light, CES bestowed a “BEST of Innovation” award this year to a fish finder that you can drop into a frozen lake on the end of a fishing line. I’m not disparaging this product, but if THIS is the height of innovation this year, we need to try harder.

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Here’s one for my dad, who blew up an oven once after broiling a steak when he forgot to turn off the burner when the meal was done (he closed the oven door … we had quite a fireworks show about 15 minutes later). Basically it’s a thermostat that, if it senses that very condition, will kill power to the appliance. I love you Dad!

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Swarovski: We bring the bling!

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I have a Quell pain relief device; I bought into their Kickstarted immediately after talking to them at CES last year. It’s amazing, and has done wonders for my knee (replacement 3 years ago) and significantly reduced the amount of pain meds I needed after shoulder surger this past May. It also helps make these long days on my feet at CES more bareable. I got a chance to talk to their CEO and one of their product managers, and I took the opportunity to both thank them for an amazing product and offer a few suggestions. They’re already working on a few tweaks and improvements, which should be out in a few months. Can’t wait! If you suffer from chronic pain, I can’t recommend Quell highly enough. And no, I’m not getting any kickbacks from them – this is my own personal opinion and experience. Your mileage may vary.

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3D printing is cool, and there’s even more stuff at CES this year than last. The quality is remarkably better this year too, and we’re starting to see products that allow printing of flexible cloth-like material, printing in color (faces, etc), and all sorts of other coolness with the advances in 3D scanning. Here’s just some of what was at CES this year, and yes – that red hand is a prototype from the project that’s developing 3D printed artifical limbs!

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No stay with me here … the company behind last year’s CES darling (and purveyor of awesome e-Ink mechanical display boards) ooVoo is called Krush, and this year they went all in on an emersive VR rig called Moveo. It’s a 3-axis motion pod combined with a Oculus display that allows the participant to do just about whatever the hell they want. It was a huge booth with an LED display ceiling (because why not) for a product that, and I quote a guy I talked to here, “doesn’t really have a business plan right now, but it’s been so popular we’re going to go figure one out next week.” Ah, that .COM bubble-era spirit is still alive!

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Really nice picture frame, but even more impressive is the completely flat power cable that you can paint over. I honestly didn’t even see the vertical run of the cable until I was about 6 inches from the wall (in the 3rd/bottom picture it’s running from the blank white wall plate up to the display).

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And home stuff. LOTS and lots of home stuff. So much stuff that everything interfered with everything else wirelessly (a couple of the demos I saw were having issues, and my Pebble Steel lost connectivity to my phone 4 times, rebooting once).

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Win 2 points of off a ping-pong champ from Argentina in a game to 11 and get a free device. Many attempted. I don’t think many succeeded.

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Incredibly awesome LED bulb that looks like an old-school filament. It was just being used as a display item, so I didn’t get any product details – but I did get a pic of the base of one. I can see this being a really popular item for certain design applications. They look fantastic.

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I might pick up one of these garage winches. Each will lift 100 pounds, and they’re controlled wirelessly from your phone. Even better, they’ll communicate with each other in a gang to lift heavier stuff, and they’ll adjust gearing to make sure the load is lifted evenly if the weight isn’t evenly distributed. Perfect for a bike or other stuff you may have lying around.

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Bosch: We make some of the things, and we also make things inside of lots of other things. We also make a fridge with cameras in it so you can see what you’re out of if you’re aleady at the store.

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And to round out the day, Microsoft. Only pseudo-officially at CES. No booth, just a crap-ton of rooms reserved for exec/partner meetings and a GIGANTIC sign.

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I’ll be posting a CES recap tomorrow. Time for a late dinner and packing up to head out in the morning.

Categories: technology Tags:

CES 2016 Day 2

January 7, 2016 Comments off

Today was an earlier start for the show than yesterday (9a vs 10a) and I took advantage of the fact that everybody else was out too late partying to get a bunch of the show floor knocked out before things got a lot busier later in the day. With that bonus time and some experience under my belt on how to best navigate the show floor, I was successful in knocking out the rest of Tech East at CES 2016 (the Convention Center).

I started out getting the last bit of the Central Hall at LVCC that I missed yesterday after my unfortunate crash and burn. Thankfully my knee was in decent condition this morning; swollen and a bit sore to be sure, but functional.

I got a quick view of the Samsung area without half a billion people in it. Pretty impressive!

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Nerd porn alert, as always, from the Celestron booth. Good grief some of those telescopes are huge! It’s amazing how much tech is on those things too, from image capture and stabalization, to tracking, etc. It’s not just a couple of lenses in there.

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I spent some time in the Sony area and, since there weren’t a ton of people yet, actually got to talk to a few folks about what they were showing off. We’ve got a ~4 year old (?) 55” Sony Bravia hanging on the wall at home, and the image quality is superb, but some of these new panels put ours to shame. I don’t think Sony had anything that wasn’t 4K on display, to be honest … and now that I think about it I don’t think many others did either (unless it was a display on a fridge…). Also notable was a front projection screen that is meant to sit right infront of the wall it’s displaying on. WOW did it look nice, and a cool form factor too.

I also got to see their GoPro competitor Action Cam line; the image stabilization was really incredible (I got to hold a camera with a live viewfinder and give it a good shake). I think I still prefer GoPro from a physical format perspective since Sony’s cameras are like a pack of cigarettes on it’s side with the lens pointing forward from the top, vs. GoPro’s smaller rectangle with the lens on the wider front surface. I’m sure you could find applications for both physical formats, and I’m sure the tech specs are very similar – other than that image stabilization.

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Driving simulators are everywhere at CES this year, even for companies that I can’t figure out what their relationship to cars is. I’m guessing Konica was showing off the screens???

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I saw probably 5 or 6 floating speakers today. I guess they’re all copying the one that I believe won a CES innovation award last year. INNOVATION!😐

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Kodak: We’re not dead yet either! What can we make you? You want a drone? How about an action cam? Oh, maybe a Virtual Reality rig? What else are the kids into these days? PLEASE LOVE US AGAIN – it was cold, dark, and scary in the land of dispair and bankruptcy, we don’t want to go back. Can you just give us a hug or something?

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Samsung Gear lemmings (the seats moved with the VR action). Pass – I wasn’t impressed when I tried this out at Faraday’s booth yesterday.

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Qualcom: We don’t make the things, we make the things inside the things. All the things.

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Intel: If Qualcom didn’t make the things in your things, we probably did. We also have cool statues in our area. Oh, and our driving simulator has a camera that watches you so we can shift the field of vision as you turn your head (that was pretty cool).

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Creative: We have to be creative because we’re really just selling the same stuff we always have, but our marketing makes it look like it’s all new.

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And now, I bring you “CES 2016: Attack of the Drones”. They were everywhere, though thankfully behind nets so they couldn’t destroy us. Big ones, small ones, all sorts of colors and lights. I will say they were all much quiter than last year. Also, I *really* enjoyed the breeze from the rotor wash – quite refreshing.

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Cool gear from Razer for multimedia (mic and 3D video capture)

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The cutest little NAS you’ve ever seen (takes 2.5” laptop-sized drives) from Synology. They also had a fancy home WiFi router that does just about everything you could want (including inbound VPN to the home and IPv6 support), plus it can do “beamforming” to direct a better signal to where your device is. I’m sure math is involved, and I’m sure I won’t understand how it works. $149 coming in April. It was already out elsewhere in the world (thanks FCC!).

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Duracell: We’re not just batteries. We’re all sorts of other cheap crap we can pay someone to put our name on too.

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Linksys had a nice booth, though a bit blue. Their new WiFi range extenders have a really cool app that helps you figure out optimal placement (not too close to waste the extender, but not too far to have a weak signal itself to deal with.

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The e-Ink both was also very cool. Not just Kindles. Their bigger displays (think a menu board or orther big display) were frankly stunning. They’ve got curved/flexible stuff too.

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Optical lens anyone? Any size – it was there.

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Lots of outdoors gear, especially solar powered charging panels. Seems to be coming of age. I really liked the little mini lantern from GoalZero. Folding stand, dimmer, you can turn on just half of it if you want, it can charge something via USB, it’s magnetic on the bottom to stick to something, and it has a tripod mount. A great little gadget to keep in a car’s emergency kit.

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Cool hearing protection gear for construction sites.

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“No” or “Meanwhile in Japan…”

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Tribe has some really cool gear. Might need to get some. They mostly sell through retailers like Best Buy, Macy’s etc.

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These guys joked that Microsoft should just buy them after learning I work on Sharpoint. At least, I think they were joking… ?

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No.

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I’ve got 3 people who work from me that are remote (work from home 2000 miles away). These rigs from Beam were very intriguing, and sure would be better than our current solution of locked down Microsoft Surface RT’s running Skype. We might not get the “mega” model, though – it might not fit in our hallway. I got to drive one around in Kansas City from here in Vegas and terrorize a couple of their employees in their support office. FUN!

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Leyard’s LED displays were absolutely stunning. This one has a 1.6mm dot pitch, and from just a few feet away you couldn’t tell it was LED (looked like a regular screen). No heat, super thin, very bright. I wish these were available when our church put in screens in our sanctuary, these would have been perfect. Too bad at the time the LED screen tech wasn’t nearly as nice. They even have panels that with a 0.9mm dot pitch, and some with a glass overlay that provides touch input. WOW!

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NASA!!!

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Very spiffy activity tracker and semi-smart device (notifications, etc.) from Garmin. Only $150 for a touch-enabled device that has most of the features of the Microsoft Band; a much better pricepoint than the $250 device we sell in my opinion. They’re still making GPS units too!

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+10 points to Happy Plugs for product packaging design: earbuds that look like musical eighth notes.

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I FOUND THE REMOTES YOU’VE ALL LOST OVER THE YEARS!

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Yet another new USB plug format – I’m suprised they went bigger given the trend to shrink everything.

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Seriously though, this booth was from Pilot Brand that has come up with a AA battery where the positive (pointy) end is held on by a magnet – remove it and it exposes a USB plug so you can recharge the battery. They also came up with a great way to expense a Ferrari. Cool!

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Sennheiser had a good both, including a 3D microphone to help you create VR experiences.

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Many people felt like this guy, so the massage chair booths were very popular.

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Star of the show at LVCC: AT&T’s WiFi network kicked ass. I uploaded all my photos to OneDrive and Google Photos yesterday and today very quickly. Unfortunately there’s no AT&T WiFi in the South Hall, so I walked back over to Central to do today’s upload.

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To round out the day I decided to treat myself with a solo test drive of a BMW 750i. The gesture control of the radio, heads up display, comfort, and raw power of this beast were remarkable. I need one. Not want … NEED.

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Categories: technology Tags:

CES 2016 Day 1

January 6, 2016 Comments off

Today was the first day of the main show, and I saw a ton. I started off over at the Tech East area, also known as the Las Vegas Convention Center. I hit the North Hall first, and then made it through most of the Central Hall before I had an unfortunate accident and slipped on a wet floor, crashing down and slamming my bad knee into the concrete. Not cool since I had a knee replacement 3 years ago. Needless to say that cut my day a bit short as I got some ice and pain meds and made my way back to the hotel. Rest assured I’ll finish up the Central Hall tomorrow (Sony and a few other big booths to finish up).

Another note – I wrote a LOT last year, and it kept me up long into the evening. I’m going to try to just post a bunch of pics this year and do some limited commentary and snarkery. Hopefully I can get more sleep, and hopefully you can forgive me for not writing an epic tome.

I got to the show before the main doors open, so I got to be part of the early crowd that flooded in right at 10am. There were a ton of people in the loby, and several companies had displays out there separate from thair main booths. Engadget had a stage for interviews and some seating – much appreciated. They also have a charging station where you can secure your device behind a locked door while it’s filling up. Pretty cool!

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10am – ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH!

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Thule – we’re more than expensive stuff on your car’s roof.

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Last year I killed the battery in my point-and-shoot camera on day 1 and nearly drained my phone using it as a camera. This year I’ve got a couple batteries I’m carying with me. This would would have matched the R2-D2 case on my phone a little closer, though.

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I was very impressed with the Libratone speakers. They sound amazing, and you can network them together throughout your home. Lots of different sizes, and they’ve got batteries so you can have portable tunes. Check them out if you’re in this market.

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Noke had a really impressive bike lock that doesn’t have a physical key – rather it’s unlocked by your phone. That also means you can share a “digital key” with your buddy and they can borrow your bike one time or on a schedule you set. Pretty cool if that’s something that you think you’d need. If not, they have Bluetooth padlocks too!

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Toast from Portland, OR was displaying some incredibly intricate laser-cut wood designs that you can put on phones, laptops, etc. While you probably need to have a bit of patience and a steady hand to install them, they’re well worth the time. They’ve even got one for the Microsoft Surface Book that covers the flexible hinge! I’ll definitely be checking out their stuff when I get home and making an order.

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There are A LOT of booths like this.

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So how do you get people interested in your stuff if everybody else makes the same thing? CaseLogic served coffee. It was a popular booth earlier in the day.

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I’ve always been a fan of Ogio’s bags, so I spent a few minutes drooling. My wife loves them too, and even has one of the handbag models.

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If the standard Xbox controller is too small for your liking, perhaps this waist-high model will suit your needs.

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I’d never live with myself if I bought one, but PureGear gave me one for free. It’s Bluetooth too. LOOK OUT WORLD!

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Incipio had a nice booth too.

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I’ve you’ve got a Macbook, check out Henge Docks. These are really cool, and quite similar to the design that Microsoft uses for our Surface tablet docks (simply extending all the various power, USB, and other ports into the device). They also have a traditional flat model too if you want to use your laptop keyboard.

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Iottie has a pretty clever design for a power station launching soon. It’s a Qi wireless charging dock that you can put your phone on (many Android and Windows phones support wireless charging natively, but there are also cases, etc. that can enable your non-wireless device – cough – iPhone – cough). But it goes further – there’s a 4000mAh portable battery that fits in the middle and also charges wirelessly, and they’re thinking of LCD displays that could show notifications or the time that could also plug into the mix. Very cool indeed.

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Otter Box – cool booth, big cases, and across the aisle Incipio was letting people trying to destroy an iPhone “dunk tank” style to show their stuff isn’t half bad either. Lifeproof was next door too.

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When I travel I have a lot of tech gear and gadgets that I typically bring around, and not a great way to keep it organized and protected. I need to get some of these little padded “Safe Pockets”. They look perfect.

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Next up was the auto tech area. This is a mix of car makers showing of new tech, component makers selling to the car makers and other customizers, and speaker/audio companies with booth babes cranking bass-y beats too loud. Here’s a sampling of the swanky stuff (and Volkswagen hoping you forget they’re purposefully killing the planet – Think New … or at least think about something else!).

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Dodge had a full-sized car as a driving simulator that actually moved (leaned side to side and forward and back). The guy driving when I walked by was INTENSE.

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Ford had a self-driving Fusion with 4 cameras on the roof spinning around a a high rate of speed. You could see the computing powere in the trunk, and on a screen above the car you could see the car’s view of all the people standing around. I’m the orange one. Winking smile

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Lastly, I’d be remiss to leave out the new media darling from Faraday Future, the FFZERO1 concept car that is supposed to be giving Tesla a run for their money. And money it will surely take you – this think looks EXPENSIVE! They had a crappy VR experience that I tried – it was a Samsung rig. Video quality sucked and the experience of driving through a couple different sci-fi worlds left me ever so slightly nauseated. Meh – stick to the car, guys.

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I headed over to the Central Hall next at the Convention Center and jumped into the fray at LG’s gigantic area. Pictures can’t do these new TVs justice – they’re absolutely beautify and incredibly thin. But I have no intnention of going out and buying one just for the sake of upgrading – the content delivery of 4K, HDR, etc. just isn’t there. But if you need to get a new TV and have the means, I highly recommend a 4K OLED screen from LG or Samsung.

LG also had a bunch of home appliances (because all these companies took the Best Buy model long ago). LG’s new thing there is a dual-washer, replacing the drawer in the pedestal with another washing unit because … they could. There’s also a door-in-door setup for their fridges now, which I guess makes sense for my kids who find it impossible to see behind a small bag of carrots to what’s back on the shelf.

LG also had a very cool model display where they were showing off cell phone camera features. I thought the display was cool – a good camera in a smartphone is table steaks these days.

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And behold, because 4K content isn’t even mainstream yet let’s go 8K!

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TiVo was there, and I got to thank them for back-porting some of the very cool new features from the new Bolt device to the older Roamio series, especially QuickPlay (running a show at 1.3X speed while keeping audio at the right pitch – no chipmonks). New from them is the ability to stream recorded content to an Amazon Fire or Fire Stick. Much cheaper than their TiVo Mini, and in theory it will work over the Internet. COOL! Oh, and the automatic commercial skipping feature from the Bolt is rolling out to Roamio users hopefully soon too – already live in San Franciso as a test market.

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Victrola – remember us? WE’RE NOT DEAD YET! Here, have some retro designs.

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I was shocked to not see more of this crap this year – but there’s always tomorrow. Hello, kitty.

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Drones!!! I’m sure I’ll see more of these over the next 2 days (I overheard there’s 3X more floor space for drones this year over last), but market leader DJI was the first I saw. I enjoyed the breeze from the blades.

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People still look stupid with VR glasses on, even if the glasses are “sleek and stylish.”

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Tonly had a speaker with a floating tweeter unit on it because … reasons.

 

AR (Acoustic Research), known for super high end speakers, was displaying some of the first outdoor speakers that look really nice – and not like a rock. Speaking of AR, they were part of a hugh complex of displays from a parent company. Pretty common these days.

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Great tag line from Klipsch.

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Had a great chat with some folks in the GoPro booth. I got a Hero 4 Silver for Christmas (thanks Amex points!) and did some time lapse videos on my drive to Vegas. I’ll do a blog post on that soon. Was able to provide a couple product suggestions that were well received too! They had some impressively massive LED displays that wowed the crowd with their quality … and I guess the content too. One was a the size of half a tennis court!

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I took a trip through the Nikon booth for camera porn. They didn’t disappoint.

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Marley Speakers are absolute works of art, and sound great too. Worth a look. The little ones look like drums (of course lots of things look like drums to me – I’m a drummer).

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The Samsung are was rediculously packed and horribly designed for traffic flow (unlike LG’s area). That said, I couldn’t tell the two companies’ products apart if there wasn’t a label. The massive screen on a fridge looks a dumb as you think it would.

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Microsoft in the house!!! (at Samsung’s PC/tablet table)

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Corning “invented” a giant “surface” that’s a touch computer. Gee, why didn’t we think of that? Oh yeah, we did that almost a decade ago.

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New Segway “ninebot” that was demo’d at the Intel keynote last night.

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And then it was crash and burn time. Janitorial staff at LVCC are assholes (it was effectively my fault for slipping, according to the idiot who was standing outside the restroom that had no slippery floor signage but had water everywhere). CES Info Booth people and LVCC first aid team were awesome and hooked me up with some ice, pain meds, and a trip in a wheelchair to the front of the taxi line (complete with embarrasment on my part). MEH! I’ve got a nasty lump on my knee where I basically pile drove it into the floor, but I don’t think anything is actually broken.

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Time to find some late dinner and hang out with my wife’s Aunt who’s in town tonight to see Celiene in concert. Here’s to a better day tomorrow!

Categories: technology Tags:

CES 2016 Day 0: Intel Keynote

January 5, 2016 Comments off

I’m back in Vegas for CES 2016! I had a blast last year and was, in typical Microsoft fashion, “super excited” to get a chance to come back this year. Special thanks to my wife for giving me the thumbs up to take the trip (and leave her alone with the kiddos)! Smile

Unlike last year, the Keynote day this year is Tuesday – with the show floors open Wednesday through Saturday. Last year it was Monday Keynotes, and show floor Tuesday through Friday. I mention this all to say that while I knew the schedule had slipped a day, I screwed up my travel plans and still arrived here in Vegas on Monday and I need to leave on Saturday. MEH! I’ll have to walk faster and be a bit more discerning on where I spend my time on the floors, no sleeping in, and no leaving early. Rest assured, dear readers, I’ll still find the cool stuff for you!

I learned from folks last year who tried to do the Samsung Keynote and then the Mercedes Keynote that it’s impossible to actually do both. While there’s an hour between, there are always long lines at both, the venue will run out of space, and the first one always goes long. So while last year I went to the second session for Mercedes at the Cosmopolitan, this year I went to the first Keynote from Intel at the Venetian.

If you want a full blow-by-blow journalistic accounting of the event, you should check out The Verge’s live blog of the Keynote. They had better seats than I did. Winking smile That said, here are the cool things that caught my attention.

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One of the big themes of the whole presentation was movement, and translating that data into experiences – from drawing to sports to music to drones to the workplace. Intel was showing off technologies that allow people to be “smart and connected”, provided a “sensification of computing” (their word, not mine), and that is “an extension of you. One of the key pieces of tech that powers a lot of what was show is Intel’s Curie platform, a $10 “system on a chip” or SOC that’s about the size of a shirt button (and not one of those crazy big ones either). There were demonstrations across three areas: sports and gaming, health and wellness, and creativity.

20160106_023130920_iOSBefore all that Intel CEO and un-energetic speaker Brian Krzanich said some stuff (marketing blah blah blah) and showed a video of some drones doing a light show in the night sky to the soundtrack of a live orchestra playing Beethoven’s 9th. Chef Boring Officer Krazanich went on to say that Inntel had “completely redefined the firework experience.” Look buddy, I know marketing BS when I hear it, and nothing exploded. Move along.

The first demo was a preeminent professional gamer who thanked her Intel sponsor for building a CPU that’s even better than the last generation. No shit?!? She then went to a console and threw down some action in Rainbow Six Siege, broadcast on Twitch, and with her image in the lower-left corner of the display. It was actually cool, using Intel’s RealSense camera tech it superimposed her on top of the gaming action like she was standing in front of a green screen (which she definitely wasn’t). I can see that being useful for teleconferences from my home office where I can crop out the rest of the room (my home office got turned into a playroom a decade ago – it’s typically a disaster area of toys).

Next came some more camera wizardry with some extra software that allows you to have a lifelike head on your avatar in a game, in this example Fallout 4. Cool factor, but not really my thing.

Blending e-gaming and real-gaming there was a demo of the freeD platform that lets you seamlessly switch between lots of different camera angles during the middle of a replay. It may have actually been letting you create your own camera angle and the software was figuring out how to render the real action from that position, but the demo was quick and that wasn’t super obviously. Cool if true, but not something I see the average Joe doing from his couch on Sunday afternoon. Maybe the NFL could use that for their instant replay system, though…?

Next came some stuff about that aforementioned Curie chip. ESPN is going to be using them at the Winter X Games coming up later in January on all the athletes’ boards/skis/whatevers. They’ve linked that up with a transmitter that should let you see what’s going on in realtime on TV. There was a demonstration of some BMX bikers doing tricks, including jumping over the Intel CEO. There was also a free runner from Red Bull – but they were too coy about what they were actually announcing to be worth saying much.

 

20160106_030725469_iOSYuneec showed off their coming-soon Typhoon H autonomous multi-rotor drone. That was pretty cool actually – it can follow you or stay in front of you, keeping its 4K camera pointed in your direction. But beyond that, it leverages an onboard CPU plus RealSense cameras to make sure it doesn’t run into anything or anyone while it tries to follow you. They had someone ride through “the woods” on my side of the auditorium and they dropped a fake tree at the drone – it missed it. Pretty spiffy!

Oakley announced a new integrated device on some *really* expensive sunglasses that keeps track of your training activities and then takes that data one step further and actually gives you coaching about pace, what routes you should do on your next training run, etc. “Radar Pace” from Oakley is effectively a personal coach that interprets all that data you’ve been tracking and helps you decide what to do with/about it. The athlete demoing it was a 3-time triathlon champion, so his next workout was a 15 mile run, with 1200 feet of climbing over 12 medium hills. Said Krzanich, “Thank God that’s customized for you!” Amen brother.

Then came New Balance who, after a brief history lesson of the company and announcing the creation of a new Digital Sport division, let us know that not only are they 3D printing shoes but they’re also working with Intel to develop the ability to take 3D scans of your feet and then custom print shoes molded to your exact needs. Oh, they’re also going to launch a wearable (smart watch) for holiday 2016 because … well, everybody else is doing it so why not us?

20160106_032506600_iOSA company call Daqri was up next with their Smart Helmet, which started shipping today. Frankly I think this is what Microsoft’s HoloLens is going after for a business application. The demo is someone wearing the helmet in an industrial setting, with the device digitizing and recording analog dial readings, diagnosing problems, and suggesting issues for the wearer to go fix (and instructions on how to do it). Ikea should have these at the impulse buy stations right before the checkout line so you can get help putting that stuff together.

Next up was creativity.

I’m sorry, but I wasn’t impressed at all. AH Rahman was on stage to show how you could use Curie-enabled devices strapped to your hands and feet to make music. As a musician I can tell you the demo bombed – it was misfiring all over the place, or more accurately not firing when intended. We were promised he’d be back for more. Please no.

There was some weird video announcement about a partnership with the Recording Academy (The Grammy’s), Lady Gaga, and Intel that would be announced during the Grammy’s in February. Consider me uninterested. The teaser video left me more confused than inspired, and frankly seemed to be featuring Lady Gaga’s ego more than anything else. She’s an incredible singer, but I don’t get her act. Then again, I’ve long ago aged out of her target audience.

20160106_033501650_iOSAlso in the Creativity section (huh?) was a very cool Segway robot from ninebot. This was used at the beginning of the show too as a “hoverboard” kind of device. The big moment of the whole show is when the thing went from personal transportation device to robot. Arms were added. “Are those my arms? Awesome!” says the robot. Teehee. We shall call him HAL. We’ll all be obsolete, if not dead within 5 years. 2016 is the year our robot overlords start to take over, and it starts with a good joke so we think they’re funny and can’t hurt us. MARK MY WORDS, HUMANITY! SDK coming later this year, with a consumer product “after that.”

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20160106_034845940_iOSNext up was an announcement for a new TV show called America’s Greatest Makers, coming to TBS this Spring. Chris Hardwick was on the video and asked us all to admire his giant head on the screen, and reminded us to use hand sanitizer to prevent Nerd Flu while at CES. I like Chris, and I’m excited to see where this show goes. I think he’s hosting? AmericasGreatestMakers.com. Very cool.

Intel chose to spend about 15 minutes of Keynote “capital” on some very important topics, focusing on The Human Experience. I was disappointed to see some folks start ditching the session at this point, but to me I think this content was some of the most important for our industry and I can only hope that other companies (including mine – Microsoft) keep pushing the bar here.

20160106_035313782_iOSDiversity. Intel made a big commitment to diversity in both hiring and retention last year for women and minorities. More importantly, they tied everybody’s pay to making sure they did just that – great idea! They exceeded their 40% goal for hiring (43%) and their retention rate was the same as “non-diverse employees” (white guys?). Kudos Intel! New goals will be announced for this year soon.

20160106_035351084_iOSHarassment. Intel’s CEO took a very explicit stand against the turd brains on the Internet who use the anonymity of the ecosystem to empower them to be complete assholes. “There are real people out there behind ever comment, tweet, etc.,” he said. We need to make the Internet a “safer and more inclusive online experience for everyone.” Amen.

Lastly, Krzanich broached the touchy topic of “conflict metals”. Everything in tech relies on some pretty specific and rare metals and other materials that can only be found in certain places on Earth. Unfortunately, one of those places is the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Mining these minerals is one of the few industries left in that area, and there are some nasty people profiting 20160106_035845647_iOSfrom exploiting people and resources there. While some may consider a boycott of those goods the way to go (ala conflict diamonds), Intel has chosen to remain engaged in the trade there to keep at least some positive industry going for the people, while at the same time investing heavily in programs on the ground to help address the political and humanitarian issues. Whatever your opinion on the right course of action, kudos to Intel for not turning a blind eye. All Intel products will be “conflict free”, and there will be a certified logo to look for in the next few months (guessing they’re trying to push this across the industry). Intel is also supporting a documentary called Merci Congo, by Paul Friedman. It comes out in a few months, and we go to see part of the trailer. Definitely one to watch. Check out http://www.mercicongo.com/ (though currently the site appears down) or https://twitter.com/MerciCongo.

20160106_040456158_iOSThe show closed with another musical performance from AR Rahman and a chorus of other singers and musicians.

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It was bad. Here’s a great summary: http://www.theverge.com/2016/1/6/10721532/intel-ces-2016-keynote-jai-ho

That’s all for me tonight! Off to the show tomorrow!

Categories: technology Tags:

It’s Alive! Open Live Writer

December 9, 2015 Comments off

While it’s pretty obvious that I don’t write all that often (not for lack of want, trust me), there’s one application that I’ve always made sure to install when I do want to get something on my blog: Windows Live Writer.

Unfortunately, Windows Live is dead (long live Windows Live!) and the the only way to get Windows Live Writer has been to figure out where to find the Essentials installer and then remember to remove the apps that don’t work anymore or have been replaced (i.e. everything but Writer). It’s a pain in the ass. Oh, and the app hasn’t been updated in years.

Today a new era has dawned – Open Live Writer is on the air! Brought to us by a crew of volunteers at Microsoft who work tirelessly to get the app converted to open source (yay team!), we now know that the best offline blogging tool will live on into the future. HUZZAH!

Check out http://openlivewriter.org/ for more info and to grab the bits.

CES 2015: Day 3 Report

January 8, 2015 Comments off

It. Is. Finished. I survived CES 2015 and walked the vast majority of the expo show floors. If you haven’t read my other posts about this year’s Consumer Electronics Expo, check them out…

Since on the last 2 days I meandered through Tech East at the Las Vegas Convention Center, today was Tech West at the Sands Expo Center and the Venetian. Major themes at Tech West include health and fitness tech, education/kids, 3D printing, and wearable’s. Lots of brands I recognized where there, as well as some really cool startups. Here are some of the products and companies that caught my attention.

DSCN0718 First off is the Girl Scouts of America – specifically their cookies, and not the browser tracking kind either. No free samples, but they were showing off their new online ordering system. Most importantly I registered to win a year’s supply of cookies … though I’m not sure 52 boxes of Thin Mints would quite be enough.😉 I didn’t order any cookies yet, since I don’t know my local troop number to credit the purchase to (or get the delivery from), but I’m sure I’ll be placing an order REAL soon.

Next up was a startup called Switftpoint, and their modern take on theDSCN0720 computer mouse called the Swiftpoint GT. Retailing for $129, this sweet little device naturally fits in your fingers and prompts a hand posture that’s similar to holding a pen, with your hand more vertical than the traditional mouse orientation where your palm is flatter to the surface of the desk. I was skeptical before picking it up, but was pleasantly surprised at how nice the device felt. Now you’re not  paying that much for a mouse just because it’s small, you’re paying because it allows you to apply touch DSCN0721gestures to any computer, regardless of whether you have a touchscreen or not. Simply tilt the device slightly on it’s right edge and you invoke gesture mode, allowing you to scroll the screen and trigger swipe-in/up features in your OS and apps. The device runs on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, and the rechargeable battery (charges from the USB dongle/dock) lets you run for about a month. Check out their website for a video of how it works. They were offering a purchase onsite discount of $30, but I couldn’t quite talk myself into puling the trigger. That’s the Swiftpoint GT in my hand in the picture on the right. It’s right-handed only right now, though someone else did ask about a lefty model while I was standing there. Sounds like they’re wanting to get off the ground a bit more before they invest in “designing” a left-handed version (what’s to design? just flip/mirror the design in your app!).

DSCN0723 Next up to catch my eye was a set of toys to help teach kids about shapes, counting, and words. Tiggly combines 3 interactive apps plus shape kits that interact with those apps. For example, if the Chef asks for 4 strawberries your child can put down the “3” shape (the app senses it via your iPad or Android tablet’s touchscreen) and then the “1” shape. The shapes themselves simply conduct your bioelectric current to the screen – no batteries required. Think of the shapes as really fancy passive tablet pens. I could see our 3 year old at home really having fun with this, so I’m sure we’ll be getting these at home soon. The counting and shapes toys are available now, with the vowel toys coming this Spring. All the apps are free, so you’re just buying the toys. Counting toys work with 3 different apps: Tiggly Chef uses the counting toys to help make the Chef’s recipies, Tiggly Addventure teaches basic math like matching and counting. The shape toys work with Tiggly Safari, Tiggly Stamp, and Tiggly Draw.

There were a few vendors going after the kid market from a different angle, specifically through their parents who want to track where the heck their kids are. DSCN0742 HereO is a cool-looking watch designed for kids 3+ to wear. It has GPS and a GSM (cellular) radio to ping back to the service the location of your child. HereO’s service runs $5/month per device and includes a smartphone app so you can receive alerts when you child gets home from school or leaves the neighborhood (you can set up both safe zones where the watch stops pinging location (say at home or at school) as well as boundaries it shouldn’t leave. You can of course also see where they are on a map via their app. They’re also working on the ability to send voice messages to (and from?) the watch. Devices and services anyone?🙂 The watches come in several different colors and are downscaled to not be too bulky on your little one.

Paxie ditches the watch face but grows substantially in size and features, letting you track not only your rug rat’s location out in the hood, but can also tell you how cold it is out side so you know to make sure they put their jacket back on and keeps track of their heartrate and step/activity metrics. The band comes with multiple wraps so you can change the look of the device to match their outfit, which is critical for the discerning 4 year old.

DSCN0760 There was even a baby tracker for paranoid parents who get scared during nap time. No GPS on this device though, so if baby crawls away from your neighborhood you’re screwed.😉

DSCN0727 If you want to turn the tables, you can have technology become your mother for you by using the Mother system. Effectively this is a combination of special tag devices that are sensed by the central control unity (i.e. Mother), who relays the data gathered to a series of apps. You can use this to remind yourself to take your pills (and where you left them), get a notice when your kids get home from school (just leave a tag in their backpack), know how warm each room in the house is, and how well you brush your teeth. I don’t get it, but the booth was packed and this won lots of awards at CES last year. Now where did I put my pills…?
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If you want to teach your kids coding basics with markers you can do that too with the Ozobot. This booth had a lot of interest – and it was a great little toy. Just draw a path with a marker on a clean sheet of paper and the little robot follows it. Use different colors to make the device do different things, from changing colors on the LED light to turning directions, spinning around, etc. At intersections it randomly decides which way to go. The company has instruction sheets online, as well as premade sheets you can print out and use. Even adults can use it to drive a drinking game.😉 The robot will also work on tablets (they’ve got an app to make it easy, but any drawing app should do). Might have to add this one to family game night.
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DSCN0726 I saw a few different variations on this theme as well – an audio headset that doesn’t actually sit in your ears. Instead these products sit right in front of your ears, but still produce vibrations that your ears can sense and translate into your favorite tunes. This is actually a great idea and I could see this being helpful for people who want to listen to music while out running or biking but still be able to hear what’s going on in their environment.
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DSCN0732 If you want to freak out the cat, or perhaps replace your cat with something that doesn’t vomit hairballs all over the house, might I suggest WowWee’s Roboraptor. This little guy reacts to it’s surroundings, including your voice commands or an app on your smartphone. You can play fetch, scare it and have it shake in fear, have it chase you around the house, or go after the cat. Looks like fun … but not for the cat.

Speaking of fun, the Panono Ball Camera looks really cool, even if the DSCN0739name does make me giggle like a 12 year old. It’s a softball-sized sphere with 36 cameras embedded inside that automatically takes a snapshot of every angle at the apex of your throw above the action. What’s captured my attention was their app that lets you view the resulting 108 megapixel image on a tablet leveraging the tablet’s accelerometers to pivot around the image from the point of view of the ball. Want to look to the right, turn yourself to the right. It was really addicting to play with in their iPad at the booth. There’s also a web viewer. Their goal is to let you view a low-res version of a pic from your tablet to make sure it’s a good shot, then upload the full versions via USB later, rather then waiting for the full image to download over Bluetooth. Storage is 400 pics. I joked about not catching the ball … the engineer suggested that it would really be best if it was caught.😉 Shipping this coming Spring, and there’s an optional tripod mount if throwing a $550 device up in the air sounds like a bad idea. They’ve got some samples up on their website.

I was impressed by the smart credit card solutions displayed by Dynamics. DSCN0737Essentially they have a programmable credit card format that can be custom-tailored to your needs. One model I got to play with is a pin-secured card that won’t work unless you put the right code in, and only then does it show the whole cc number and unlock the magnetic swipe *and* the contact chip *and* NFC tap-to-pay capability. There’s another option to have a dynamic CVC2 code generated for each online transaction. Pretty spiffy. Good demo video on their website.

DSCN0758 One of the little booths I stopped by had a prototype of a USB3-based network switch that allows TCP/IP Ethernet connectivity over USB3. $200 let’s you connect 2 machines at 5Gbps – not too shabby! Check out www.devellab.com if you’re interested. They won a CES Innovation Award and are looking to launch via a Kickstarter round in the next month or two. Nice guys too – they talked me up about how awesome and easy the Windows platform was to work with to develop their solution on, and their demo was with a Surface Pro 3!

For my mom I took a quick spin around Brother’s booth to see some really cool-looking fabric/sewing devices for cutting intricate patterns and embroidery. My mom has a long-arm quilting machine permanently sitting in my folks’ formal dining room, so it’s a good thing she wasn’t here with me – she’d still be talking the Brother reps ears off.😉 And I just thought they made little label printers…
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DSCN0801Next up was another gadget that will likely make it home to my house at some point in the near future – the Grillbot. It’s effectively a Roomba for your grill. Just sent it for the desired run time (10, 20, 30 minutes), close the lid, and go play with the kids – or do whatever’s next on your chore list. 

Another really cool tech that drew me in was Quell. This is a medical device that, in CNet’s words, “hacks your brain to relieve chronic pain.” I had a partial left knee replacement 2 years ago, and while it’s way better than any point in the last 2 decades, I still get a lot of aches and pains in the joint – especially as I get more active now that my knee actually works well. The Quell pain relief system is based on TENS therapy that uses small electric currents to trigger a blocking response to pain wherever it originates from in your body. It’s going to be available this Spring, is FDA approved, and should retail for about $250. Color me VERY interested.
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One of the biggest trends at Tech West was 3D printing and scanning. I’ve head of MakerBot before, but that was about it. This is definitely a big trend for everything from home decor to DIY toys to industrial design/prototyping/production. There were even solutions to allow printing circuit paths in your creation, as demonstrated by a 3D printed drone. Effectively all of these 3D printers do the same thing – take plastic filament of various colors and textures (think of big weed whacker string spools) and then melt/extrude the substance into a pre-defined design. Some of the creations were simply amazing, including a full band (drums, guitar, and bass), a recliner, and lots more. There’s even edible medium that can be used to create deserts, cakes, etc. YUM! Here’s some of what I saw…
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Other cool pics from the show floor:
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No celebrity sightings today, but there was this guy who could hold his breath for along time. Didn’t stay to see how long, but saw him meditating to slow down his heart rate, etc. Tech tie-in was that they stuck a oxygen and heart rate monitor on his finger.😉DSCN0817

I’ll leave you tonight with a cool display wall for the OoVoo booth (they do IM, voice, video conferencing – evidently that’s a thing again.😉 Not sure what this display had to do with the product, but the tech itself was mesmerizing to watch.

 

Daily miles walked: 6.1

Cumulative CES miles walked: 28.1 (more coming later tonight for dinner and the Beatles LOVE show over at the Mirage)

CES 2015: Day 2 Report

January 7, 2015 1 comment

If you’re just joining us, this is the 4th post in my CES 2015 series. You can see the others here…

    Today my goal was to complete my walkthrough of CES 2015’s Tech East at the Las Vegas Convention Center and Westgate. Yesterday I got through the South and Central Halls at LVCC, so today my goal was to hit the North Hall and the booths at Westgate … after I hit the BMW experience in the South parking lot.

The show floors opened an hour earlier today at 9a, but since I’ve decided that I’m swearing off alarm clocks for this trip I headed down to the LV Monorail station at my hotel about 9:15. The line this morning was WAY longer than yesterday morning, but I was on my way after about 20 minutes. Not too shabby, and way faster than the queues for the bus shuttles or taxies.

DSCN0682 Unlike yesterday, I knew exactly where I was going when I got to the convention center and made a B-line straight for the gigantic BMW tent next to the monorail station. And unlike the monorail, there really wasn’t a huge line. They had i8 concepts to show off and some pretty spiffy tech to help you manage your car and plan your day. Ze Germans were friendly and efficient in their demos and their queue management.

In no time I had signed up for a test drive and was escorted out to the lot where I got a briefing on BMW’s new i3 all-electric hatchback. I even got a demo of autonomous driving integration where you could summon your car to you with a smartwatch. This thing is like a mini Bat Mobile!

20150107_181928140_iOS The vehicle I was escorted to was a copper/brown i3 (not shown – obviously – I trust you to find a picture online if you’re really interested). I’m a big guy; it’s a small car. I was prepared for the worst. I remembered to at least slide the driver’s seat all the way back before trying to sit down, but once I did get it in I was shocked to discover I had plenty of room. I even scooted the seat up just a tad. The seat was comfortable and supportive in the right ways, and didn’t pinch my sides like some car brands like to do (I’m looking at you, Subaru). I wouldn’t want to sit in the i3 for several hours on a road trip, but then again that’s not the target for this car.

The vehicle is 100% electric – no gas engine for recharging or hybrid mode. You plug this puppy in and it provides ~80 miles of range on a full charge. You can charge it from a regular wall outlet or from a high-powered charging station. I’ve got a ~25 mile one-way commute so in theory I would do fine on my regular daily commutes. Days when I need to make multiple trips for kids’ activities or multiple services at church would be a stretch and would require making sure I had an outlet handy mid-day to top off. An annoyance, but hey – I’m more than happy to have Microsoft pay to charge my car while it’s in the parking deck.😉 Note, according to BMW’s website there is an extended range model that gives you 150 miles. If I was buying one I’d spring for that one ($46K base versus $41K base MSRP).

20150107_175442604_iOS Unlike the original Prius, which confused me so much when I first got one as a rental down at LAX that I had to search the Hertz lot for an attendant to tell me how to start the damn car, the i3’s interface is very intuitive. A simple start/stop button and gear selector sits on the right-stalk area of the wheel column. The wheel itself is nice and open so visibility and accessibility to these critical controls is not a problem. The navigation interface is beautiful, as is the center display. The rest of the dash is minimalistic but smartly designed, made of composite and recycled materials.

20150107_180133652_iOS The whole care is actually made of composites and recycled stuff. The car feels properly firm and stiff when driven, but even with the batteries it weighs just 2700 pounds according to Jeff, my helpful BMW minder. The drive train also makes heavy use of regenerative braking to return as much kinetic energy into stored go-juice as it possibly can. I used to drive Ford’s Fusion Hybrid, which also used regenerative braking – but only when you actually pressed the brake pedal. With the i3 braking happens as soon as you take your foot off the gas. It’s noticeable and requires you to slightly modify your driving style to get used to it (i.e. keep your foot on the “gas” just a little bit if you want to coast). The cool thing is, though, that when you do lift off the go pedal the brake lights go on, so it’s not like you’re surprising the car behind you. In the stop-and-go traffic in the loop they let me drive around the LVCC complex on city streets I found myself rarely needing to actually step on the brake pedal.

I also found myself leaving significant distance between myself and the car ahead so I could drop the hammer on the i3’s powerhouse and see what happens. What happens is an instant response that throws you back in your seat. I didn’t have enough open road to go too fast, and to be sure we’re not talking about M-series acceleration, but it was FUN! As I told my wife, she’d love it – but probably nuke the battery after just a few miles. She loves putting her vehicle to the paces. I enjoyed being let loose with the car on my own and not having be chatted up by anyone. I guess BMW figures there’s not much risk of anyone getting too far with limited range.🙂

If you want some more info on the i3 here’s a great CNET article from here CES 2015 entitled “I tried and failed to crash a BMW i3 at CES”.

DSCN0680 After the drive I checked out BMW’s demo tent of their new Laserlight headlight system. Using friggin’ laser beams and OLED lights on a M4 concept vehicle, plus a fancy 3-sided projection space and a spinning platform for the car, BMW demonstrated how the Laserlight system automatically enables a high-beam mode once the vehicle reaches 45 mph (and it’s dark out, of course) that extends visibility out to nearly 2000 feet (600 meters for ze Germans in the audience). My first reaction was “I can’t wait to get blinded by that”, but then they demonstrated how the vehicle senses cars ahead and oncoming and dynamically reshapes the headlight beams to NOT blast your fellow drives off the road. COOL! It can also sense animals or pedestrians on the side of the road and “highlight” them so you know they’re there, and they know you can see them. There are a few other really nifty forward-looking features up front, and they spent some time to show off fancy OLED brake and turn signal units in the rear, making them dance and animate. Eh – that one seemed more gimmicky to me, but whatever. I’m sure some will love it, assuming the DOT approves it. For more info on the light demo read this.

Disclaimer – I got a free gift after the i3 test drive; an i8 concept wireless mouse. I would have written all this without it, but I want to be open about the “kick back” – even if the design isn’t quite ergonomic.😉

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Okay – BMW was cool, but there’s lots more to see, so let’s go…

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I have to call out the awesome traffic managers at LVCC. They put up with lots of stupid and angry drivers, and crazy amounts of pedestrians trying to get to the show from the monorail station. The line of the day goes to one of that crew after one driver decided to not proceed when directed and instead drop someone off in the middle of a driving lane. She decided to let pedestrians go instead and yelled at the driver, “No you have to wait … FOREVER.” The crowd cheered.

The North Hall was just as awesome as the Central hall. I wish I’d done North/Central on the first day rather than running through all of the South Hall. While the North Hall did have a ton if cases and connectors and battery chargers, etc. the booths were WAY nicer and the exhibitors much more interested in talking to people, etc. This was the CES experience I had in my mind (in combination with the big names from the Central Hall).

A few products really caught my eye. Among them was the WeeGo JS6 – a portable backup battery/charger that’s about the size of your smartphone, and doesn’t weigh too much more either. But that small package packs a bug punch. Not only does this 6000 mAh battery pack let you charge your phone or tablet a few times, but it can also JUMP START YOUR CAR. Woah. They’re available already – check out Amazon for this one and it’s big brothers.

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I got suckered into the Woosh! screen cleaner booth as well – who can pass up a free cleaning of your phone? A quick spritz and wipe and not only was my phone’s screen clean and disinfected (cool!), but it also had a thin coating of anti-static and anti-fingerprint goodness on it that made the screen not just easier to read throughout the day, but honestly my finger slid on my iPhone’s glass way easier. I’m seriously considering getting a kit from Amazon. Good on phones, tablets, laptops, TVs, glasses, whatever; and it’s non-toxic and ammonia-free so you can feel good about hugging a tree too.

The North Hall also was home to several auto manufacturers and automobile component suppliers looking to sell to both the aftermarket customizers and the big boys themselves. Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Ford, VW, Hyundai, and Chevrolet were among the big names, and of course all the speaker companies were luring people to their booths with modified cars and motorcycles.

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Yes, that’s a classic mid-60’s Cadillac with a modern V engine dropped in.🙂

I spent some quality time with Ford checking out their new offerings and giving feedback (PLEASE bring the globally-offered diesel engine option to the North American market Edge SUV!). Ford was pushing their new Sync 3 platform hard, which is great – I like in-car tech. Unfortunately Ford decided to move away from the Microsoft platform even though, in my personal opinion, the Sync 2’s issues were largely due to Ford’s decision to outsource the UI layer to a 3rd party (*cough* Sony *cough*). The new platform has WAY better hardware powering it and seems really snappy and intuitive. It allows you to pinch-zoom and swipe on maps and control apps on your smartphone, something Ford has been promising for quite some time. I talked to someone from the app sync team and he was lauding how they’ve open sourced their API and components to hopefully create a standard platform that developers can leverage across multiple auto platforms. I don’t see this being successful in the light of Apple’s new Car Play and similar tech coming on the Android platform too, so hopefully Ford will quickly work to support those technologies.

I left Ford with a good parting shot when the app sync guy was trying to say that the Microsoft OS was the core problem because it was too “full featured” and not optimized. I interjected a quip that Sony’s shitty UI layer certainly didn’t help either. He couldn’t refute that. I felt better.

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I headed over to Westgate but discovered it was really just international vendors selling to international markets. If you thought the edges of the South Hall were the same thing over and over with uninterested booth attendants, the Westgate sections took that to the next level. I did a quick scan but decided to bail after about 10 minutes.

 

Cool pic of the day … I need one of these for the office.

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Celebrity sighting of the day: Nick Cannon. Evidently he’s this years Entertainment Ambassador to CES, whatever that means. Nice suit. I had no idea who he was, and many others were in the same boat. I sent a pic to someone who told me. I inquired why he’s so special, the response was priceless: “He’s like the black Ryan Seacrest.” Got it.

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Mission accomplished for the day I decided to head out a bit early and take a bit of an afternoon break on the High Roller, the world’s tallest observation wheel. It brings you to a respectable 550 feet above the strip. I did the London Eye when I was in the UK 7 years ago, and I’ve done the wheel in Seattle too – might as well keep the tradition alive.🙂

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Hey, there’s my hotel…
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Hey, there’s the convention center…
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Hey, there’s me…
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Daily miles walked: 8.8

Total CES 2015 miles so far: 22

Categories: travel Tags: , , , ,
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