The final days of CES are all the more grueling because you desperately want to cover more of the floor while your feet are screaming “Sit down already, you fool!” But it was worth the effort, as you’ll see in the collection of gadgets and gizmos I found.
After CES, I’ll embark on a working vacation in Las Vegas to recover and catch up on my sleep, but watch TidBITS for some follow-up articles as I write up some overall trends from the show and offer some thoughts on what’s coming in consumer technology in the next few years.
Gyenno Spoon II -- A smart robotic spoon may sound like overkill, but this spoon may be the only one that’s usable by people with Parkinson’s or other degenerative muscular illness. An internal stabilizer keeps the spoon level even if your hand or arm is shaking badly. The first-generation Gyenno Spoon is available now for $299; the second-generation, with a smaller handle and better battery life, will come out later this year at the same price. To see it in action, watch the video on Gyenno’s site.
Keezel Hardware VPN -- A virtual private network, or VPN, encrypts the data from your computer to the Internet so no one on your Wi-Fi network can spy on your traffic and your ISP can’t track what you’re doing. VPNs can also be useful if you want to go to a Web site that’s blocked in your country since they can change your apparent geolocation. VPNs are usually software-based, forcing you to remember to turn it on and off — get the settings wrong accidentally, and it’s easy to disable your Internet connection. The Keezel aims to make this process simpler. It’s a portable hardware VPN router; you connect the Keezel to a Wi-Fi hotspot and your devices to the Keezel. The primary advantage to this is that your devices only have to remember the Keezel, so there’s less chance of accidentally making an unencrypted connection. The Keezel also includes an 8000 mAh battery for peripheral charging. It costs $139 now while in pre-order at Indiegogo, $149 when it ships later this year (Indiegogo orders placed now should be fulfilled in April 2017). The service costs $5 per month, or you can buy a 1-year, 2-year, or lifetime subscription when you purchase.
Aipoly Vision for iOS -- Aipoly has updated their Aipoly Vision app for iOS, an AI image recognition system that aids the blind by saying out loud what the camera sees. The free app has a database of 1000 objects it can recognize; subscribe for $5 per month to use the premium 5000-and-growing object database. The company’s CES booth had a kitchen display, so I gather it’s intended mainly for objects around the house. For the general public, Aipoly’s Poly app will use the same technology to recognize pretty much anything — food on your plate, restaurants you’re standing in front of, or nearby monuments — and bring up supplementary information about them. It’s scheduled for May 2017.
Batband Bone Conduction Headphones -- If you need to listen to your phone while leaving your ears free to hear ambient noise, bone conduction headsets can transmit the sound directly through your skull to your ears. That’s the premise behind the Batband headset, which you wear above your ears, pointing to your temples. Sound quality was audible but not great on the very noisy CES show floor. I’d also wonder how comfortable it is for longer periods of time. It’s $199 via their Indiegogo campaign or $249 thereafter, and it should ship in July 2017.
Fireflies Wireless Earbuds -- I’ve seen at least a half-dozen competitors to Apple’s AirPods, but I was surprised that nearly all of them were as expensive or more so. I had assumed that Apple was applying a healthy markup to the AirPods, but its pricing is entirely competitive. The only cheaper product I found was the Fireflies earbuds at $120. That said, if you’re an iPhone user, it’s probably worth the extra $40 for the AirPods for Siri integration and Lightning charging.
QuietOn Noise Cancelling Earbuds -- QuietOn brings noise cancellation to an AirPod form factor, with wireless earbuds that provide up to 40 dB of active and passive noise cancellation. They last 50 hours on a single charge and are designed to be comfortable to sleep in should you need to block out someone snoring. They’re available now for $199.
VoiceVibes Public Speaking Trainer -- There’s a common saying that most people fear public speaking more than dying — which is a problem since the best way to get good at speaking in public is to do it often. VoiceVibes aims to solve this catch-22 by offering a Web-based training app for your speaking. Run your speech through the app, and it will judge you on the liveliness of your tone of voice, speaking speed, and other factors. I may try it because I hate the way I sound on podcasts. Later in 2017, VoiceVibes plans to release a VR system that replicates the entire experience of speaking before a crowd (for some people, the scariest VR game ever made). VoiceVibes is usually sold only to institutions and organizations, but the company has a special offer for TidBITS readers: you can sign up as an individual within 60 days for a 6-month subscription for $30 using code CES2017. If you’re reading this after that window, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, as they’re not sure what individual pricing plans will look like.
Puck iPhone Remote -- Nearly every CES show features many high-tech remote controls aimed at replacing those that come with your electronics. What I liked about the Puck is that it’s a low-cost method of upgrading your devices one at a time. Each $30 Puck is a small cylinder that rests in front of a particular electronic device and then controls it by simulating its infrared remote. You use an iPhone app to control all your Pucks and their associated devices. I have a note that a single Puck can control multiple devices if they’re all within line of sight, but I can’t confirm this on the company’s Web site; if that’s your intended use, get in touch with them before ordering.
Hudway Glass Heads-Up Display -- When I wrote about the Carrobot C2, a self-contained $500 heads-up display for drivers, I was critical of how it replicated so much that your phone was already doing (see “CES 2017: Gadget Finds on the CES Show Floor, Days 1 and 2,” 10 January 2017). Someone else clearly had the same idea, since the $49 Hudway Glass is essentially an iPhone mount that turns it into a heads-up display. A flip-up clear mirror reflects the image on the screen into your eyes while letting you see behind it. Since what you’re looking at is a mirror image, you use Hudway’s free iOS app, or one from another developer, to create a view that’s oriented correctly in the reflection.
Haiku Bike Clamp Display -- I liked the form factor of the Haiku, a display and remote control for your phone that clamps to your bike’s handlebars. The display shows ongoing notifications like route directions and messages; a gesture-control system enables you to control your phone or navigate the Haiku without taking your eyes off the road or a hand off the handlebars. Currently on Indiegogo for €85, it’s due to ship in April 2017 for $99.
Unistellar Augmented Reality Telescope -- One not-well-kept secret about images from NASA is that they don’t reflect what you see when you look through a home telescope. Consumer models can make stars visible that you otherwise can’t see, but the gorgeous color images that come out of the Hubble are post-processed into the visible color spectrum. You can’t get those images from your backyard telescope… unless you’re using the Unistellar lens AI, which does two things: amplifies the light your telescope receives and optionally overlays an augmented reality image on top of what you’re seeing to include what the Hubble and other telescopes have seen. The augmented reality display also shows pop-up information like constellations and distances that otherwise require an astronomy degree. Add Unistellar’s lens to your existing telescope for $1000–$1500 when it’s released in 2018, or use one of Unistellar’s own telescopes with it, which will integrate with the AI for automatic positioning.
Tapp Touch Padlock -- Padlocks are old technology, but if you have to use a number of them, carrying around a bunch of keys or memorizing a bunch of number sequences is a drag. The Tapp smart padlock instead uses a touch interface and can memorize up to 500 different fingerprints. An iPhone app provides a complete history of who has accessed the lock along with time and date stamps. Finally, the rechargeable lock works for 18 months on a single 2-hour charge. It will cost $99 when it ships in March 2017.
Federal Bureau of Investigation -- My first thought upon seeing that the FBI had a booth at the show was uncharitable, given its dustup with Apple last year (see “Thoughts on Tim Cook’s Open Letter Criticizing Backdoors,” 17 February 2016). Happily, the agency was at CES to do community outreach on a more positive topic: helping exhibitors secure their demo technology from intellectual property theft and hacking at the show. A special agent was assigned to work the show in person, and he was handing out business cards and encouraging people to contact him in case of a suspected intrusion. I hope this helps remind manufacturers to keep security in mind at all times, including while developing Internet-connected gadgets. To learn more, contact the FBI and ask about its Strategic Partnership for trade show security.
Cardberry -- One dubious aspect of modern retail is that every store wants you to use a loyalty card when you make your purchases. (This problem is worse in Las Vegas, where every casino gives you a card to scan when you play, which can make your wallet George Costanza-thick.) The Cardberry replaces all loyalty cards with a single card, and unlike previous solutions, can hold an unlimited number of cards by storing the information in an iPhone app. This approach does require an extra step, though, since you must select the appropriate card in the app before using it. For barcode scanning, a LED in the card communicates barcode information directly back to the scanner and spoofs what’s printed on the card. It’s available now for $99, which includes a combination card charger and reader (so you can scan your other cards). At the booth, the company was showing off a $129 model with a chip reader and writer, which the rep said was currently available but not yet on its site. Cardberry doesn’t recommend that you use the $99 model for credit and debit cards due to lower security standards than are recommended for banks; it’s unclear whether this has been upgraded in the $129 model.
Energysquare Wireless Charger -- I’ve seen a number of gizmos that add wireless charging to mobile phones and portable electronics, usually via an inductive charging sticker that connects to the charging port; you then place the device on a pad to charge. The Energysquare is a little different; instead of an inductive approach, its charging bracket has two metal contacts that touch the pad, which is more efficient. Currently on Kickstarter, pricing starts at €49 for a pad and five brackets; the company expects it to be generally available in May 2017 for $89.
10-Vins D-Vine -- I’m no wine connoisseur, so perhaps I’m missing the reason for D-Vine’s existence. It claims to be an in-home sommelier: place one of 10-Vins’ vacuum-sealed flasks in the device, and it reads the flask’s RFID chip and brings the wine to a perfect level of temperature and aeration. But it works only with wines supplied by 10-Vins in these flasks, which come in a large variety priced between $3 and $22 per glass. The entire device, which will cost $1200 when it ships in September 2017, will only interest wine lovers. But would an oenophile be willing to limit their range of available wines, or be unable to provide proper temperature and oxygenation on their own?
Troffee -- I got excited by the Troffee push-button barista system until I was told I was looking at a commercial unit costing $90,000. Drat! But the Netherlands-based company claims to have home models that mere mortals can afford on the way later this year. They’ll feature automatic preparation of a variety of espresso and coffee beverages and can even add your choice of various syrups.
Parkmatch -- What Uber and Lyft let you do with your car, the France-only Parkmatch service lets you do with the parking space you leave behind. It’s Airbnb for your driveway; sign up for the free service to park in private spaces the app will route you to. I can see this being a big deal in urban environments if the company ever gets here; the PR rep said that Parkmatch hopes to launch in the United States late in 2017 or early 2018. My editor pointed out that there’s a somewhat similar service in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco called SpotHero that relies on parking garages instead of individual spots.
Kanex GoPower Watch — I didn’t see it at the company’s booth, but Kanex has announced the GoPower Watch, a portable battery-powered charging dock for the Apple Watch. It replicates the magnetic inductive charging of Apple’s charger and provides 4000 mAh, which is enough juice to recharge your watch six times. It also includes a standard USB-A port for powering other peripherals and can charge your iPhone simultaneously. It’s available now for $100.