Series: CES 2018
Roving reporter Jeff Porten once again braves Las Vegas to bring you the hottest and lamest gadgets from CES.
Article 1 of 5 in series
by Jeff Porten
Jeff Porten kicks off another CES show with the Consumer Technology Association’s trends and predictions for 2018.Show full article
ROBIN: the batmobile won’t start
BATMAN: check the battery
ROBIN: what’s a tery
This Bat-channel will likely be replete with coverage of Bat-teries and other charging technologies, as well as anything else under the sun that can be appified, cloudified, or smartified.
(And some things that shouldn’t; as per usual, I have bookmarked several booths on the basis that their products are Bat-poop crazy. This year’s hot baffling trend appears to be adding blockchains to things for no reason.)
CES starts with two days dedicated to press briefings and events, and I always start my show with the generally excellent presentation from the Consumer Technology Association, the people running this show, on the statistics and trends of the industry. This year the speakers were Steve Koenig, Senior Director of Research, and Lesley Rohrbaugh, Senior Manager of Research.
5G Cellular Networks -- They started with an update on the forthcoming 5G network, about which I was largely bullish last year but skeptical about aspects of its implementation (see “Ideas from CES 2017: 5G in Your Future,” 19 January 2017). The first networks will be operational (but not yet available to consumers) this year, and work is proceeding on the 5G New Radio standard that will be its underpinning.
5G will be blazingly fast — a 2-hour movie download will take under 4 seconds — and with that, new applications and technologies will come along which no one has quite thought of yet. It’s just how humans use computers and gadgets: you act differently when something takes long enough that you can go make a pot of coffee, versus so quickly that you only have time to take a sip of coffee.
The physics behind this is millimeter wave spectrum, a radio wave frequency between 12 and 120 times higher than what’s underneath standard 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi — millimeter wave uses 30 to 300 GHz. Radio waves in that part of the spectrum allow for faster speeds and low latency. On the downside, they’re more easily blocked by structures, so cell phone networks will need additional tiny towers called “small cells” to cover everywhere. Mentioned in passing by the speakers: 5G will bring “new business models,” which is what I was skeptical about last year; U.S. carriers won’t pass up such an opportunity to raise our monthly service fees.
Artificial Intelligence -- Artificial intelligence is also making waves, embedded as it is in everything from Siri to the technology driving major companies. It increasingly relies on a strategy called “deep learning,” in which an AI mines huge amounts of data for trends and patterns and invents AI procedures that humans not only can’t program themselves, but whose outcomes can’t even be predicted. Instead, we set parameters for these outcomes, and the AI decides how to achieve them.
Sometimes we get it wrong, like the time Microsoft accidentally invented a Nazi Twitter chatbot. One of the presentation’s slides rather amusingly said that AI “will generate societal impacts,” which is an understatement. Done right, AI might create undreamed-of capabilities, and done wrong, it could hand over huge amounts of human autonomy to computers. (Just imagine what happens when AI decisions become company policies that can’t be altered. “Sorry, it’s policy, nothing I can do.”)
The most common way people interact with an AI is when they talk to smart speakers, or with Siri or Google Assistant on their phones. Those are just two of the voice options; you might also interact with Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, or Samsung’s Bixby. (Perhaps a company known for exploding phones shouldn’t have named their assistant after this guy.)
This situation has the advantage of competition — the engineers developing Siri can see what everyone else is doing and act accordingly — but the problem is that these standards are not interoperable. If you want to smarten up your house with voice-controlled devices, it’s a good idea to pick one ecosystem and stick with it. That could be frustrating if you prefer Siri and you’re still waiting for a HomePod, and more frustrating still if you regret your choice in 2019 when a different ecosystem gets a feature you really want. (Some third-party speakers support multiple standards; those devices could migrate with you if you decide to switch horses midstream or if you want to use different AI assistants for different things.)
Coming soon, perhaps, will be true conversational capabilities. So long, “Hey Siri, set a timer for 30 minutes,” and hello, “Siri, if I don’t leave in 30 minutes, my spouse is going to kill me.” This raises interesting questions about how we interact with these devices; many people in the U.S. already think of Siri as a “her” instead of an app, and when you think a program is a person, weird things can happen.
Consumer electronics developers love this idea and are rushing towards it, calling the trend “conversations to relationships.” They want you to have warm, fuzzy feelings about the apps you’re talking to. Put the app’s voice into a stuffed animal or a cute robot, and the emotional stakes get raised even higher.
Researchers are also working on how to build trust between humans and their assistant AIs. Rachel Bellamy at IBM predicts that within five years, you’ll be able to ask your AI why it’s making a particular recommendation, and it will be able to tell you.
The dark side of this brave new world came from a slide saying that voice AIs are “the fourth sales channel,” which to my mind brings thoughts of Siri and Google Assistant mixing advertising with their information. Arguably, this is a key feature of Alexa, which was mentioned on the slide.
One particularly interesting moment in the presentation came when Koenig was discussing AI implementations and showed a slide of someone cuddling with a “sleep robot.” Rohrbaugh quipped, “Steve, would you sleep with a robot?” Koenig replied something to the effect of probably not, to audience laughter. That laughter is the interesting part: a roomful of technology enthusiasts and journalists thought “sleep with a robot” was funny.
But there are companies developing sex robots (which I don’t cover, but some of those technologies are here), and while it sounds strange in 2018, ask someone in 1998 how they’d feel about going on the Internet and paying to get into a stranger’s car. In the meantime, perfectly G-rated technologies that intrude on private and sensitive spaces, like the bedroom, have hurdles to overcome. You can’t sell many units when your most likely early adopters burst into laughter about using the product.
Biometrics -- Next up: more biometrics, which is part of what CTA calls “digital senses.” In just the last few months, some people were up in arms about trading fingerprint sensors for facial recognition on the new iPhone X. The question isn’t whether we’re using biometrics, it’s where and how often.
That said, a surprisingly large number of people aren’t comfortable with the idea in concept — about half, depending on where it’s used. I find it odd that only 46 percent of respondents are happy with personal convenience biometrics, though I wonder if they even realize this includes Touch ID. I’m also unhappily surprised that 56 percent are cool with biometrics being used for surveillance.
AR, VR, and MR -- The other half of CTA’s “digital senses” category is “realism redefined,” which means augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality (abbreviated AR, VR, and MR). AR is adding information to a real scene, as with a phone showing you the restaurant its camera is pointing at and overlaying the menu. VR replaces your surroundings with a created environment, such as a Star Wars video game. MR is a term I’m first hearing this year; it’s putting virtual objects into real environments, like the game demoed at WWDC last year which put a futuristic space colony onto a tabletop. We’ll see if the term catches on, or if people just consider it another form of AR.
In my opinion, AR and MR are going to be huge in ways we don’t yet comprehend, in much the same way (and perhaps as transformative) as what happened in the 1990s when everyone realized this Internet thing let you send email to anyone in the world, for free.
I’m confident that AR is on the same path. After it’s in common use — probably with some kind of glasses — eventually ones indistinguishable from today’s normal eyeglasses, people will think of our current unenhanced reality with the same lack of comprehension that we have of the time before cell phones or answering machines. (I can remember it, but I’m not sure how I survived it.)
Just imagine having Google Maps as a heads-up display, in your glasses, and it’s always and instantly on when you want it. If you want to find your friend in a large crowd, you’ll have X-ray vision. In the meantime, as Koenig said, right now everyone is walking around looking down at their phones; how much better will it be when people are looking through their phones and interacting more with their surroundings?
I’m less certain of VR being transformative outside of limited applications. It has exciting possibilities in medicine, such as current experiments allowing people to recover from post-traumatic stress faster than with traditional approaches. Sports fanatics may explode with joy when they can watch a game from on the field, and of course, VR has applications in gaming. Facebook is already exploring group VR experiences, which to me look like a mix between Second Life and an episode of Black Mirror.
Beyond Consumer -- Meanwhile, the reality we’re augmenting is likely to get smarter as well. One of the reasons that CES changed its name from the Consumer Electronics Show (it’s now just “CES,” technically no longer an acronym) is that the technologies here are not just personal.
The term “smart cities” is moving from buzzword to at least test implementation; the idea is to make an urban area into a big data soup, which can then be mined and processed for much better management. On the one hand, consider potholes that are scheduled to be fixed while they’re still small, because ubiquitous urban cameras spot them. On the other hand, ponder the advantages and disadvantages of having your city government able to watch you 24/7 and get summaries of what you’re doing.
Then further consider what happens when police start integrating smart house data into public safety. How many politicians will be able to resist calls for “better safety” by handing over smart speaker data to the police? Amazon fought a police department’s request for Alexa data, but that was in a jurisdiction where no law said Amazon had to turn it over. We’ll see this tested again in the future.
For now, the “smart city” term is highly elastic; it includes both the somewhat Orwellian future I just mentioned, but also a small first step from the U.S. Department of Transportation called the Smart City Challenge. Yes, improving urban transportation is highly worthwhile, but it’s just a tiny part of the overall concept, and it leads to overblown slides like this one, which make us look much further along than we are. (Only the cities in black were accepted to the program, and that means they’re doing studies and making plans, not actually building stuff.)
That’s your taste of the future. In my next article: the first look at the actual gadgets that are already here.
Article 2 of 5 in series
by Jeff Porten
Jeff Porten starts off CES 2018 with the mini-show CES hosts for the media. Read on for the latest in wireless earbuds, mesh Wi-Fi systems, smart corkscrews, electronic scent mixers, and even a robotic duck designed to help kids with cancer.Show full article
For the media, CES started on 8 January 2018 this year with a bunch of press conferences, followed by CES Unveiled, the mini-CES that precedes the main show.
The usual rules for my CES coverage apply: there are several events I’m covering, including CES Unveiled, where journalists are wined and dined in smaller venues. Products that appear in these events get more coverage, somewhat independently of their actual news value, because fewer things clamor for attention, and the food and open bar attract thousands of journalists. My stories from these events are separated out so you can apply appropriate grains of salt. Likewise, if any booth gives me something more valuable than a T-shirt, that’s noted with 🎁.
My Special Aflac Duck -- Leading off my coverage is possibly the best thing I’ve ever seen at any CES: a stuffed animal with robot technology that Aflac will give away for free to any child suffering from cancer. Children care for the Aflac Duck, similar to the old Tamagotchi virtual pets, with a mobile app. The child is told the duck is also suffering from cancer, and it has a hookup for its “chemotherapy treatment.” The idea is that the child can get somewhat distracted from the pain of a chemo treatment by treating the duck at the same time, which Aflac claims measurably lessens the pain the child experiences. For children too young to be verbal, it comes with seven emoji disks that the child places on the duck to communicate their mood to the duck — and of course, to their family and doctors; the duck reads an RFID chip in the disk and responds accordingly. Aflac’s robot duck is in testing now at an Aflac cancer clinic and is expected to ship in late 2018. Sign up at the company’s Web site, which also has a shop with ancillary items including T-shirts and small plush toys. At the risk of being called a softie, I’m tearing up as I write this.
MyManu Clik+ Translation Earbuds -- A big thing this year is wireless earbuds, which I’ll generally be reviewing on the basis of “better or cheaper than Apple’s AirPods?” MyManu Clik+ earbuds have a neat trick: they connect to your phone and can translate 37 different languages. You may have heard that Google has something like this; the problem is, Google’s Pixel Buds don’t work fully with iPhones and haven’t gotten great reviews. I’ll have no idea if MyManu’s are any better until I get a review unit in a few months. Shipping in March 2018 for $249 initially, eventually rising to $320.
Lizn Hearpieces -- Alternatively, if your problem is that you can’t hear languages you do speak in a noisy environment, Lizn Hearpieces might help. They’re a pair of earbuds that act as a standard Bluetooth headset and microphone, with Siri integration, but they can switch into a mode where instead they filter ambient sound. White noise around you gets reduced, and any sound coming from directly in front of you gets intensified and sharpened. Shipping in March 2018 for $199, and pre-orders are being taken now.
Jabra Elite 65t Earbuds -- Meanwhile, if your issue is hearing people on the phone, Jabra’s Elite 65t earbuds provide 50 percent noise reduction during calls. The other end will hear you better too, because there are four different mics in the earbuds picking up your voice. If you just want to listen to music all day, they’re good for 15 hours on a charge. You can pre-order them for $170 via an exclusive arrangement with Best Buy, and they ship next month. I’ll refer you to this Engadget review by a guy who used a beta version for a week; he liked them.
Air by Crazybaby (NANO) Earbuds -- Rounding up the night’s Bluetooth earbuds, Crazybaby makes the list with the Air by Crazybaby (NANO), notable for being the first ones I’ve seen, at $99, that are less than $100. They come in a range of colors like the iPod nano and sport a 12-hour battery life; the microphone is compatible with a bunch of voice assistants, including Siri. Pre-order now; expected to ship in two months.
Noveto Sowlo Virtual Headphones -- Maybe you just want a headset which doesn’t actually exist. That wacky idea is possible with Noveto Sowlo, a soundbar that somehow shapes the audio waveform directionally so you hear it, but other people can’t. The demo showed how it worked: a camera recognized my face and mapped where my ears were in three dimensions, then a soundbar beneath the monitor fired the audio from a first-person shooter game straight at me. The rep, standing a few feet to my right, claimed he couldn’t hear it. I took a step to the left, and the volume dropped off significantly, but it wasn’t silent. It would work well for a couple on a couch, but not if they’re snuggling. The product will likely be a separate soundbar which you connect to any monitor. Shipping by the end of 2018 with a target price around $200.
Coravin Wine Preservation Opener -- Maybe after you stop listening to your nonexistent headphones, you’d like a glass of wine without opening the bottle. Yep, that’s what the Coravin does. It works this magic with a device you slot over the top of the bottle; a needle plunges through the cork, allows you to pour the wine, and simultaneously pumps argon into the bottle so the remaining wine never makes contact with the air. Remove the Coravin, and the cork automatically reseals. For screwtop caps, you replace it after the first glass with a reusable cap Coravin provides — the argon is heavier than air, so it rests in the bottle while you swap caps. Currently available for $199, with a beefier model made of heavier materials for $299 (although the Web site seems to list them all in pricier “packages”); replacement argon capsules cost $9 each in three-packs, and are good for a few bottles of wine each. In September 2018, Coravin will release the Model Eleven, which is faster and easier to use, with app integration and an LCD screen telling you wine details — but those improvements will set you back $999. If you have to ask if a fancy corkscrew is worth a grand, you can’t afford it.
D-Link Triband Whole-Home Wi-Fi -- It seems like everybody and their grandmothers are demoing mesh networking systems, which cover your entire home with a Wi-Fi signal without configuration. My intended question for all of them: “What makes your product different from the scores of others here?” So far, that’s stumped two companies. D-Link’s model doesn’t wow technically — except that mesh networking in general is pretty darned cool — but it’s an attractive pod with swappable covers in different anodized colors. Mesh Wi-Fi units work best when they’re out in a room, which means on display; these at least look nice. It’s reasonably priced at $249 for the initial three-pack, which you can extend with more of the same or other D-Link products. Available in early 2018.
Plex Pass, Now with News -- Whole-house Wi-Fi means everyone is going to want to stream their favorite videos on just about any screen bigger than an Apple Watch. I’ve used Plex for this for years. Toss tons of videos, music, and photos onto an always-on computer, point Plex at it, and it creates catalogs with movie posters and album art, then streams it to pretty much any device you can think of, locally or over the Internet. All of that is free on your Macs, although the mobile apps cost a few bucks. Where Plex makes money is its monthly, annual, or lifetime Plex Pass 🎁, which provides various cloud services and software upgrades to your Plex experience, including the capability to download videos to mobile devices on-the-fly, record over-the-air live TV, and enable parental controls, along with other additional features over the base Plex experience. Plex is rolling out various streaming services as part of the Plex Pass; the newest is a customizable news channel. Point Plex at various online news video sources you watch, and either build your own playlist or let Plex’s AI figure out what you like to watch and build it for you. Plex Passes cost $5 a month or $40 a year; if you want to use Plex forever, $120 will get you a lifetime subscription.
Moodo Custom Aromatics -- Once you get your movie options worked out, you’ll want the house to smell nice while you’re watching on your iPad. Enter the Moodo, a box that sits on a table and perfumes an area up to 600 square feet. It ships with three “families” of four base scents each (similar to a printer with CMYK ink cartridges), and you use prebuilt recipes or make custom scents with an app. If you have several Moodos, the app can control them all, setting the same scent across several rooms, or giving each one its own aroma. I don’t care much for perfume, but the woman standing next to me did, and she was rhapsodic. $189 gets you the base unit and three sets of scent mixers, and additional scents cost $29.
Ujet Electric Scooter -- The Ujet is a one-person scooter with a range of 100 miles (on the pricier model), and a top speed of just under 30 mph. It charges from standard AC in under 2 hours with an optional fast charger; it’s unclear how long the regular charger takes. It has a touchscreen for display and control, and Ujet sells gloves that work with it for cold weather. Ujet’s scooter caught my eye because it’s meant for urban transport and folds up for easy storage during the workday. But at 70 pounds, don’t plan on carrying it up stairs. Europeans can get one in the first half of this year, Americans have to wait at least six months. The Ujet costs $8900 for the base model or $9990 for the long-range version.
Kuri Home Robot -- If you’ve always wanted your own R2D2 with a look reminiscent of Hello Kitty, Kuri’s the droid you’re looking for. It’s equipped with a 1080p camera and uses facial recognition to roll around the house capturing video you might otherwise not think to record: kids playing, the dog doing something amusing, or the Amazon delivery guy entering your house without calling you first. Kuri’s “face” reacts to its environment, and it makes R2D2-style beeps and boops. You can hear them in this video. Of course, you control Kuri with an app. Initial units have been shipped, and the next round of orders is scheduled for early 2018. It costs $799 now, which rises to $899 starting March 2018.
BrainCo Brain Activity Headband -- Every CES brings gadget makers making dubious medical claims, which made the BrainCo booth rather refreshing in that they didn’t do that — and their Harvard affiliation didn’t hurt. They were showing the Focus 1, a headband that monitors electrical activity in the brain. Initially sold in bulk to schools, the premise is that they’d be worn by an entire classroom of students. The teacher could then see statistics afterward indicating whether the students were collectively paying attention, or which individual students were having trouble. (The current model has red and green lights to provide immediate feedback; the company is considering removing them, as it raises privacy concerns for the child.) Students could use the Focus 1 on their own later to determine how well they’re studying. I have ADHD and asked if it was likely to be helpful; the rep said, “We’re not making claims, but we’re hoping so.” (They have an additional product in development, called the Lucy, specifically for ADHD.) The Focus 1 is shipping in China and will come to the United States “later this year,” with an individual price tag in the “low hundreds.”
Touchpoint Stress Reducing Hand Buzzers -- Speaking of dubious health claims, that’s my impression of Touchpoints. They’re a pair of small squares that you hold in your hands, wear in your pockets, or attach to optional wristbands. It doesn’t matter where they are, but for some reason, it’s very important you have one on each side. They buzz. Really, that’s all they do; it’s supposedly a special vibration frequency which reduces stress. The neuroscientist who invented them asked me to think of something stressful, then gave me the Touchpoints; they started vibrating alternately in my hands. She asked me if I was feeling less stressed; I said, “Yes, because now I’m distracted by the buzzing, and I’m thinking about what I’m going to write instead of that stressful thing.” When I asked how she could prove it wasn’t just the placebo effect, she promised me they’d have brain scanning at their main booth. If only I had brought along a neurologist who could explain a scan to me! The buzzers are currently listed on the company’s Web site as shipping in 2–4 weeks. The models that just buzz cost $135 for a pair, whereas the ones that both buzz and talk to a phone app (saying what, I don’t know; there’s no monitoring in these devices) are $240.
Article 3 of 5 in series
by Jeff Porten
Jeff Porten continues the trek through the CES pre-shows and finds more gadgetry (a 1 TB USB stick, an inexpensive USB-C hub) and technological innovations (a smartwatch that charges from body heat, a dual-screen smartphone).Show full article
Monday’s hot tip for aspiring tech journalists: when having a conversation with a booth representative, do not accidentally throw a multimillion-dollar prototype into your conference swag bag. In my defense, the prototype SSD drive was exactly the same size and shape as the USB sticks with press materials at nearly every other booth, and I was distracted by the conversation. But when the guy who handed it to me put on his “I am having a heart attack right now” face, that brought me back to Earth rather quickly.
Western Digital Storage -- Western Digital’s SanDisk brand gets to go first, as it was the prototype I nearly walked off with. That was a 1 TB SSD with a USB-C connector, no larger than a standard USB stick. No details regarding release dates or price are available yet. However, SanDisk is shipping the Ultra Fit 3.1, a tiny USB-A drive which sits nearly flush with your port; sizes range from 16 to 256 GB, priced from $22 to $150. This flash drive is literally smaller than a quarter.
Anker -- At the moment I approached the Anker 🎁 booth, I was carrying one of Anker’s huge 20,000 mA batteries in my pocket, and charging my phone on the go. (I manage to forget to plug it in overnight at least twice a week.) The company’s line of batteries and chargers continues to receive incremental improvements, but their press materials neglect to mention what’s new and what’s not. At least I can report, from the booth conversation, that the 20,000 mA battery now outputs up to 30 watts, and they’ll be releasing a portable charger in Q3 2018 with two USB-C and two USB-A ports, as opposed to the 1-and-3 version out now. Anker also announced the Zolo+ earbuds, available later this month, but at only 3.5 hours of battery life and a price point of $149, the only standout feature is a toggle that lets you filter ambient sound.
Kingston Nucleum USB-C Hub -- Kingston released the Nucleum USB-C hub, which connects USB-C MacBooks to seven different ports in a small and attractive package. Notably, Kingston touts advanced engineering in the hub to make things work right: passthrough power is allocated evenly, even when every port is in use; HDMI output is 4K; and USB ports are designed to reduce electromagnetic interference that could affect Wi-Fi signals and vice-versa. About the only drawback to the design, to my eye, is that the USB-C cable that connects to the MacBook is stiff and hardwired to the Nucleum, which means it’ll take up a bit more room in your go bag. $80 from Kingston’s site, available now.
Acronis True Image for Mac -- You might be familiar with cloud backup services such as TidBITS sponsor Backblaze, which Joe Kissell recommended after CrashPlan pulled the plug (see “CrashPlan Discontinues Consumer Backups,” 22 Aug 2017). Backblaze runs on an all-you-can-eat model — you pay by the computer, and Backblaze doesn’t care how many terabytes you have attached to it. Acronis True Image for Mac is different. Acronis sells a standalone app for local backups and two metered cloud services that offer additional value-added services. In August 2017, Acronis 🎁 added ransomware protection to their cloud backup. In the event you get attacked by someone demanding Bitcoin to decrypt your files, Acronis will detect the attack and keep copies of the files before they were affected. A standard cloud backup without this protection would likely overwrite the cloud backup with the encrypted files you can’t open. Also in the mix: backup of iOS devices and the option to use network-attached storage (NAS) as your backup target for local backups. Pricing comes in three flavors: Standard is a $50 license that’s good forever, but only for local backups; Advanced costs $50 per year for 250 GB of cloud storage and various cloud-related features; and Premium runs $100 per year for 1 TB of storage plus additional cloud features. You can add additional storage to any cloud plan.
ZTE Axon M Dual-Screen Phone -- Most of you won’t care about anything Android, but still, the fold-out dual screen on the ZTE Axon M has a wow factor worth mentioning. I was wondering how useful it would be, since almost no Android apps will be coded to understand a 6.75-inch square screen with an air gap in the middle. ZTE has thought of this; the phone can natively run one app on each side. It’s only available on AT&T, and costs $24.17 per month for 30 months (and only if you keep AT&T service). It’s been shipping since October 2017.
SquareTrade Device Protection Plans -- AppleCare+ is the default way to insure your Apple gizmos against unfortunate interactions with the sidewalk, but it has its drawbacks. The biggest one is that if you miss your window to buy it while you’re still under warranty, you can’t have it. If you’re insuring an iPhone X, AppleCare+ is also kinda spendy. SquareTrade 🎁 (a division of Allstate) will insure your iPhone, no matter which model, for $129 for 2 years, with a $99 deductible for most damage, but only $25 for shattered screens or back glass. Even better: later this year, in some service areas, SquareTrade will send a repair guy to you to fix the screen on site. SquareTrade also has plans for MacBooks and iPads, as well as for a laundry list of other electronics. My 2016 MacBook Pro would cost $240 for 2 years (with a $75 deductible), and my iPad Air 2 would set me back $109 ($49 deductible). No need to still be under warranty when you sign up, but you have to prove that the device works.
Matrix PowerWatch X -- At $249 later this quarter, the PowerWatch X seems overpriced for what’s essentially a fitness watch with notifications from your phone, but it has two killer features. First, it’s water resistant to a depth of 200 meters for you divers. Second, you never need to charge it. It converts your body heat into all the power it needs. Did you know that at rest, you radiate 100 watts of body heat? Granted, that’s not all in the wrist, but I gather the watch doesn’t need all that much. The currently available regular PowerWatch has nearly the same specs for $199, but it doesn’t pick up phone notifications. Note: this thing is huge compared to my Pebble Time Round.
LimeBike Bicycle Rentals -- Bicycle rentals have become a big thing in major cities, but expansion to new cities can be slow. Bikes have to be locked into docking stations when they’re picked up and returned, and the programs require regulatory approval and capital investment. LimeBikes are different; they have built-in locks and are locatable by GPS, so they don’t need docks. When you’re done with it, just leave it on the sidewalk or on a public rack; the next person will be directed to it by their phone’s app. I asked how the technology prevents theft, and it turns out that a locked bike that gets moved more than a few feet sets off a loud alarm and phones the mothership. Since nothing needs to be built, LimeBike can expand to your city or college campus easily. Check their site to see if they’re in your area, and if not, sign up to be a plus-one in your area to convince them to go there. Newly announced at CES were bikes with assistive electric motors, but these are starting out this month only in Seattle, San Francisco, and Miami. Human-powered bikes cost $1 for 30 minutes; the electric ones will cost $1 every 10 minutes, plus a $1 unlock fee.
Foldimate Laundry Folding Machine, Again -- I covered the announcement of Foldimate last year (see “CES 2017: From Laundry to Play-Doh at Showstoppers,” 9 Jan 2017), because it made my list of ludicrous things that might amuse TidBITS readers. Back then, you had to lay each item flat on a rack and put it in the machine; it wasn’t any easier or faster than folding clothes yourself. It’s a year later, the shipping date has slipped and is still 2 years away, and the price has risen to $980. On the other hand, on the redesigned model, you just clip an item of clothing to the top of the machine, it rolls in, and out it pops folded at the bottom. Foldimate estimates you’ll fold around 10 items a minute, which is faster than I can fold on my own. The company is taking pre-orders, but late 2019 is still pretty far away.
Article 4 of 5 in series
by Jeff Porten
Jeff Porten, who never leaves civilization, finds several products designed to help you survive the wilderness, alongside things useful in cities.Show full article
Tuesday’s hot tip for aspiring tech journalists: when interrupting a conversation to ask a quick question, double-check to make sure someone else isn’t filming, lest you appear in full mortification mode in Jeff Gamet’s MacObserver video story.
Rocketbook Notebooks -- Rocketbook 🎁 might win my prize for the clever idea done best this year. A Rocketbook is one of several “cloud” notebooks, in which you write or draw with plain old analog pens, pencils, or markers. The bottom of each page has a QR code and several generic icons. In a free iPhone or Android app, you register what you want each icon to do, then tick the icons and scan the page with the app. One icon might send the page by email; another uploads it to Dropbox or iCloud. There are seven different icons and a large menu of services that you can mix and match. Prices range from $12 to $34, including a notebook you can erase and reuse with a dry-erase cloth, and another that you erase in a microwave(!). If you just want to try it out, grab the free PDFs and give it a spin.
RapidX USB Car Charger -- USB car chargers are ubiquitous enough that they’re likely on sale at your local pharmacy, but RapidX has an interesting twist with their X5 🎁 and X5+ models. The front of the X5 plugs into a car charging port and has two USB-A ports; what’s unusual is that a four-foot cable connects it to a second adapter with three USB-A ports (X5) or two USB-A ports and a USB-C port (X5+) so people can also use it in the back seat. The $25 X5 is available now; the $30 X5+ lets you unplug the cord when the rear ports are not in use.
CosmoConnected Bike Helmet -- I covered CosmoConnected’s motorcycle helmet last year (see “CES 2017: Cool Products from CES Unveiled,” 5 January 2017). This year they’re adding a bicycle helmet to their lineup. The helmet has embedded front and back LED lights that stay on for visibility and signal automatically when the bicyclist brakes or turns. In the event of an accident, the helmet talks to your phone to call for help. Available in September 2018 for $60; although the company is French, the press release promises U.S. distribution.
Coros OMNI Bike Helmet -- If you want your helmet sooner or more laden with features, check out the Coros OMNI. It includes a bone-conduction headset and forehead-mounted shielded microphone to listen to audio or take calls without impeding ambient sound, and a remote control you clamp to the handlebars. A forward flashlight shows you the road, but unlike the CosmoConnected it doesn’t include turning lights. It also has an emergency crash system to call for help, and since helmets must be replaced after they take an impact, turning in an old helmet gets you a 20 percent discount on a replacement. Available late January 2018 for $199 in a choice of several colors.
Qobuz Hi-Res Music Streaming -- I’ve been unimpressed with various hi-res music streaming services at CES, given studies showing that most people can’t tell the difference. (NPR has a helpful online quiz that tells you whether you can.) My hearing is so poor, I was able to downsample my music to 64 Kbps to fit on my old phone, and it didn’t bother me. But the Qobuz high-quality streaming service 🎁 has thought of people like me: the company is partnering with Mimi Hearing Technologies to provide streaming music adjusted to match frequencies you have trouble hearing. Qobuz is hoping to have this set up in time for a mid-2018 launch in the United States. Prices range from $99 per year to $349 per year; higher-priced plans include higher bit rates and lossless music, but lower-priced plans also have a monthly subscription option. No word on what the cost will be for Mimi enhancement, if any, or if it will only be included in premium plans.
Gnarbox Photo and Video Editor -- Serious photographers sometimes find themselves far away from a computer (and civilization, for that matter), and I’ve seen several products at CES that automatically offload photos and video to additional storage. Gnarbox takes that one step further; it’s a ruggedized 1-pound computer that backs up your photos and provides photo and video editing tools, all controlled by your phone. Available now, $299 for 128 GB of internal storage, $399 for 256 GB.
goTenna Mesh -- Speaking of being away from civilization, I understand that there are still parts of the world that lack cell phone reception. Enter goTenna Mesh, a portable receiver that talks to other goTenna Mesh devices within range — around 4 miles in open terrain (and 0.5 miles in thick forest) — and allows for either private texts or emergency broadcast messages. GPS locates everyone carrying one on maps that you download before going off-grid. Each device adds to the mesh network, so the more people carrying one (regardless of whether they’re in your group or strangers), the greater the range of the network, because signals can hopscotch from one goTenna to the next. Encryption prevents anyone but your recipients from reading your private messages. A full charge gets you around 24 hours of use. Available now, sold by the pair for $179 (you need at least two to be useful).
QUARTZ Water Purification Bottle -- In keeping with the off-grid theme, the QUARTZ bottle uses UV light to purify water. It has a variety of power modes, starting with “keep this bottle from tasting and smelling wonky,” up to an “adventure mode” to clean water that might come from unsafe sources. This might be useful when you’re away from civilization. A bottle weighs 13 ounces empty and can hold 18 ounces of water. One charge reportedly lasts 2–3 months. It’ll set you back $99 in April 2018.
myCharge All Powerful Battery -- I’ll admit, there are some products I remember and want to mention just because their names amuse me. The myCharge 🎁 All Powerful is just a great name. It’s a 20,000 mA battery with USB-A, USB-C, an AC outlet, and a Qi charging pad, which you can use to run your gadgets… away from civilization. All of these ports can also be used to charge the All Powerful from another device or wall power. As might be expected, with that many ports, it’s not small. You can buy it for $199 in April 2018.
myFC Jaq Hybrid Fuel Cell Battery -- Fuel cell power technology has been 5 years away for as long as I can remember at CES; I first wrote about it for TidBITS a decade ago (see “CES 2008 Day 1: Keyboards, Power, Eyewear, and More,” 9 January 2008). It still won’t power our flying cars, but maybe this year it will charge your iPhone when you’re, uh, away from civilization. (That’s the last time I’ll say that, I promise!) myFC is hoping to introduce the Jaq Hybrid later this year: it’s a 2750 mA rechargeable battery with a slot to take single-use fuel cell cards. You only need a card when you’re caught with a dead battery. The cards contain sodium hydroxide and water; plugging them into the Hybrid powers up the battery in an environmentally friendly way, even though you’re tossing the card afterward. myFC is planning the battery to cost $59, and the cards to run $2 each.
Matias Wired Aluminum Keyboard -- Matias has released a backlit wired aluminum keyboard. As the booth rep said to me, “Apple decided to stop making this keyboard in favor of Bluetooth, so we made it instead.” But Matias’s keyboard has an added trick Apple’s never had: a dial that lets you change the color of the backlight. The keyboard sports scissor-switch keys with 2.1 mm of key travel; they feel like a MacBook did in the pre-USB-C days of 2015 and earlier. $99 pre-orders include free shipping and begin in late February 2018.
BrainTap Headset and Audio Meditation -- I’m fascinated by CES products claiming to be neuro-scientific, at least in part because so many of them make extraordinary claims that might be entirely due to the placebo effect (see last year’s NuCalm entry, “CES 2017: Gadget Finds on the CES Show Floor, Days 1 and 2,” 10 January 2017). Enter the BrainTap headset, a $495 gizmo that flashes red and blue lights into your closed eyes while you listen to a custom audio program covering one of 800 different meditative goals. BrainTap claims to “meditate for you,” which could be useful because meditation takes a bit of practice. Unfortunately, I’ve done that practice and can enter a meditative state easily and even sometimes accidentally, so I’m unsure whether the lights do anything, or if it just triggered a state I can achieve anyway. The helmet isn’t necessary to sign up for the $10-per-month audio service with access to that library of 800 programs. (If just the audio interests you, I can say good things about a different product, HelloMind’s hypnotherapy app, which I’ve been using since they gave it to me last year; their sleep programs work well for me. See “CES 2017: Gizmos from the PEPCOM Digital Experience,” 6 January 2017.)
Dreamlight High-Tech Sleep Mask -- Runner-up for far-fetched scientific claims is the Dreamlight sleep mask, which among other things, will integrate with your 23andMe genetic testing for sleep advice “tailored to your genes.” More down-to-earth, the Dreamlight is a sleep mask that wraps entirely around your head and is thick enough to be used as a pillow in a pinch. It includes audio headphones and embedded lights they claim will guide you into a deeper sleep with the company’s supplied audio tracks (or your own music) and will wake you more gently. Also, the lights provide “infrared beauty treatment.” I think this is PR-speak for “will lightly warm your eyelids.” You can back it for $100 on Indiegogo starting 17 January 2018; it’s scheduled to ship in April 2018.
Article 5 of 5 in series
by Jeff Porten
In wrapping up his CES coverage, Jeff Porten explores the show within a show that CES sets aside for startups, Eureka Park. Follow along as he finds a portable scanner, kid-focused smartwatch, global hotspot, solar-powered car, and monitoring shoes for seniors.Show full article
Undoubtedly, the biggest news Wednesday from CES was about the show itself, with a two-hour power outage at the Las Vegas Convention Center making international headlines and turning major companies snarky on Twitter. Call me a bit surprised that rain was enough to cause this, as it’s not uncommon for Las Vegas in January — desert locale notwithstanding — to be caught in torrential downpours.
This made me curious about power generation in Las Vegas, as CES must consume an insane amount of power, and all of that happens alongside major light shows on the Strip and Downtown Las Vegas. (Perhaps the saving grace: CES is daytime, whereas the light shows happen at night.) One hotel alone has the brightest light beam in the world, which draws 351 kilowatts in operation, and is reportedly visible to aircraft up to 275 miles away. The best comparison I could find to judge Las Vegas power usage is that the percentage of the U.S. population who live here (1.3 million, or 0.40%) is lower than the percentage of local power generation (4.4 gigawatts, or 0.46%). That extra 0.06% is 5.8 gigawatts, which is enough for over four flux capacitor-powered trips through time.
The power outage didn’t affect me, because I spent part of the day recuperating from a cold, and the rest at Eureka Park, a breakout section of the show at the Sands Convention Center. Most years, Eureka Park has the highest ratio of cool things seen to miles walked, and this year was no exception. All companies demoing in Eureka Park are startups, but that doesn’t mean their products are less likely to ship than those shown on the main floor. Many of the booths here were part of a “pavilion” sponsored by a country, city, or university, indicating that they’re backed by a business development network helping them get off the ground.
7NEXT PUP Portable Scanner -- This is one of those CES gadgets that would be really useful at CES. The PUP is a handheld portable scanner that you point at a document you want to scan. The clever bit is that it fires a grid of visible red lasers at the document, so you can be sure it’s getting everything and is lined up correctly. The PUP connects to Wi-Fi, and a small color display shows you the destination of the image, which can be stored on the device, transferred across a network, or piped to a service like Dropbox or email. A battery charge is good for over 2000 pages. Shipping in April 2018 for $389; note that the Web site says it’s good for all metric size formats, which implies they haven’t yet added U.S. paper sizes.
Wanderwatch Kids’ Smartwatch -- Your kid is too young for their own phone, and an Apple Watch is too expensive and complicated. For such tots, there’s the Wanderwatch, a smartwatch designed for children and also to keep parents in the loop. It has built-in games, but they’re geared to getting your kids out and about — kids are supposed to play with it, not on it. Built-in Wi-Fi, GPS, and 3G keep kids connected to parents; everyone communicates by scribbling icons back and forth. Wanderwatch sips data; you buy prepaid blocks in $25 chunks from T-Mobile, and the Wanderwatch folks figure you might have to do so three times a year. Shipping now in “limited quantities” for $199.
We.stream Global Tethered Hotspot -- The We.stream is an idea that’s been knocking around for years: a global cellular modem you can use to get online in over 100 countries, with up to 150 Mbps of bandwidth. The $179 We.stream doubles as an external battery for your phone, lets you insert your own SIMs or uses cloud SIM technology while roaming, and is notable for having a built-in VPN that ensures that your data is always encrypted. 2 GB of data per month is included, after which speeds are throttled to 128 Kbps for the rest of the month. You can also purchase additional one-off 30-day data plans for $99 (2 GB), $199 (5 GB), or $299 (10 GB). Most interesting, however, is the $399 plan that provides unlimited global data for 1 year; order in the first month to get it for just $249. Available now. And yes, the We.stream looks a lot like an iPhone SE in a cellular-equipped case.
SignAll Sign Language Translator -- Google Translate, as impressive as it is, can’t handle American Sign Language. SignAll, currently in testing at Galludet University (a school focused on the education of deaf and hearing-impaired students), is a system of four cameras that watches signed communication and translates it into English. Next on their agenda: an on-screen avatar to provide translation in reverse. Future plans include refinement of handling of ASL dialects and expansion to include other international kinds of sign language. Not yet available to the public, but SignAll is soliciting applications to the pilot program.
PocketConfidant Virtual Coach -- PocketConfidant is an AI chatbot designed to replicate the experience of talking to a personal success coach. Your company, organization, or community signs up and provides PocketConfidant to its employees, members, or citizens. Each such group sets its own parameters for the coaching goals it wants individuals to achieve, but once that’s done, the conversations each person has with the AI are kept secret from the sponsoring agency. Conversations take place in private chat channels you may already be using, such as Slack or Facebook Messenger. The press materials have an example starting with, “I feel really low at work today,” with the AI asking for more details, but they don’t document the kind of answers one might expect. The coaching philosophy is to help the person find their own answer, rather than give advice; I’m not sure what that means in practice. You can sign up for a free trial to see if you want to try it with your group.
Wiidii Personal Assistant -- For more open-ended assistance with day-to-day life, there might be Wiidii. People have been dreaming of a 24/7 AI personal assistant for decades; Apple took a memorable crack at the idea with the Knowledge Navigator concept video in 1987. Wiidii claims to be shipping something similar, although via a text conversation rather than the full avatar-in-a-bowtie experience. It uses a combination of AI with human concierges filling in when the problem is too much for software to handle. For that reason, I’m not entirely skeptical when Wiidii claims to provide a wide variety of services with natural language processing, but I wonder what the mix is. Too much human help, and the service won’t scale, won’t be profitable, or will cost a boatload. No word on pricing because it’s aimed at companies that will provide it to their employees.
Diabilive Insulin Calculator -- Being an insulin-dependent diabetic is not easy: take too much or too little insulin, and life-threatening complications can result. The prevailing method of measuring a dose — guessing based on how you feel — leaves much to be desired. MirambeauAppCare’s Diabilive promises a better method: fire up this mobile app and enter your blood sugar level, and it will give you the precise insulin dosage based on your profile. Add the food you’ve eaten today, and your planned upcoming physical activities, and it adjusts accordingly. Planned for September 2018 release for $20 per month, but that schedule depends on timely FDA approval.
e-Vone Senior Monitoring Shoes -- CES was replete this year with senior-assistive technologies, and I was expecting several to make my cut for coverage. But most missed the mark: either a technology that I thought would be off-putting (such as various robots, not known for their acceptance by seniors), or unwieldy and single-purpose. You can buy one of several hip-mounted airbags to protect you from falls (if they work; I saw a painful-looking live demo that didn’t), but do you really want to constantly wear a device that protects you from just one particular danger?
e-Vone shoes aren’t protective, but their technology has the advantage of being unobtrusive to the wearer. Embedded sensors in the shoes detect falls and contact designated support people, including family or emergency services. This is an improvement over various in-home monitoring systems, as the shoes go where you do. The shoes rely on a network that came as news to me, called NarrowBand IoT; e-Vone claims it works in 120 countries, and T-Mobile will be rolling out nationwide later this year, with plans for only $6 a year. The shoes, which come in a range of styles, will cost a bit more: €30 a month for shoes and service, or €120 up front and €20 a month. As you might guess from the Euro denomination, it will launch in Europe in September 2018 (although in theory shoes purchased there should work elsewhere); U.S. sales are two years away.
Ripple Safety Wearable -- Alternatively, skip the shoes and wear a Ripple Safety 🎁. It’s a button that’s smaller than a penny, which you can clip to clothing or carry in your pocket. Clicking the button contacts a live 24/7 team through your phone, via Bluetooth. A triple click generates an emergency alert, and they’ll follow the instructions you’ve set up in your phone in advance. But the brilliant idea is the company’s non-emergency service: click the button once, and they’ll immediately call you back and stay on the line as long as you like; for example, while you’re walking to your car by yourself after dark. If anything goes awry (or hopefully, before it does), they’ll know immediately and can call whatever help you need. $19 for the button and $10 per month for the service, which includes a free replacement button every 6 months when the battery is scheduled to die. If you cancel the service, the button still works to send an alert message and your location to your friends.
Invi Nonviolent Defense Bracelet -- Even if you have a 24/7 phone buddy, if something bad happens, you’re still waiting for help. I’ve been attacked a few times, and I’ve been hurt; every time, I haven’t even thrown a punch in self-defense. Just not something I’m willing to do. For folks like me, there’s the Invi bracelet. It’s filled with a liquid that gives off an awful aroma when it hits the air; I asked what it smells like, and the rep said it was literally indescribable. The idea is, anyone attacking you is going to rapidly find somewhere else to be. The downside: it costs €70 a pop, and it can be used only once. That said, I expect there’s a psychological benefit to wearing one, even if you never use it. The bracelet has a safety button to prevent accidental discharge. Available now with free worldwide shipping.
Aveine Wine Aerator -- Call me uncouth, but I had no idea wine drinkers had so many problems, whether it’s preventing deterioration after a bottle is opened (see “CES 2018: CES Unveiled Gives a Duck,” 9 January 2018), or ensuring that just the right amount of air hits the wine on the way to the glass. (Can you imagine if Coke was as fiddly?) I was skeptical of the pricey 10-Vins D-Vine aerator last year (see “CES 2017: Gadget Finds on the CES Show Floor, Days 3 and 4,” 11 January 2017), but Aveine’s Aveinologie is closer to the sweet spot. It works with any bottle you own; scan the label with the device, and it knows the proper amount of air it needs. Then there’s none of that “let it breathe for four hours.” Just attach the Aveine to the bottle and pour for instantaneous aeration. $100 via Kickstarter in March 2018, with an anticipated $200 price tag in June. This perhaps raises a dilemma for the oenophile as to which gadget to use: a Coravin lets you sample a glass, but presumably without aerating the wine; an Aveinologie gives you the right gas mixture, but be ready to demolish the bottle in one sitting.
Cauldryn Multipurpose Travel Mug -- If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “this travel mug is fine, but it can’t make margaritas,” Cauldryn has you covered. The Cauldryn V2 🎁 series is an insulated 16-ounce travel mug that takes various accessories, including a blender, coffee percolator, or battery to keep your beverage at a precise temperature. Or you can recharge your phone with your coffee, which has to be the first time that sentence has been written. A digital readout and blinking lights communicate what’s going on inside the mug. The Cauldryn V2 series will be available late this year, ranging from $130 to $150 depending on which accessories you buy with the mug. Additional accessories range from $15 to $30, and Cauldryn expects to have more by the time it ships. Until then, you can make do with the $140 Cauldryn V1, which is a water heater/battery/AC adapter without the modular functionality for the additional units.
Bonaverde Coffee Maker -- Speaking of coffee, Bonaverde claims its Berlin coffee maker can make you a better cup, because it starts with green coffee beans, roasts them, grinds them, and serves you a pot of coffee in 15–20 minutes. In theory, this allows you to buy unroasted beans and keep them forever, because they don’t start to go stale until after they’re roasted. Supply your own, or buy Bonaverde’s RFID-equipped bags for $1–$2 each, which will instruct the Berlin on the correct way to treat the beans. The booth representative said the bags would provide 5–7 pots of coffee, but note that the Europeans think a “pot” is 40 ounces, and that’s “five cups of coffee,” whereas I think of 40 ounces as “a single serving.” I tried a sample, and it tasted like a decent cup of coffee, but nothing to make me rapturous. Then again, most connoisseurs think my Starbucks habit has strip-mined my taste buds. $799, available now.
VR Timetravel Augmented Tours -- In the category of “really interesting AR examples,” there’s VR Timetravel from Digital Devotion Group. You know those tour buses that take you around major cities to tourist spots that are littered with souvenir kiosks? VR Timetravel is designed for people on those buses; you still go places, but at any time you can put on the helmet, and see how the things you’re looking at appeared centuries ago. Currently on trial in sections of Luxembourg, the company’s hometown. If this ever includes the States, I’d tour Philadelphia and Washington wearing it in a heartbeat.
Lightyear One Solar-Powered Electric Car -- Verging into “I’ll believe it when I see it” territory is the Lightyear One, an electric car that claims to recharge from a solar panel roof. This doesn’t fit with what I’ve heard about how much power you can generate with that kind of square footage, but Lightyear claims you can go months without charging the battery. Details are nearly entirely lacking, but Lightyear was founded by five alumni from Solar Team Eindhoven, a student team that won the practicality judging in the Cruiser Class in the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, while completing a 3000 kilometer course from Darwin to Adelaide. So they know what they’re doing, at least in the prototype world. Lightyear expects to produce the first 10 cars in 2019 for €119,000 and suggests that they’ll build another 100 cars in 2020. Based on the Blade Runner-esque deep shadows of the photography, they’re probably none too clear on the final look of the car.
Unistellar eVscope Augmented Telescope -- I was psyched about the Unistellar eVscope telescope last year (see “CES 2017: Gadget Finds on the CES Show Floor, Days 3 and 4,” 11 January 2017), because an automated motorized telescope that optionally overlays augmented reality data so what you see matches processed NASA images is just damned cool. It’s still not shipping until early 2019, but presales begin in March 2018 for $1600 for this portable scope — it weighs 15.5 pounds (7 kg) including tripod. See the site for technical details about the telescope that I’m not qualified to explain. Unisteller has set up a nifty partnership with the SETI Institute to add objects to the database of what the eVscope can identify live, and to allow people to join in on crowdsourced science projects.
Hushme Voice Privacy -- We would all like a technological cone of silence to keep our calls private and be courteous to others in public spaces. I just don’t think anyone is willing to look like Hannibal Lecter 2049 to do it. Apparently Hushme agrees; I’m using the booth photograph because their Web site shows product pictures, and a guy with one resting on his neck, but no one actually using one. And if “youngsters” (youngsters? really?) actually use this for fun, well, sign me up early for my AARP card, because I don’t understand kids today. If you’re not yet thoroughly dissuaded, the details: other people can hear you’re speaking, they just can’t tell what you’re saying. A combination of active sound cancellation and optional white noise makes your conversation less intrusive to others. Currently on Indiegogo for $189, but note the “estimated delivery date” of December 2017; neither my press materials nor my booth conversation indicated whether they’ve started shipping.
Schluss Identity Privacy Platform -- As a guy who’s been into computer privacy issues since the 1980s and who thinks we’ve been losing ground ever since, Schluss is my cup of tea. The plan: rather than leaving a data trail everywhere you go online and turning over tons of identity data permanently to every company you rub shoulders with, instead you use a Schluss identity. The Schluss platform lets you designate which parts of your personal data are open by default and which private information a particular company may access. The upside for the company is that you keep your identity information up-to-date (it’s smart to do so, as outdated information is an identity theft risk), so they have a cost-free method of having your data as needed. The second upside: as Schluss grows, they want this privacy control model enacted in regulatory legislation, such that Schluss-compliant companies would get regulatory approval “for free,” literally and figuratively. Why trust Schluss? Because they don’t have customers, they have members; governance will be cooperative. (The Dutch founder used this term the way an American might say “nonprofit,” but I don’t know if that’s a legal designation.) Signing up members now, fees will be “minimal;” the initial aim is to make just enough profit to keep it going.
Shleep Personal Sleep Plan -- As soon as CES ended, I started spending long stretches of quality time with my pillows, and really got my hotel money’s worth. For others who don’t get enough shuteye, there’s the Shleep personal sleep planner. (Another product that was a guaranteed booth visit on the basis of a great name.) Shleep is an app for iOS and Android that runs you through a questionnaire to come up with a personal sleep plan to get you better rested and sends you a daily 5-minute video on how to get better sleep. The first video is titled “Break up with your snooze button,” because while those extra twenty winks might feel like more sleep, you don’t get much benefit when you’re woken up every 9 minutes. Now available for $10 a month or $72 a year, with promotional pricing for an unspecified duration and a discount for early adopters.