CES is known for lots of things. You can find new TVs, new computers, and new devices aplenty. And then there are the things you don’t always see reports of.
While TVs, computers, VR, and sound gear were some of the obvious highlights of our highly memorable and information-packed journey to Las Vegas for CES 2018 , the show was also punctuated by some rather curious gadgets that managed to sneak in and grab our attention.
These were the things that delivered an almost quizzical face, the look of someone with a furled eyebrow who raised one and gave off the body language for “wait, you’re serious, right?”
And indeed these companies were, delivering a dose of the almost crazy with some idea that might mess with your mind, shortly before you find a reason why someone would want them.
What were the almost crazy ideas from CES 2018?
Soft sleeping kidney
The CES event of Showstoppers gives journalists a taste for some of the ideas they may not see coming, and the Somnox was one of those, with a cuddly sleeping appliance.
Yes, a cuddly sleeping appliance was not what we expected to find at a technology show, but gadgets of all kinds were there, so we made some space for what it was, and here’s what it was: a cuddly gadget to help comfort you and get you to sleep.
The team behind the Somnox wouldn’t tell us what was inside this soft kidney-looking thing, but from what we can tell, it was a setup of a few motors moving ever so slightly, almost as if the system had haptics inside, with the idea being that you cuddle this as you go to sleep and it in turn comforts you by feeling almost like a real… something.
In a way, that makes the Somnox like a more living plush toy, and something to hold onto as you close your eyes and go to sleep.
You have to keep it plugged in, though, so it kind of breaks the illusion given the cable will only be so far (and obviously stretched over you). Strangely, the company behind it almost envisions that couples will have one each, and so will therefore cuddle their own as they go to sleep.
We’re not as convinced by the idea, but it should be coming to life later this year. Maybe in Australia, who knows.
The new wood crafting
While Polaroid showed us a vision where its retro cameras returned to life complete with its film, it also had something rather interesting on display in the form of wood crafting.
In fact, it wasn’t so much wood crafting, but rather wood printing, with a 3D printing pen being used with a wood-fused plastic cartridge so you could draw in wood in a three dimensional capacity.
The results could be simple or complicated, but one of Polaroid’s team showed Pickr just how you would build these kind-of-like-wood models, starting with a template and then gradually layering the melted plastic-wood on top to build these models, not unlike a soldering iron.
We’ll admit, we were very curious about it, and while Polaroid says the pens are coming to Europe first, we’ll be nudging the team to find out if or when Australia is on the list.
NFC speaker for kids
On our last day, we checked our Eureka Park, a sort of place where the cool and crazy and Kickstarter-y ideas come to meet prospective buyers and journalists, and one of the concepts — the Muuse Labs Jooki — actually made a lot of sense.
The idea here is actually quite interesting: if you don’t want your kids to have a phone or an iPad, but you do want them to have music, the Jooki speaker will tie specific music tracks to little plastic blocks with Near-Field Communication in them.
If the song they want to hear is inside one, they merely put that little block on the speaker, and it starts.
Technically, the speaker has all the songs in it, and the NFC blocks aren’t storing anything, as Near-Field Communication doesn’t work that way. However, it’s a neat way to get kids to have their music without giving them a big tablet or phone, and that made a lot of sense to us.
No idea on Australian pricing or availability, though we did ask.
Turn any IR port into an app
Is your TV so old that it doesn’t come with an app? What about your soundbar? Speaker system? Air conditioner? Fan?
The Puck was another neat concept we saw that essentially allowed you to turn any infrared port into an app controlled system, using your phone or tablet as the app and getting it talk to the device.
From what we could tell, the Puck is essentially a Bluetooth to infrared interpreter, taking commands that would be sent normally through infrared, learning them, and then talking to an app over Bluetooth so it can fire them.
It means that if you want to control any device with only an infrared port like an old TV through an app, you can, and we heard it might even work through the likes of Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa soon enough.
Neat idea, especially if you have a lot of old technology, which we’re sure everyone does. The team didn’t have any word on whether this would be coming to Australia just yet, but it was available overseas in the US.
LG’s robotic assistant
We’re still not quite sure about this one, but one of LG’s products found on its stand was all about helping you, taking the Google Assistant concept and merging it with a look almost like the Eve robot from Pixar’s “Wall-E”.
Cloi — supposedly pronounced “Clo-eee”, yet reading like “Cloy” — is LG’s take on the home’s smart assistant, giving it electronic eyes and sounds, but not really doing much of anything else.
You can talk to her and get her to act on things, and really, from what we can tell, she merely provides a friendly face to the fact that assistants are just a bit of software on every device.
Seriously, as neat as the idea is, we’re not sure who this one is for. Maybe the person that hates talking to their phone, but somehow believes a robot is better? Maybe?
Animated cosplay sword
We’ll admit it: this concept held our attention for longer than we wanted to admit, as Cerevo showed off an electronic sword for folks to play with.
If you know someone who is very, very, very, very into pretending they’re an animated character that managed to jump outside the world of anime and find themselves in the real world, the Cerevo Elucidator essentially brings the world of anime to life with a sword not unlike a gauntlet that allows you to take on the armies of darkness with a responsive edge (pun intended).
The Elucidator sword flashes colours as you swing, makes noises, and really just comes off like a set piece from an uber-cool anime movie, except it’s real.
We didn’t get to ask when this was coming to Australia, though we imagine it’s online if you need it. We did end up watching it being used for longer than we expected.
Self-playing chess board
One of the last gadgets we saw at CES 2018 was also one of the coolest, with a self-playing chess board that made it seem like an invisible person was playing opposite you.
If you’ve played a chess game on your computer or phone before, you’ve probably wished the board could be real, because no game ever feels as good as gripping the actual pieces and playing.
The Square Off Kingdom chess set brings that concept to life, with a virtual grandmaster playing you on the chess board, moving the pieces by itself.
We’ll admit that this was one of the curiously brilliant ideas that we’re delighted to have come across, providing a take on the digital version of one of the world’s favourite games that returns it to the physical once and for all. Yay.
There was no information available on Australian release, though we suspect online and with a fair amount of money is what you’d need if you wanted to play chess against an invisible opponent.
Leigh :) Stark travelled to CES in Las Vegas as a guest of Dell.