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Oh, my butt is sore from sitting so much. That was one of the hazards of CES 2022, which I covered for a second year in a row from afar, in the comfort of my own home.
At CES 2020, I walked more than 37.45 miles (over 84,385 steps) to scout for the best ideas and products of the show. At CES 2021, I walked about 20 feet to the fridge and 20 more feet to the bathroom and back to my home office repeatedly. And I did that again for CES 2022. Such is the consequence of playing it safe, for myself and those around me, while the Omicron variant spreads.
When I saw ghost town pictures of CES events (like CES Unveiled, with a much smaller number of journalists eating free food), I had some severe FOMO because nobody had to wait in lines.
This year featured 2,200 exhibitors, up from 1,900 in 2021 and 4,000 (in-person) in 2020. I missed dragging my roller bag all over the place and catching Ubers in Las Vegas to go to nightclubs where I was too tired to enjoy anything. But here are the things that caught my eye.
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1) BMW’s car that changes its color
I really would like to see some jaws drop when I change the color of my BMW from blue to pink. That day isn’t here yet, but BMW unveiled a car that can change its color because its exterior has a coating of E Ink.
E Ink is the same kind of tech used in Amazon Kindle ebook readers, and can now cover the surface of an entire automobile. Videos of the BMW iX Flow featuring E Ink showed it could instantly change the color of an SUV from black to white or vice versa. Together with its My Modes interior decorations for lighting the inside of your car with digital art, this represents a way to customize your car to how you feel at any given moment.
A white surface reflects a lot more sunlight than a black one. By implication, heating of the vehicle and passenger compartment as a result of strong sunlight and high outside temperatures can be reduced by changing the exterior to a light color. In cooler weather, a dark outer skin will help the vehicle to absorb noticeably more warmth from the sun.
E Ink technology itself is extremely energy efficient. Unlike displays or projectors, the electrophoretic technology needs no energy to keep the chosen color state constant.
It’s the stuff of science fiction. I want some of this coating for my house too.
2) Samsung energy-harvesting remote control
Last year, Samsung debuted a remote control that could tap solar energy for its power. And the new Samsung energy-harvesting remote can now get power from the radio frequencies generated by things in your home such as Wi-Fi routers. It’s a lot like how radio frequency identification (RFID) gets its power from connecting with radio waves. The new remote has a solar cell to gain energy from your lights or sunlight coming through the windows. But it can also collect RF energy and convert it into electric energy to charge the remote. And so this remote will never need new batteries, and that is good for the planet.
3) John Deere’s self-driving tractor
Self-driving cars aren’t really tearing up our roads yet. But farms may be another story. John Deere showed off its self-driving tractor at CES 2022. It retrofitted its 8R tractor with cameras and sensors, so it can make its way through fields without a human driver.
The tractor can spot obstructions and stop or otherwise let the farmer know what’s happening through a smartphone app. The task of navigating a field can be tricky, but it’s not nearly as hard as driving down roads with other humans. It uses GPS to help with automatic steering, and it doesn’t get tired. Still, it’s not completely displacing the human because it needs an overseer. Drivers have to refuel it and take it from one field to another. And so far it is focusing on tillage, or preparing soil for planting. The fully autonomous tractor will hit the fields later this year.
4) GAF Energy’s nailable solar shingles
Solar roofing provider GAF Energy debuted the Timberline Solar Energy Shingle, which integrates into roofing materials so you can nail it to the roof.
One of the big time sinks and costs associated with solar roofs has been the need to house solar tiles on heavy platforms that have to be attached to roofs, making a solar roof installation more complicated than putting on a traditional roof.
The company said the Timberline Solar is reliable, durable, cost-effective, easy to install, and aesthetically superior. It is less than a quarter-inch thick, and you can nail it just like you’re putting on a regular roof.
Over five million new roofs are installed on U.S. homes each year. Let’s hope this brings down the cost of installation so that solar roofs become even more affordable and easier to get a return on investment on clean energy.
5) Massage Robotics Model MR-01
Every year at CES, I would see dozens of people waiting in lines to get massages in chairs. But those automated massages couldn’t give you the kind of relief a human can. But Massage Robotics is taking up that challenge with its massage robot table that has two robotic arms.
It uses 6-axis collaborative robotic arms and cloud artificial intelligence. You can speak to it in English or Mandarin Chinese, and tell it where to massage you. It uses machine learning to recommend a massage routine for you, or you can personalize it.
You might not trust a robot to be gentle enough, but it may be more comfortable than a stranger touching your body, the company said. Massage Robotics says it’s safe, and it won’t engage in sexual misconduct without you either, the company said. You can create a personalized massage and share it with friends. It only costs $310,000.
6) Sony PlayStation VR 2 headset
Sony unveiled its second-generation PlayStation VR virtual reality headset. That’s going to be a shot in the arm for the VR games market, which is already picking up thanks to Facebook’s Meta Quest 2 (formerly the Oculus Quest 2) and the need for people to escape from the pandemic.
Sony’s new device will use OLED displays with a resolution of 2000 x 2040 pixels per eye. It has a refresh rate of 120 hertz and a 110-degree field of view. It will feature eye-tracking technology. That means when you look up, the camera will detect your eye movement and make something happen in a game. It uses hand controllers with haptic feedback. It doesn’t have pricing or a date yet.
The visuals will be better with 4K resolution and foveated rendering, which saves on computing by sharply rendering on the things you can see. Sony’s got an interesting game for it coming: Horizon: Call of the Mountains.
7) Sony Vision-S 02 electric vehicle
I always wondered what a car would look like if Sony designed it. Hoping to stay ahead of other dreamy things like an Apple car, Sony unveiled its Vision-S concept for an electric car.
Sony didn’t say all that much about it, except it uses the same EV/cloud platform as its Vision-S 01 prototype. This car is an SUV that looks more like a four-door. It has big entertainment screens in a variety of positions in the seven-seat vehicle. And Sony can pack in all of the electronics it wants into this car, which might be its reason for existing.
I’d like to get one with a PlayStation 5 in it, preferably in the back seat. Sony hasn’t said when it’s coming or the price.
8) Samsung Freestyle Projector
Samsung showed off a Freestyle projector that casts anything you want onto walls, or down from a light fixture onto a table.
The two-pound device can project a 100-inch image on a wall, and you can send content to it with a Samsung Galaxy phone by tapping it. You can even personalize a wall with a fake window. And you can manage content with your voice.
It’s like a video projector, smart speaker, and lighting system all in a single device. It can rotate so that you can easily cast images onto any surface. You can put things on the wall that suit your mood.
9) DeepOptics 32ºN reading sunglasses
I can’t get my hands on Mojo Vision’s augmented reality contact lenses yet. But my traditional glasses could sure use a replacement. And Deep Optics has come up with touch-sensitive LCD sunglasses that you can electronically adjust to suit your eyes.
The 32ºN sunglasses let you switch over from seeing objects that are far away to reading glasses. You just swipe your finger to switch modes. You can use them as ordinary UV-blocking sunglasses. But when you want to see something upfront, you can slide a finger along the touch-sensitive arm of the glasses. You can program in your own prescription.
These glasses don’t weigh you down, as they weigh less than 50 grams. One charge should get you through a full day. If the battery runs out, it reverts to distance mode. It will have a retail price of $449 and will be out later this year.
10) Kohler Stillness Bath
This one was on my list last year, and it’s actually shipping this year.
It’s a square tub that dazzles you with a combination light, fog, and aromatherapy. It’s based on the practice of Japanese forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. I had plenty of this experience in Sony’s Ghost of Tsushima video game, but I could use this spa-like experience in my home in real life.
When the water overflows, it spills out the side into a wooden moat.
Kohler has products that I think are for supremely lazy people, but the company sees things like its automated bath filler as giving people back time in their days. I can imagine at the end of the day getting some relief from the world in a bath like this.
It costs $8,000, and it will be available in the first quarter of 2022.
11) Noveto N1 headphones without headphones
Noveto showed up with some invisible headphones. I haven’t tried these yet, but from afar it looks just like a soundbar. You pair it with your computer or smartphone via Bluetooth. Then it beams audio only to your ears. It emits ultrasound to your ears and converges into an audible pocket in your ears.
No one else can hear what the soundbar is emitting except you. This way, you can get on a call without wearing a headset, and no one will be able to hear you the way they would with a speakerphone. It doesn’t have a price yet and is expected to ship later this year.
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