CES 2018: On the Hunt for Tiny Treasures in the CES Aisles

These gadgets being launched at CES aren’t going to change the world, but I’m still eager to check them out

Silhouetted people walk in front of a large logo that spells out CES
Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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CES 2018 starts Tuesday for most of the industry, Monday for the press corps. So I will be spending five days being wow’ed by the biggest and thinnest TV displays ever, new networking and wireless power technology, impressive wearables, and lots more that I’ll be reporting on all week. You can keep up with it all, along with all the other reporting from my colleagues at IEEE Spectrum, on our dedicated landing page.

But as I planned my schedule to make sure I attend all the most important tech industry announcements, and tried to figure out which new gadget will be the must-have item in 2018’s zeitgeist, I also put together a very short list of personal must-sees. The criteria? It must be something I actually might want to own; something that I just think would be fun to try; or something whose existence makes me want to ask the developers: what were you thinking? Hunting for these little gold nuggets can get me down an aisle or two of the endless CES show floors that I might pass up otherwise, so it’s the list that I’ll take out when I need a little energy boost.

In no particular order, here are the shiny bits of treasure I pulled from the deluge of hundreds of pre-CES press releases and related news feeds:

Ovie Smarterware. I’m sure most of the major appliance manufacturers will be touting their latest and every smarter intelligent refrigerator. This year, startup Ovie will be demonstrating a set of what they call Smarterware—food storage containers, bag clips, vegetable tags, and other gizmos that track how long your food has been in your fridge and remind you to use it before it goes bad.

These gadgets solve a major challenge that faces smart fridges—knowing what’s gotten shoved in the back of the shelves or buried in the bins, particularly things like fruits, vegetables, and leftovers, which don’t have bar codes. And Ovie promises that the starter set of the gadgets will retail for less than $90.

Do I actually want Smarterware? Probably not. It’s unlikely that I’ll be willing to tag my carrots and Brussels sprouts when I get home from the grocery store and am hurriedly shoving things into the vegetable bins so I can just be done with shopping. And, frankly, I feel guilty enough about ordering takeout when I know that the green beans have been sitting there for a while without an app reminding me. But I love the idea that a $90 set of gadgets can beat a $4000 smart fridge at the intelligence game.

Reliefband 2.0. Two years ago the first generation of the Reliefband, a wearable that treats motion sickness, changed my life.  I still carry it with me everywhere and use it often. But nobody ever denied that the first-generation Reliefband is a clunky and not particularly attractive gadget. The company has been promising a redesign for a while, one that looks better and does a better job of transmitting the right amount of electricity to the right spot on the wrist (I confess I sometimes end up holding version one to make sure it doesn’t lose contact during situations in which I’d be particularly susceptible to motion sickness.) So I can’t wait to try out version 2.0.

E Ink’s Prism Dress. An outfit based on the color-changing technology previously found in e-readers display? No, I don’t want one. But I do want to see this mutable garment, if only for its viral photo possibilities—remember the white-gold/blue-black dress debate?

Helite’s Hip’Air. Helite, a startup from Fontaine-lès-Dijon, France, is promising live demos of a wearable airbag. The gadget looks a bit like a fanny pack—or two—and contains sensors that detect a fall in progress and deploy airbags to prevent hip breaks on impact. Given my elderly relatives won’t even wear alert pendants, I don’t see this flying off store shelves. But points for finding a new way to jump on the sensors/wearables/senior tech trends.  

Cauldryn’s Fyre Smart Bottle. Cauldryn, based in St Charles, Mo., started their pitch with “What if you could talk to your water bottle, ask it to brew coffee…” so they pretty much had me at hello. I usually carry a water bottle and yes, there are times when I’ve stared at it and wished it were coffee. Cauldryn is promising an Aladdin’s lamp of a water bottle—one that will boil water, and, with upgrades coming in 2018, will grind coffee beans, charge my phone, and act as a speaker. The company touts that the gadget is also remotely accessible, though I have a hard time seeing the point of that. What’s the downside? I’m guessing it’ll weigh as much as my fully loaded CES bag, and that will be a deal breaker, but yes, I want a look.

Samsung’s In-Folding Smartphones. Samsung may be bringing back the flip phone, or something like it. The company hasn’t specifically said that these gadgets will be at CES, but a few months ago announced that they will be released in 2018, so I’m hoping for a CES unveiling, at least as a concept product.

Why foldable? The obvious reason is that it lets the company fit a much bigger display into a pocket-sized gadget. For me, though, there are some things about a flip phone that I still miss—for example not worrying about scratching the display when I tossed it from my pocket and that a device that could be closed up seemed a lot easier to ignore.

Cambridge Consultants’ Vincent. Product development firm Cambridge Consultants is planning to show off their AI chops at CES. One promised demo is Vincent, what the company calls “a breakthrough in machine learning that is capable of interpreting what a human is drawing and then completing the piece for them in real time.” I’m a persistent but not particularly talented art hobbyist who is really slow at completing anything—so I am eager to see what Vincent does with my attempts at sketching.

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