Las Vegas

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas just finished up on January 10th so we thought we’d call out some of the products and trends that we hope are fun and interesting to nonprofit techies. It was by most accounts a good show with lots of weird stuff on display.

To be sure, with 3,200 exhibitors spread across two million square feet and 150,000 visitors looking at all the new tablets, laptops, smartphones, apps, ultra HD TVs, hi-res audio, connected cars; and more exotic things like drones, robots, sensors, Internet of Things gadgets, 3D printers, and wearables, this year’s event yielded some interesting NPTech news.


Technology for Good Gadgets – It’s All About Health and Fitness

TechRadar among many others announced that this was the year that wearables took CES by storm. With an abundance of lower cost sensors available to manufacturers, the event featured computing devices to be worn on the wrist, your head, your waist, your feet, in your clothes, and as jewelry. Many of the new gizmos were smart watches, but I won’t bore you with a listing of new models of those. Many of the new wearables are biometric tools that dominate the emerging field of fitness wearables.

The Interaxon Headband is a brain-wave detector that sends real time information on your brain activity to your phone, supposedly so you can improve concentration and composure..

Sensoria makes a smart fitness bra that allows wearers to track their heart rate. The bra works in combination with Polar or Garmin heart monitors. They make a similar smart t-shirt for men. Though Microsoft didn’t exhibit at this year’s CES, they’ve also developed a smart bra that is designed to help control the wearer's appetite and prevent emotional over-eating by monitoring heart and skin activity and making the info available on your Windows phone.

Sensoria smart socks generate heat maps of how a runner’s foot strikes the ground and sends the info to a phone app. It identifies any problems with a runner’s form.

Netamo’s JUNE “jewel” is a UV sensor that can be worn as a brooch or bracelet and transmits info to your phone when you’re getting too much sun. There is apparently more low power Bluetooth smart jewelry on the horizon that connects to smartphones.

Your Bed Can Watch Over You

The Sleep Number x12 bed is an $8,000 smart bed that tracks your sleep activity and allows you change the firmness and elevation of the bed with voice commands. The thing monitors your body's movement throughout the night and can apparently modify its firmness to correct for a bad night. It also stops snoring by adjusting the bed to open your airways without waking you up.

In the same vein, Withings introduced Aura, a smart sleep system that you put under your mattress. The device detects movements, sleep stages, heart rate and breathing rate and then sends the data to a smartphone app. Fortunately you can turn it off if you don’t want your activities in your bed monitored. NPR did an amusing story on this biometric device. It got a CES 2014 Innovations Award.

The Lumo Lift is a small gadget that vibrates to remind you to stand up straighter. It detects your body's positioning and when you start to slouch it vibrates. Lumo expects to officially launch the Lift in late spring and it expects the device will cost $59-$79.

The $99 internet-connected electric toothbrush by Kolibree tracks how long and how well your teeth are brushed. Now when your dentist asks how often you brush, you can prove it.

Juniper Research predicts that the smart wearable-device market will reach $19 billion by 2018. Nearly all of these new biometric gadgets transmit your very personal health information to an app where you can view their findings on a smartphone. The question remains how private this very personal information is. 

Weird Gadgets

Speaking of security, the DoorBot is a Wi-Fi-enabled doorbell that lets you see and talk to the visitors standing outside your house from an iOS or Android smartphone. When someone rings the bell, it initiates what is basically a video call on your phone so you can answer your door anywhere in world. The thing costs $200. The startup Goji also introduced a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capable door lock with a camera.

Drones at CES, Mother is a gadget that brings the Internet of Things into our everyday life. It has little sensors called ‘Motion Cookies’ that you can put in a money drawer, a medicine chest, your fridge, and a jewelry box – anywhere you suspect bad acting. The Wall Street Journal cites the manufacturer that the goal for Mother is to help users track their eating, fitness, hygiene, and security. Mother will cost $222 for a base unit and four Cookies, and is expected to start shipping next month.

Speaking of the Internet of Things, LG introduced Internet capable refrigerators, ovens, and washing machines that respond to voice and text messages. They use a smartphone app called HomeChat. Forget Facebook. It’s time to start meaningful dialogs with your appliances.

3D Systems is offering the ChefJet 3D Printer. I guess this thing is a high-tech cookie cutter. It ‘prints’ food in 3D geometrical shapes.

Don’t Forget the Bendable TVs, Pocket Drone, and Smartphone Stun Gun

LG, Sony, and Samsung introduced new curved and bendable flat-panel TVs that are supposed to make moving images more lifelike, enveloping to a viewer's field of vision. The reviews on those I’ve read so far are not great. The TV technology most likely to make your current TV obsolete are new ultra high definition ‘4K’ TVs. Several low-cost mass-market 4K TVs debuted at CES 2014, including huge ones. Rest assured that 5K TVs are not far behind. Toshiba already exhibited one at the show.

Curved TV - Samsung

There were also consumer grade drones at CES this year. One of the most interesting ones is the AirDroids Pocket Drone. It is described in Kickstarter as the world's first personal multicopter. It can carry a GoPro video camera (an astonishing device in its own right) in to the sky for up to 20 minutes and folds up smaller than a seven-inch tablet. You can run the thing from a tablet computer. The Pocket Drone is expected to cost under $500 and be available for whatever aerial surveillance needs you might have in June. It was a finalist at the TechCrunch Hardware Battlefield 2014.

I think my favorite weird security gadget, though, is the smartphone stun gun. It’s actually an iPhone case by Yellow Jacket. The thing both recharges your phone and can tazer an attacker with 650,000 volts. It comes in several colors and the stun gun pack is detachable for quieter moments when you’re not under attack. It will be available starting in February for $149.

Anything we missed? Please log in to comment on this blog post.

Images 1 and 2 :NVIDIAImage 3: Zennie AbrahamImage 4: Samsung