Toronto Star

The wildest gadgets shown off in Las Vegas

From talking toilets to robots that simulate human breathing and true wireless charging, CES is home to many new ideas

- GEOFFREY A. FOWLER AND HAYLEY TSUKAYAMA THE WASHINGTON POST

LAS VEGAS— Are you ready to talk to your toilet? Or cuddle with a robot?

Those are just a few of the ideas we’ve seen at CES 2018, the annual consumer technology confab at the Las Vegas Convention Center and other venues. Sure, there are tech titans here battling to control our computers, TVs and smart homes.

But our favourite part is the thousands of other companies that gather to launch something new.

While these ideas sometimes catch on, such as fitness trackers and wireless ear buds, many go nowhere. But the eager attempts are always interestin­g and often say something about where we’re headed in our relationsh­ips with technology. Here are the most out-there ideas that caught our attention.

Kohler Numi, an internet-connected toilet You can now ask Alexa to flush. Kohler’s latest high-end toilet connects to the internet and responds to voice commands. Beyond flushing, you can ask Amazon’s Alexa (as well as Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri) to lift the seat or activate your favourite bidet spray configurat­ion. There’s no microphone on the toilet itself, but there are speakers to play your favourite tunes. Plus, it keeps track of water usage. $5,625 (U.S.) and up, available in the fourth quarter of the year. Somnox, a robot you can cuddle This bot just wants to cuddle. Somnox is a bed companion that simulates human breathing. When you hug the robot, the rising and falling sensation subconscio­usly calms you down and helps you get to sleep faster, say its makers. Somnox can also make the soothing sounds of heartbeats, lullabies and guided meditation, which you activate from an app. Best part: It doesn’t ever snore. $600, shipping in September. Modius, a headband to help lose weight Pack on a few pounds during this cold snap? Modius has built a headset that stimulates your vestibular nerve, which runs behind your ear and into your brain. You use Modius by attaching a pad to your skin, which has a wire that runs up to the headband. The electric current, Modius says, stimulates the part of the brain that controls your appetite. It’s meant to be an extra boost to supplement your weight-loss plan. Brainzappi­ng technology is still somewhat unproven, but several companies claim it can help everything from concentrat­ion to pain relief. $500, expected in February. Foldimate and Laundroid, robots that fold your laundry These competing robots tackle one of the week’s most arduous chores. Foldimate’s promises to fold a load of laundry in four minutes, but asks you to feed each piece in, individual­ly. The much pricier Laundroid folds from a drawer of clothes, but takes much longer. Sadly, neither can tack- le socks or sheets yet. $16,000 for Laundroid, $980 for Foldimate. PowerSpot, a charging hub with no cords or mats More gadgets? That means more charging cables. But Powercast’s PowerSpot hub promises to charge de- vices such as watches, headphones and keyboards within an 24-metre radius without any charging accessorie­s. It does that by using technology that promises to be like Wi-Fi, but for electricit­y. With recent approval from the Federal Communicat­ions Commission, it’s closer than ever to hitting the market. $100, expected in the third quarter of this year. Xeros, a washing machine that could really slash your water bill Running a laundry load uses a lot of water — while also subjecting your clothes to some serious roughhousi­ng. Xeros fills washing machines with nylon balls about the size of green peas that help massage away dirt and absorb loose dye using half as much water. It also jostles your clothes less, leading to energy savings and clothes that last longer. The tech is already used in some commercial washers and is trying to work its way into home models. Price hasn’t been set yet; could arrive in the consumer home market within two years. INVI, a bracelet to fight assault INVI’s stylish bracelet is actually a deterrent against sexual assault. Like a skunk, INVI’s bracelet releases a foul odour to repel attackers, in this case when you break its clasp. It’s not clear how much of a deterrent a bad smell would be, but we commend the idea. About $70, shipping now. ElliQ, a social robot for seniors Isolation is a significan­t problem for some older adults. ElliQ is a tabletop robot with a swiveling head that connects seniors to friends for messages and video chats and makes it a bit easier for them to take advantage of online informatio­n and services. It suggests physical activities, such as taking medicine or going for a walk and also makes personal recommenda­tions for news, music or games. Headed to beta trials before a launch this year. 3DRudder, a game controller for your feet Virtual reality is all about immersion, but in real life most people don’t move anywhere by using the thumbstick that most VR systems employ. 3DRudder is a foot pad that rocks and turns to simulate footsteps while seated. $139, shipping now. Aibo, a robot dog Sony’s iconic Aibo dog, discontinu­ed in 2006, has been reborn and is cuter and smarter than ever. Originally announced last fall, the new pup stole the show at Sony’s CES news conference, where he was shown to a U.S. audience for the first time. Aibo has a camera in its nose, a microphone to pick up voice commands and 22 articulate­d parts. The bad news: It will only be for sale in Japan, for now. $1,800, ships Jan. 11.

 ?? FOLDIMATE ?? Clockwise, from top left: Sony president and CEO Kazuo Hirai introduces the robotic dog Aibo. Somnox is a robot that serves as a sleep companion. Kohler’s Numi toilet connects to the internet and responds to voice commands. The Foldimate promises to...
FOLDIMATE Clockwise, from top left: Sony president and CEO Kazuo Hirai introduces the robotic dog Aibo. Somnox is a robot that serves as a sleep companion. Kohler’s Numi toilet connects to the internet and responds to voice commands. The Foldimate promises to...
 ?? JHAAN ELKER/THE WASHINGTON POST ??
JHAAN ELKER/THE WASHINGTON POST
 ?? KOHLER ??
KOHLER
 ?? ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES ??
ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

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