Weird tech What’s new?

Sunday Star-Times - - News - David Court

If you didn’t know al­ready, CES (Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show) is prob­a­bly the big­gest tech­nol­ogy event of the year. It takes place in Las Ve­gas and it’s where all the world’s big­gest tech com­pa­nies (apart from Ap­ple) com­pete to launch ex­cit­ing and cool new prod­ucts.

That’s what it used to be any­way. These days things are a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. Flag­ship de­vices are rarely launched at CES any­more. It’s now fash­ion­able for big brands like Sam­sung, Mi­crosoft, Google et al, to launch their big­gest prod­ucts at spe­cial one-off events.

This leaves CES in a bit of a weird space. Flag­ships are no longer launched here. So what are we left with?

The weird and won­der­ful, that’s what. CES is now a place where far-fetched prod­ucts grab the head­lines. Fu­tur­is­tic de­vices, like Sam­sung’s new health­care ro­bots or LGs rol­lable TV, are what ev­ery­one’s talk­ing about.

Here are the trends, and prod­ucts, I think CES 2019 will be re­mem­bered for.

Health­care ro­bots

Sam­sung leads the way here. Its range of health ro­bots is fas­ci­nat­ing. The South Korean com­pany re­vealed (not launched) three new health­care bots this week.

First up was Bot Air. This one is sim­ple to get your head around and seems like a gen­uinely use­ful in­no­va­tion. Bot Air is what you get when you cross an air pu­ri­fier with a Roomba and a pedal bin. It’s de­signed to au­tonomously nav­i­gate around your house and pu­rify the air on a room-by-room ba­sis.

GEMS was the next bot launched, al­though this is more of an ex­oskele­ton than a bot. I’m not kid­ding, Sam­sung is now a com­pany that’s mak­ing ex­oskele­tons. GEMS comes in three ver­sions. GEMS-H (Hip), GEMS-A (an­kle) and GEMS-K (knee). H is the most ad­vanced of the three and can re­port­edly boost your walk­ing speed by 20 per cent, im­prove your bal­ance by 19 per cent and re­duce your en­ergy out­put by 23 per cent.

Bot Care is Sam­sung’s third health­care ro­bot. This is de­signed to be both a pas­sive and ac­tive health­care mon­i­tor. The ac­tive health­care fea­tures aren’t par­tic­u­larly new or ex­cit­ing, it can mea­sure things like heart-rate when you place a fin­ger on its sen­sor or re­mind you to take your medicine, once you’ve in­structed it to do so.

The in­no­va­tion here lies in its pas­sive health­care mon­i­tor­ing. It will judge a hu­man’s sleep qual­ity by mea­sur­ing breath­ing pat­terns. Its most im­pres­sive fea­ture is its abil­ity to de­tect falls – a ma­jor cause of death for se­niors.

Sam­sung also launched Bot Re­tail. Which has noth­ing to do with health­care and is ac­tu­ally pretty lim­ited in what it can do – it can take food orders and help you find items in a re­tail store. But the fact Sam­sung is work­ing on some­thing to re­place the role of hu­mans is worth men­tion­ing.

High-end TVs

I’m go­ing to make a pre­dic­tion. TV will never die. We, the con­sumers, just love TV too much.

Watch­ing a good film, box set or cring­ing at The Bach­e­lor is some­thing we nat­u­rally want to share with each other. Which is why I’m doubt­ful VR will ever hap­pen.

The in­dus­try agrees with me too. Def­i­nitely in the short term. The ra­tio of news­wor­thy TVs com­pared to VR sets launched backs me up (2:0).

LG’s rol­lable 4K TV was my per­sonal favourite. Yes, rol­lable. The de­vice on dis­play in Ve­gas un­rolled up­wards from an over­sized sand­bar base and rested in an im­pres­sively rigid state.

It’s only a pro­to­type at this stage, with LG say­ing it aims to sell them by late 2019. But the tech­nol­ogy is ex­cit­ing. There was only the 65-inch ver­sion on dis­play at the show, but no pric­ing in­for­ma­tion was avail­able. LG says that it has been tested to 50,000 rolls. Which means you could roll it up and down four times a day for the next 34 years.

Not to be out­done, Sam­sung had its own im­pres­sive TV on show. This was some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent too. A 75-inch mod­u­lar 4K dis­play. It’s not re­ally one for your liv­ing room. It’s de­signed for busi­nesses or sta­di­ums that need to build HD big screens.

Google As­sis­tant takes aim at Alexa

It was a big show for Google As­sis­tant too. Google knows it’s be­hind the com­pe­ti­tion (Ama­zon) with ease of in­te­gra­tion for third­party ser­vices and it’s hop­ing to re­gain some ground with a new set of tools called Google As­sis­tant Con­nect.

That’s not all. Google also chose CES to an­nounce a se­ries of new Google As­sis­tant up­dates. Most no­tably, In­ter­preter Mode. A fea­ture that lets you chat and trans­late, in real time, in up to 27 lan­guages.

Google As­sis­tant also boasted sev­eral new part­ner­ships. These in­clude Len­ovo’s new Smart Alarm Clock, KitchenAid’s Smart Dis­play, Sonos’ lat­est home speaker, the Philips Hue and new Sam­sung TVs.

AP

Sam­sung’s Bot Air pu­ri­fies your house, room by room.

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