Wacky gadgets from CES 2017
The weird and the wonderful were on display at CES 2017, the 50th anniversary of the landmark gadget show. Is any of it essential? Probably not. Desirable? Possibly.
As an annual barometer of where we are as consumers, as a compass to show mankind’s current obsessions and motivating factors, the grand CES gadget exposition – spread across myriad opulent, extravagant and/or gaudy Las Vegas venues – lays us bare as a species. It is where the stuff of dreams is made tangible, where science-fiction ideas from the past become the household objects of the future and where our most niche hungers and desires are sated – even if sometimes we weren’t even aware of said hungers until the gadget solution to the desire was displayed before us.
Did you know you’ve been brushing your teeth wrong all these years? Or that the reason your hair lacks lustre is because your current hairbrush isn’t contributing anything? Maybe the answer to cold feet is not just a thicker pair of socks, but shoes that heat your feet. And if you’re always making excuses about not having time for the gym, stop whining and get pumped at your desk – it only takes five minutes.
At CES this year, the focus for many products seemed to be a move away from conspicuous, superfluous consumption and more towards personal integration. What can technology do for me? How can it help to improve my ‘self’? Accordingly, health tech and “wellness” solutions were much in evidence, be it a Bluetooth monitoring sensor for pregnant women that discerns a kick from a contraction; a connected cellulite massage roller that improves your body-shaping technique in real-time; a smart walking stick with embedded movement sensors, accelerometer and gyroscope that alerts family members via text message if the stick (and, by extension, its handler) falls over; or a smart sensor cover for wheelchair users that tracks posture, inactivity and weight loss.
On the face of it, some of these ideas – and many others like it on show – can seem unnecessary or trivial, even silly. After all, we’ve got along just fine without all of them for all these years and we haven’t come to any serious harm, right?
Yet, if technology can help to improve specific aspects of our life – better oral healthcare, improved sleep, increased exercise, sensible weight loss, more holistic care for children and the elderly, especially at a distance as population migration and the demands of work increasingly separate family members – then our lives could be made less stressful, not more so.
When all’s said and done, you don’t have to buy any of it. Just know that it’s out there for you when the need arises. Because if CES teaches us one thing, it is that whatever arcane human need you can possibly imagine, there will almost certainly be a gadget primed and ready to serve it.
E&T's CES 2017 gadgets edit
Meet Kuri, the “loyal little home robot with a cheerful personality”, who will follow you around entertaining you and then patrol your house when you’re out, relaying what she sees across the internet to your smartphone.
Sleep Number’s 360 Smart Bed – “The only bed that goes to work when you go to sleep.” Get your best night’s sleep with customisable comfort, firmness, automatic snore detection and adjustment, and even a foot-warming section.
Ara, “the first toothbrush with Artificial Intelligence”, tracks your brushing habits and sends the data to the smartphone app so you can see the areas you’re neglecting.
Keen to combat the effects of air pollution, but would like to do it with a sense of style and Gallic flair? You need the Wair scarf, with its built-in triple-layer filter and range of fabrics and prints. Pure air, wair-ever you go.
Throw out your old, stupid hairbrush. The Hair Coach has an array of connected sensors that monitor your hair health and brushing technique and feed the data back to the app, so you can improve your stroke.
Supported by the Google Growth Engine Program, Sensorwake’s Oria sleep machine helps you fall asleep faster, longer and better via the power of scent. Two scientifically formulated scents induce sleep and keep you asleep.
French company Digitsole was keen to promote its Smartshoe 001, the first connected, interactive, heated and shock-absorber shoes with automatic tightening, but it was this prototype high-heeled shoe with adjustable heel – controllable via smartphone – that really caught the attention.
Xenoma’s 14-sensor e-skin shirt enables the user to monitor motion, breathing, pressure, body temperature and other functions.