Saturday, January 14, 2017

"CES 2017 shows off possible gifts for this year" - January 13, 2017

No sooner does the holiday gift giving season end then the consumer technology manufacturers meet in Las Vegas to try and sell what they think we will want this coming December.

Yes, CES, formerly called the Consumer Electronic Show, was held last weekend.

This is an annual column, and reading past ones just underlines that we can’t expect everything we love at CES to appear. Or the products may appear and not find favor with the buying public. A couple of years ago 3D TVs were the rage.  Did you ever buy one?

Last year I wrote about the Code-a-Pillar, a toy caterpillar from Fisher-Price that taught elements of programming.  We know one family that bought one, and we may buy one soon as a gift.

Fisher-Price again this year has an intriguing device-- an upgrade actually to their Smart-Cycle exercise bike for kids. It has a holder for a tablet; previous versions required a TV. It comes with an adventure game with literary value, with others available for only $5.  Kids can play a game, learn a little and burn off some calories -- all at the same time. It will come in June or July for $150.

Coming soon to your health club are exercise bikes with VR helmets. Imagine biking along San Francisco Bay, across the Golden Gate Bridge and down into Sausalito.  On your return a setting sun lies to your right, and as your exit the bridge, a full moon hangs above the TransAmerica Pyramid.  You’ll enjoy the ride I described. I know I did many times in my 30s. But on mine, I stopped for a beer in Sausalito.

Lego Mindstorm robotics kits are meant for older kids.  Their new Lego Boost is a $160 set for the younger set that contains components that move, interact with a phone or tablet app, and can be augmented by regular Lego bricks. Kids can make up to five devices after downloading the app that provides instructions and programming for the device.

A big winner at CES was Amazon’s Echo, the voice assistant device. Both Ford and Volkswagen announced they will be integrating Echo into their cars.  This will give you the ability to give voice commands to listen to music, podcasts, books, navigate and order toilet paper, all on your commute.

At home, you might be able to ask your home Echo: “Hey Alexis, how much gas is in my car?”

And Hyundai announced a feature for Google Home where you can say to some of their models “OK Google, start my car.” It will start and run the heat while the doors remain locked.  On these cold mornings I regret my car does not have this feature.

Voice commands are coming into the home and making home automation viable. One new product is a trash bin you can open with a voice command as you approach it with garbage.

Mattel has its own voice assistant designed for children. “Aristotle” works hard to understand your child’s less than perfect speaking. It can play stories, make soothing sounds and generate favorite colors.  Its voice is described as that of an eager, twenty-something teacher.   For toddlers an add-on camera makes it an encrypted, secure baby monitor.  An adult mode ties into Amazon’s Echo and lets parents log feeding and diaper changes and reorder supplies.

Manufacturers are recognizing that baby boomers are getting older and offering high-tech canes and wheel chairs.  The cane can report if the person has fallen and, with a built in GPS, let loved ones know where they are.

The award winning wearable this year was a breast pump that can be worn under the clothing.

Samsung showed a new high-end Chromebook device.  Do you provide tech support for someone who can’t resist installing toolbars and opening every email attachment from strangers?  A Chromebook might make their and your life easier.

Desktop PCs are getting a boost with wonderfully large, sharp and even curved monitors that bring a new experience to desktop computing. Want to take it with you? Razor has a laptop with three fold-out monitors. Pretty cool, unless the guy next to you on a plane is using one.

And it wouldn’t be CES without manufacturers bringing forth things they hope we’ll decide we need.  Like a drone that flies at 100 mph. Or a hairbrush with microphones and sensors that listens as you brush to determine if your hair is too dry and brittle--under $200.

There are Bluetooth connected toasters, a toothbrush that measures your brushing efficiency, VR everywhere and more.

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