This year’s CES in Las Vegas – one of the largest technology showcases in the world – is expected to have more than 3,600 exhibitors from 140 countries, with more than 20,000 products on display.
Many of those products will never make it into mainstream production, while others will launch but ultimately fail to resonate with consumers. Some will spark the imagination of the public, investors and competitors, and a handful may even go on to become the next big things.
Here's a sampling of what was on display at the CES Unveiled preview Sunday evening.
Tiny programmable robots
Slightly bigger than a marble, the Ozobot is billed as the world’s smallest programmable robot.
California-based Evollve Inc. is aiming the rolling 'bots at kids, who can use the associated mobile app to input colour-coded instructions.
The $49 US Ozobot can follow lines drawn on paper or tablets, and can speed up or spin based on easy-to-master, colour-based instructions.
Simply called “Ring,” this Japanese-made $269 US wearable device allows people to control a host of household appliances, including lamps and televisions. By pressing a stud on the side of Ring with your thumb, you can draw gestures in the air that turn items off or on.
Smart luggage lock
New York-based Digipas is negotiating with luggage makers to incorporate its smart lock, which is activated by near-field-communications. Rather than fiddling with keys or combinations, users wave their phone over the lock and it opens. The company expects its device would add about $20 US to the cost of a piece of luggage.
Thousands of children end up in hospital every year after sticking their fingers (and other items) into electrical sockets. San Diego-based Brio believes it has an answer with the Safe, a $49 US wall socket that uses sensors to differentiate between plugs and other objects.
The socket only lets power flow if an electrical plug is detected. Anything else stuck into the hole won’t receive a charge, preventing someone from being shocked.
The company aims to ship the Safe in the spring.
Nowadays, there’s hardly anything in sports that can’t be monitored — and your swing is no exception.
California-based Zepp Labs has an eponymous tracking device that can be attached to a variety of sports equipment, from tennis rackets and baseball bats to golf gloves.
The Zepp’s sensors determine the speed and angle of a swing, as well as other data, and will display different information depending on which sport you're playing and what mobile app you're using.
The Zepp is available now for $149 US.
The product with perhaps the friendliest name at CES this year, the Welcome from France’s Netatmo, is a home security monitoring camera that uses facial recognition.
The camera will give family members and friends an all clear. but will send the homeowner a notification if it detects a stranger.
The company says it expects to ship the device in the spring, but doesn’t yet have a price for it.
For North Americans who think that getting off the couch to put the kettle on for some tea is a hassle, there’s good news. U.K.-based company Smarter has the solution: a kettle that connects to a smartphone via a home wi-fi connection.
The kettle can be turned on wirelessly, and a notification sent to the phone lets the user know when the water is hot.
The smart kettle, which sells for 99 pounds in the U.K. (about $180 Canadian), is scheduled for a spring-time launch in North America.
Smarter step tracker
This spring, France’s Withings is launching a new fitness tracker and watch called the Activite Pop. It houses a removable battery that promises eight months of power, thereby obviating the need for regular recharging - a problem with many of the wearable fitness trackers currently on the market.
There’s also a third watch-like hand that displays how many steps you've taken, an analog option for those who dislike overly digital wearables.
Perhaps the most bizarre product at CES are the Rollkers, billed as the world’s first electronic “under shoes.”
They resemble roller skates, but they’re not intended for coasting – their entire purpose is to double the wearer’s walking speed to about 11 kilometres an hour.
The current prototypes are big and bulky, but Rollkers chief executive Paul Chavand says he hopes to have a streamlined final product by 2016.