Every year, technology companies prepare to unveil their most outlandish experiments at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The convention’s wall-to-wall array of zany gadgets, which run the gamut from nibbling animatronic plushies to exercise machines with ludicrously large OLED displays, instills wonder about what the future holds for consumer technology. Gawking aside, you don’t have to be a tech wiz to realize most of the innovations never hit shelves—but that’s part of the fun. At CES, companies seem more focused on pushing the envelope and tickling the imagination than hashing out price points and production.
The pandemic, of course, has thrown a wrench in the spectacle. The show once attracted 200,000 attendees but went fully virtual in 2021 and isn’t projected to meet its pre-pandemic attendance this year. Rising economic uncertainty, scant access to parts and manufacturing, and stagnant venture-capital funding are raising the barriers faced by startups seeking to bring products to market. Mass layoffs and policymakers suspicious of Big Tech’s dominance only reduce the likelihood that startups can cash out and get acquired by a large firm. This is all fueling tech analysts’ predictions of seeing familiar items on the floor and fewer tricked-out gadgets. Despite the grim outlook, this year’s edition has no shortage of innovation.
As expected, AI makes a major showing. In the wearables department, Citizen’s second-gen CZ Smart smartwatch features an AI-powered “self-care advisor” that leverages NASA and IBM technology to create personalized tips to boost alertness and combat daily fatigue. Beauty giant Neutrogena’s Skin360 app is teaming up with Nourished to create on-demand 3D-printed skin supplements with AI-driven personalized formulas. Our favorite? Q-Bear’s baby crying translator, a small crib-fitted device that can analyze if your ankle biter needs food, a diaper change, or to be held. (The Simpsons, of course, may have done that first.)
These, of course, are only scratching the surface. Below is a not-so-exhaustive list of the most notable debuts at this year’s show, which runs until Sunday, Jan. 8:
For struggling cooks prone to the #kitchenfail, Samsung’s new AI Wall Oven might be your new secret ingredient. Its camera and sensors recognize 80 dishes and recommend temperatures, times, and modes for cooking, and then send notifications to prevent food from burning. The camera also makes live-streaming—and showing off your newfound culinary prowess—a breeze.
The days of peeing in a plastic cup could be coming to an end thanks to Withings’ new toilet sensor. U-Scan easily attaches to the inside of a toilet bowl and monitors nutrition and metabolic data by tracking things like ketone, Vitamin C, and pH. Measuring these biomarkers will give users vital information on organ health, possible infections, and hydration levels. Results will be sent right to the Withings’ Health Mate app on your phone using Wi-Fi—a more seamless experience than wasting half the day in a waiting room.
LG is making it easier to rave in your kitchen thanks to the MoodUP refrigerator, whose rectangular panels can glow in dozens of moody hues using a mobile app. The lights change colors to match the music playing on built-in Bluetooth speakers and blink when the door is left open for too long. Need a drink? It can quickly churn out balls of ice using LG’s novel Craft Ice system for cocktails.
It’s clear that self-driving vehicles still need some fine-tuning, but Chrysler’s vision for a behind-the-wheel autonomous experience is shifting things into high gear. Stellantis has teased a cockpit concept with a 37.2-inch “infotainment” display that lets passengers participate in video calls, games, and karaoke. Its virtual assistant syncs your calendar, gives weather updates, and even recommends restaurants with electric-vehicle charging stations.
Like a massive hoverboard on water, the Candela C-8 electric watercraft is poised to quite literally rise above any surface chop with its hydrofoil technology and a battery life that Candela claims puts other electric craft to shame.