Technology

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Gateway to Geek-Topia

Check out this soon-to-be-yours mind-blowing technology from January’s 2017 Consumer Electronics Show.

By Marc Saltzman

What happens in Vegas doesn’t need to stay in Vegas. From self-driving cars and delivery drones to wireless wearables and voice-controlled smart-home gadgets, nearly 180,000 attendees (including yours truly) roamed around in 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space in January to “road test” and play around with tomorrow’s technology. And the good news is that, as a Homefront reader, you’ve got access to my PIA—“personal inside assistance”—on what was hot and worth bringing across the border from this year’s annual tech conference in Sin City. Pull up your easy chair and read on.

Beam me up, Scotty
Coming to Asia this summer and North America by the end of the year…the very first smartphone that can analyze molecules. Israeli start-up Consumer Physics has partnered with China’s Changhong to create the H2. With its built-in infrared spectrometer, this slender six-inch Android device lets you scan an object and immediately receive feedback on its chemical composition. Think food items (e.g., fruits and vegetables, dairy products and meat), medication and even body parts. For example, scan a strawberry at the supermarket to see how sweet it is, or discover your body fat percentage by placing the phone on your bicep. Find a pill that’s not in its original bottle? The H2 will be able to tell you the name of the meds.

Watch this
Winner of the Last Gadget Standing award at CES, the new Matrix PowerWatch is the world’s first smartwatch that doesn’t need to be charged. The PowerWatch, which was invented at Caltech, operates on thermoelectric power fuelled by body heat, so you’ll never have to recharge or replace its battery. Take that, Apple Watch!

Launched on Indiegogo and available this July for US$169, this watch can also measure calories burned and show the amount of power generated from your body. The rugged, aircraft-grade aluminum timepiece also functions as a smartwatch that wirelessly syncs with your smartphone. It automatically adjusts to the current time zone and has attractive changeable watch faces.

Mobility matters
Along with other automakers, Hyundai was at CES with its self-driving vehicles. On-hand to take journalists for a spin around the Las Vegas strip (sans driver), the autonomous autos weren’t all the South Korean company was showing off. A wearable, Iron Man-inspired robotic suit called the H-MEX exoskeleton is a potentially life-changing concept that could give paraplegics the ability to walk. Hyundai also brought along another model that could help the elderly, and a third exoskeleton capable of augmenting a person’s existing physical abilities in a military or industrial capacity—perhaps giving an individual the superhuman strength to knock down large objects in battle or to carry heavy boxes in a warehouse.

Thin is in
Imagine a television so wafer thin that you can hang it like wallpaper. Such a television exists, and LG Electronics was wowing the crowds at CES with it, unveiling the top-of-the-line W Series LG Signature OLED TV. This 77-inch television measures an unbelievable 2.59 mm. It’s so thin that it is fixed to a wall using magnets (it’s even too thin for a stand). With a 4K OLED, each of the eight million or so pixels are self-illuminating, meaning that backlighting isn’t required. The picture quality blew me away—it was extraordinary, with dark blacks and whiter whites than found on an LED-backlit LCD television. Plus, Active HDR (high dynamic range) makes the images pop even more.

Sony showed off its first OLED televisions including its impressive flagship model, the Bravia A1E, while Samsung’s QLED panels also made a few of the Best of Show lists.

You drive
Imagine carrying around nearly 700,000 photos, 530,000 songs or about 1,800 full-length movies—on your keychain, no less? Kingston took the wraps off its two-terabyte DataTraveler Ultimate GT, the world’s highest capacity USB Flash drive (two terabytes is the equivalent of more than 2,000 gigabytes). With up to USB 3.1 performance, geeks like me can speedily transfer large files to and from their laptops. Available in February for $1,625 (“on sale” from original list price of $2,273), the DataTraveler is made of a zinc-alloy metal casing for shock resistance, and includes free technical support and a five-year warranty. A one-terabyte version will also be available.

Through the looking glass
Designed for the visually impaired or blind, Aipoly is a smartphone app that recognizes thousands of everyday items—such as street lamps, bicycles, trash cans and coffee cups—in real-time and speaks the name of the object out loud. Winner of a CES Innovation award in the “Accessible Tech” category, this breakthrough app leverages artificial intelligence and cloud computing to instantly understand (and verbally describe) what your camera sees. There’s no need to snap pictures—simply open the app and hold your phone up. Aipoly can also understand colours, says the company, to assist both the visually impaired and the colour blind. The app is available now for iPhone, and an Android version is in the works.

Lap it up
Bestowed with a CES 2017 Innovation Award Honoree nod, Dell’s XPS 13 two-in-one (from US$999.99) is the world’s smallest 13-inch two-in-one computer. It manages to squeeze a 13-inch InfinityEdge display into an 11-inch laptop frame. Like its award-winning predecessor, it’s called a “two-in-one” because the UltraSharp QHD+ screen is on a durable 360-degree hinge that lets you use it like a laptop or a tablet, when the display is bent back all the way (disabling the keyboard and trackpad while tucked underneath). Powered by a seventh-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, this Windows 10 machine also boasts up to 10 hours of battery life between charges.

All in the wrist
BEON is the world’s first removable, 360-degree panoramic camera to be housed in a wristwatch. With the touch of a single button, you can instantly capture both panoramic and hemispheric photos and videos. Keep BEON on your wrist—and, if you like, line up your shot with a live preview on the accompanying iOS and Android app. Or take off the splash-proof, five-megapixel cam to hold the watch in your hand or mount it via a variety of included accessories. The Wi-Fi- and Bluetooth-enabled HD camera can do live streaming, too. BEON also shows the time and can notify the wearer of texts. The maker, Spacemap, suggests a battery life of two hours for continuous recording and up to four days on standby mode. No price or launch date have been confirmed.

Little Red Riding Hood gets real
Whether children are playing alone in their rooms or Mom and Dad are tucking them in, SpinTales by TILT adds a magical augmented-reality experience to story time. Launch the app, hold up the tablet or smartphone and look at the Jungle Rug or Enchanted Duvet (US$99.99 apiece) through the camera lens, and cartoon characters will come alive on top of a rug, duvet or pillowcase as you read classic tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk or The Three Little Pigs. I’m not sure who’ll enjoy this modern twist to story time more: Kids or parents?

Best ’bot
Kuri (US$699) is a cute but smart robot for your home. Unveiled at CES, the white, 20-inch tall, genderless robot on wheels has expressive black eyes and can roam your premises using its built-in camera to analyze its surroundings and guard your home. Kuri can recognize your face, and has a four-microphone array to hear your requests and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity so it can play your favourite music and podcasts. Busy? It can read the kids a bedtime story. Or it can drive you nuts by following you around asking trivia questions! Use your voice to have Kuri control your smart-home appliances. And, when its battery runs low, Kuri returns itself to the dock for a quick charging nap. Kuri is available now
for preorder.

Marc Saltzman is a recognized expert in computers, consumer electronics, video gaming and internet trends. You can see him on CNN, CTV’s Canada AM, and on Cineplex movie theatre screens across Canada. Follow him on Twitter @marc_saltzman.