The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas never fails to render up some truly forward-thinking gadgets which represent the next generation of consumer tech. 2017’s version of this industry show didn’t disappoint and people couldn’t keep their hands off some exhibits, quite literally in the case of San Francisco-based Razer Inc. which announced that two laptop prototypes which each boasted three 4K-resolution screens were stolen from its CES booth.
Helping the cream of the consumer tech industry rise to the top at this particular show is the CES Innovation Awards Program. This program recognizes innovative products in 28 categories honoring everything from headphones to portable power to tablets to smart home tech. One product in each category receives a Best of Innovation award as the most innovative product in its category. Today, we’ll take a stroll through some of the consumer tech products which have been recognized as the Best of Innovation at CES 2017.
Best of Software and Mobile Apps – Xooloo Digital Coach
The digital age hasn’t been especially tough on families, but it has introduced some interesting dilemmas for parents. Children tend to gravitate to playing on a computer or smartphone instead of doing chores, and they do not like it when you take the device away from them. Current parental controls over computing devices, however, are rather primitive and they do a poor job of letting kids and teens have a say in the subject, leading to frustration and tantrums.
Enter the Xooloo Digital Coach, a software app which will become available at the end of January for Android and iOS platforms. Developed by French software firm Xooloo SAS and “made from a teen’s perspective,” Screenshots available in the Google Play store show that the app helps parents monitor what apps are being used by a teen and can set usage limits for apps like YouTube or Facebook; those settings are transparent to teens on their own devices. The app also gives teens the ability to negotiate for more screen time using in-app messaging tools to make their case. Parents can even set countdowns for family notifications to let their children know when dinner will be ready, for example.
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Best of Tablets, E-Readers and Mobile Computing – Lenovo Yoga Book
Chinese-American consumer tech multinational Lenovo Group (HKG:0992) had a great CES 2017, receiving a total of 58 CES innovation awards according to Mobile & Apps, including the Best of Innovation award for the tablet computer category. Lenovo’s champion in this sector is the ThinkPad X1 Yoga Book, a 2-in-1 tablet with keyboard running Android software. The Yoga Book’s Halo keyboard is a touch-sensitive keyboard which appears when needed but fades away when it’s not used. When the keyboard is turned off, a user can take a stylus called the Real Pen to the blank board and use it as a drawing pad to create digital artwork; the Real Pen itself can detect 2,048 levels of pressure to capture a wide range of artistic nuance. The Real Pen can also write in ink on paper while simultaneously creating a digital reproduction of that writing.
Best of Portable Power – Cota Tile
Bellvue, WA-based wireless power developer Ossia turned some heads at the recent CES by unveiling its Cota Tile, a drop ceiling tile which functions as a wireless charging device. The tile can transmit electrical power wirelessly to Cota power receivers embedded in smartphones and other devices, so there could be a compatibility issue with some devices that might not have such receivers, although it appears that Cota might be working on aftermarket accessories to retrofit devices for the Cota Tile. The wireless power transmission does not affect Wi-Fi or other wireless technologies and the wireless transmission doesn’t harm humans or pets.
Best of Video Displays – LG Signature 77-inch 4K OLED TV
In a world where there are few safe bets, the new crop of bigger, more powerful televisions at each annual CES seems about as sure a thing as death or taxes. This year, South Korean tech firm LG Electronics (KRX:066570) took home the top prize in the video display category with its Signature 77-inch 4K OLED TV. The OLED, or organic light-emitting diode, module is applied directly to the television’s glass back panel for an incredibly slim profile which is only 2.57 millimeters thick, a feature LG calls Picture-on-Glass. The 4K resolution along with perfect black zero-light pixel capability provides a brilliant picture while connectivity options for Wi-Fi, natural voice recognition and app store access support a great deal of extra features.
Best of Computer Accessories – Mangoslab Nemonic
Not every innovative product answers a glaring need. The most innovative computer accessory at this year’s CES, the Nemonic, is a very interesting product that produces sticky adhesive notes. Launching this Spring and developed by South Korean firm Mangoslab, the Nemonic is a thermal printer which pairs with a notetaking app to let users print adhesive notes which they’ve digitally doodled without using ink or toner. The Nemonic can also make black-and-white prints of QR codes and provides templates for calendars, grocery lists and word bubbles. According to reports, it can create a printout of an adhesive note within five seconds.
Best of Home Appliances – Sleep Number 360 Smart Bed
This year’s most innovative home appliance at CES was a bed. But of course, not just any bed. The makers of Sleep Number adjustable mattresses exhibited a Sleep Number 360 Smart Bed replete with sleep position detection to adjust a mattress and make it more comfortable when a person changes position. Snoring detection tech can identify when a person begins snoring and automatically raise the head of the mattress to reduce snoring. Reports from tech media outlets indicate that the bed itself is very quiet when it does move. The Sleep Number 360 Smart Bed also includes foot warmers and sensors which monitor sleep movement, heart rate and breathing to determine how well a person is sleeping.
Best of Smart Home – Plott Cubit
If the majority of the consumer world is making phone calls on a mini computer, why are we still using tape measure and bubble levels, as primitive as they are, to complete home improvement projects or other jobs? That’s the question answered by Plott, the consumer tech division of New Jersey-based Internet of Things (IoT) tech firm NWi Smart, with its development of the Cubit. Laser measuring tools help Cubit users accurately measure distances while a smart wheel feature makes it easy to measure irregular surfaces. Bluetooth connectivity allows Cubit to communicate with a phone-based app to visualize floor plans and dimensional data and better manage projects.
Best of Gaming – The Z Gaming Mouse
Highly innovative products often from small, nimble startups, but crowd-funding websites have enabled some tech developers to make media headlines before ever getting off of the ground. The Z gaming mouse is still in the preorder phase on Kickstarter but it took home a Best of Innovation award in the gaming category at this year’s CES. Feet on either side of the Z support left and right tilting functions for video gamers playing shooter games where they want to poke their head around an obstacle, for example, or gamers can assign new functions to those feet for other games, or the feet can be removed entirely. The mouse can also sense when it is pivoted left or right, which gives players a more intuitive way of scoping out a wider field of view. Taking flight in an aircraft in a videogame can sometimes be confusing to players but the Z can sense when it’s lifted off the table, so users can control the flight of in-game planes by lifting the mouse. An extender allows the mouse to be above a flat table surface while allowing a user to continue resting his or her hand on the table. In all, the Z itself has 50 clickable buttons to perform a wide variety of in-game actions and deep click sensing allows force-sensitive functions on most of those buttons, allowing a user to configure multiple zoom lenses on a single button, for instance. Although developed primarily for gaming, many of the Z’s features are also useful for home and office applications.