From CES: The shape of things to come


Every year the Consumer Electronics Show, popularly known as CES and held at Las Vegas, USA, throws up some interesting products. This year too, the show held from 9th to 12th January introduced some novel ideas, prototypes and finished products to the nearly 180,000 visitors. Though there was too much to see, some interesting stuff that was noticed at the mega event is being mentioned here.


Robomart—a self-driving grocery store on wheels

Let’s start with startups. Every major event is giving lots of attention to startup entrepreneurs—be it GITEX (Dubai), CES or Global Sources Electronics show. Nearly 1000 startups demonstrated their innovative ideas and products at CES. Some of the novel and exciting products developed by them are quite remarkable.

Big Boy team from Belgium has developed and patented a camera and audio system that can see and hear like humans, recording in 3D and streaming content to virtual reality (VR) headsets—to be used for surgery, psychology, technical training, education and entertainment.

Robomart from Santa Clara, California is planning a fleet of on-demand, autonomous, self-driving small truck-like stores for grocery retailers, much like vending machines. These will help people buy at their door-step instead of going to the market. Customers could call the closest vehicle to their address using an app.

Quartz self-cleaning bottle for water purification
Velco from Paris, France has designed Wink Bar, the first connected handlebar with GPS for bicycles, which are a very popular mode of transport in Europe but often get stolen. The GPS helps in tracking your bike anywhere and ensuring you never get lost. The Bar can be attached by bicycle manufacturers to their bikes to make them smart.

Stream from Amsterdam, Netherlands can provide secure Wi-Fi hotspots with embedded cloud SIM technology for travellers who, at present, have to depend on unsecured data transmissions (that can be hacked) from public places.

Nanoleaf triangular smart light panels

Zhor-Tech from Nancy, France has developed smart shoes that use sensors and algorithms to warm your feet in snow, detect fatigue or a disease, and even help stop drunken driving.

Quartz water bottles (half-litre) use UV-C light to purify water in a minute’s time so it can be safely consumed. It intelligently activates every four hours. Once charged, it can be used for 2-3 months.

Nanoleaf triangular smart light panels produce millions of colours in sync with music of your choice. These can be linked to each other to produce a shape of your choice.

Rocketbook is a ‘connected’ endlessly reusable drawing book. Its app helps you scan and send your (or your children’s) drawings or hand-written notes to anyone you wish, or save forever with connected cloud services.

Electra Meccanica is a single-seater electric vehicle, so beautiful that you may like to leave your SUV and start driving it instead. The company is in talks with Mahindra & Mahindra to start its production in India. The only problem: It is priced at around US$ 15,500 at present.


Artificial Intelligence

IBM Research had put on display its model for commercially available universal quantum computer for business and science.

IBM model for universal quantum computer

Such computers work under extremely cold cryogenic temperatures. ‘IBM Q’ quantum systems and services will be delivered via the IBM Cloud platform. However, quantum computing—though operational (as claimed by IBM)—is still in very early stage of research.

In robots category, there were many companies displaying their latest robots. LEGEE-668 floor-cleaning robot can do vacuuming, dry mopping, auto water-spraying as well as wet mopping. It has an advanced navigation system to scan the whole space and plan the cleaning path within seconds.


Sanbot Max robot claims to work like an employee for you 24×7 without any salary. It can work as a receptionist in an office or as a sales person in a store. As a receptionist, for instance, it will answer any visitor question, register and escort the visitor to the designated waiting area.

Sanbot Max robot that claims to work like an employee

Smart vehicles
Quite a few companies including Nissan, Vanderhall, Mercedes and BMW displayed their concept vehicles.

Smartcircle Technology’s model S1 is the world’s most compact and lightweight e-bike. Weighing only 7kg, the carbon-fibre S1 can be folded in five simple steps into a small backpack and carried anywhere. Feature-rich with iOS and Android apps, Smartcircle S1 can be a boon for a connected commuter.

The smart vision EQ fortwo autonomous compact car from Daimler Group

Relync from Relync Tech is the world’s smartest e-scooter. It can be folded in three seconds and carried in the trunk of a car or on an airplane. The e-scooter is packed with features for extra safety, greater convenience and multi-level security.

The smart vision EQ fortwo, a beautiful autonomous compact car from Daimler Group, dispenses with a steering wheel and pedals. It “provides a new vision for urban mobility and individualised, highly flexible, totally efficient local public transport: the autonomous concept vehicle picks up its passengers directly from their chosen location,” according to the company.

Another very attractive electric vehicle on display was 2018 Edison2 black beauty from Vanderhall. This two-seater generates 180HP and has an estimated range of about 320 kilometres on a single charge.

The two-seater 2018 Edison2 from Vanderhall

Hisense displayed their premium ULED TVs with ultimate contrast. These are equipped with prime array backlight, an advanced system with local dimming upwards of 1000 zones and unique ways to control these.

Samsung and TCL demonstrated their QLED TVs. QLED stands for quantum-dot light-emitting technology. Such TVs are capable of emitting brighter, more vibrant and more diverse colours.

Samsung’s latest slogan (seen at CES) is “Do What You Can’t”—implying an attempt to break the barriers of technology. It shows the company’s willingness to remain at the forefront of technology.

The Wall—the world’s first modular microLED 371cm (146-inch) TV from Samsung

A great attraction at Samsung pavilion was The Wall—the world’s first modular microLED 371cm (146-inch) TV. It is a self-emitting TV with micrometre (µm) scale LEDs, which are much smaller than current LEDs, and serve as their own source of light. The MicroLED technology eliminates the need for colour filters or backlight, yet allows the screen to offer an excellent viewing experience.

LG showcased their OLED, Super UHD and the new ThinQ TVs. Super UHD TVs claim rich and accurate colour from any angle, now with enhanced black colour. ThinQ TVs also function as smart home hubs, offering access to other compatible smart home products such as robotic vacuum cleaners, air-conditioners, air-purifiers, smart lights, smart speakers and many other devices that can connect to the TV via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

Care and Healthcare
Wearable devices like smart eye glasses that can help in relaxation, meditation or sleep apnea treatment, seem to be a new field that is fast emerging.
The smart driving sunglasses from Glatus react to drowsiness for fatigued drivers and react to sounds for hearing-impaired drivers for a safe driving.

The brain-sensing eyewear from Muse helps you relax or sleep peacefully, which is becoming a problem for many due to their hyper-active brains that are unable to focus on anything for long enough, or even relax.

Spopad is a kind of rubber pad (available in various shapes) that sticks to your belly and electrically stimulates its muscles to help you lose some excess fat. It can be worn discreetly under the clothes so you can use it anywhere. It is also available for arms, legs and buttocks.

Siren creates neuro-fabrics, and its first product is diabetic socks that help people living with diabetes avoid amputations. Sensors are embedded seamlessly into the fabric to monitor temperature 24×7 to find foot injuries early. The socks can be washed in machine and need not be charged. InBody 570 machine demonstrated at CES does advanced analysis of your body composition. It not only measures fat and muscle but also intracellular and extracellular water in your body. These body water values can help in identifying and tracking inflammation, swelling and even injuries by noting how these ratios change over time. You just have to stand on the machine for five minutes to get the analysis.


Some others
You are well aware of 3D printing but do you know what 2.5D printing is? Casio showcased its Mofrel 2.5D printer that uses near-IR light to form slightly raised patterns (like embossing). This sculpting technique replicates material feel that you get on touching a textured leatherite sheet for instance.

Casio Mofrel 2.5D printer that forms slightly raised patterns

As explained by Casio, the ink used to print the bump data (for the texture) contains carbon molecules. Exposure to near-IR light causes these molecules to vibrate, causing friction and thus heat. This heat, in turn, causes the micropowder layers to expand, thereby forming indentations on the digital sheet.

Not many in India would have heard the name of Royole Corporation. Formed in year 2012 by Stanford engineering students, it is a leading innovator and manufacturer of next-gen products like advanced flexible displays, flexible sensors and smart devices. Royole’s flexible capacitive sensors can be curved or bent to a very small radius of 3mm to form rolled-up keyboards for example.

Royole’s flexible displays are just 0.01mm thin with a bending radius of 1mm

These support multi-touch gestures and bezel-less design at lower cost than the traditional rigid sensors. Royole’s flexible displays are just 0.01mm thin with a bending radius of 1mm. These are lightweight, shatterproof and highly energy-efficient.

By Ramesh Chopra, Executive Chairman, EFY Group