Robot Waiters, Self-Cleaning Toilets at CES

Top 10 CES Innovations
The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was last week in Las Vegas, with more than a few Wow new products.  Here is our Top 10 List of game-changing innovations:

1. Virgin Hyperloop One – This is an all-new mode of transportation that whisks you distances of 300 miles in just 30 minutes with zero pollution.  It uses a giant pneumatic tube.  Riders ride in pods inside the tube.   Virgin’s Richard Branson and several other investors sunk $300 million into the idea.  They have a working prototype, and in a few months they’re announcing the first line, which will open in 2021.  Initial routes under consideration include Dallas to Houston, Miami to Orlando, Chicago to Pittsburgh, Denver to Vail, Toronto to Montreal and several international routes.

2. 5G – Our phones and gadgets are all about to run 30-50 times faster when 5G Wireless replaces the current 4G standard.  The new 5G will solve many of today’s cell phone annoyances, including allowing a much larger number of simultaneously connected devices, fewer dropped calls, etc.  Verizon is launching a 5G home edition in 5 cities later this year, with a full launch for mobile devices targeted for 2020.

3. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant Everywhere – Our homes will all soon be voice controlled by either Alexa or Google.  These new voice-activated assistants can do everything from turn on the lights, to adjusting temperatures, locking or unlocking doors and making coffee.  But the current applications are just the beginning.  A wide variety of Alexa and Google Assistant compatible devices are on their way, including ovens, dishwashers, mirrors, stereos and TVs.  There are even programs that will help you evaluate the outfit you’re planning to wear.

4. Robots Everywhere – Robots are getting cheaper, friendlier and easier to use.  As a result, they are taking over more roles.  Some of the more promising applications we saw at the show included: A) LG Serving Robot – fetches food or drink for you.  B) Buddy from Blue Frog – a robot that will talk to and play with your kids to keep them out of trouble.  C) Aeolus Bot – a robot that does chores for you around the house.  D) Sony Aibo – a robot dog that you can play with and protects your home from intruders when you’re gone.

5. Infared Charging –  Wireless charging is closer to becoming fast and easy.  Israel-based start-up Wi-Charge is in the process of launching a new to infared technology.  It allows you to charge smart phones and other devices without plugging them in through infared light beams up to 10 meters away.  To activate it, you need special light bulbs that include an infrared band, and you need an infared sensor on the object you are attempting to charge.  Wi-Charge just received US government approval to market the technology and is currently in the process of signing up partners. 

6. Smart Cities – Several tech companies are working with city governments to create Smart Cities – cities where traffic lights, subways and other services adapt to user needs based on usage monitoring.  Alibaba recently completed a test in Hangzhou, China, with a platform called City Brain.  Since implementation, Alibaba boasts that traffic speeds are up 11% and accidents are down.  The system can also direct drivers to open parking spots and monitors water and energy usage. Alibaba is investing $15 Billion in the technology and has partnered with Nvidia and Huawei to expand the range of services and take the system to other cities.

7. Hi-Def Audio – We all love digital music, but many audiophiles have been hungering for something that provides better sound quality.  Recently, several websites, such as HDtracks and iTrax have begun offering Hi-Def Audio with much higher quality digital audio.  Sony and others are now offering Hi-Def MP3 players to play it.  The next move will likely be smart phones that incorporate the Hi-Def audio feature.

8. Solar Panel Roofs – Building a home with solar panels is about to become as easy and almost as cheap as simply putting on a roof.  Tesla started selling stylish roof tiles with built in solar panels  on a limited basis late last year.  Tesla and Panasonic have partnered to expand production from a new Buffalo, NY, factory this year (Tesla Gigafactory 2). 

9. Water Panels – If you live in a dry area, now you can also buy roof panels to extract water from the air and convert it to pure, safe drinking water. Zero Mass Water, makes the panels.  Even in desert conditions, each panel generates about a gallon of water a day.  The panels are currently targeted to developing countries where reliable sources of safe drinking water are limited.

10. Housework Eliminators – Cooking, cleaning and laundry is about to get much easier.  Whirlpool has partnered with Food App Yummly to create a smart kitchen, that allows you to select Yummly recipes and program them into your Whirlpool devices.  Launderoid and Foldimate are new laundry folding devices that will fold an entire load of laundry for you in 4 minutes.  And Japanese toilet maker Toto has introduced self-cleaning toilets to eliminate that chore.