The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) officially kicked off in Las Vegas Wednesday, with than 150,000 tech revelers in attendance. This year over 500 startups will show off gadgets at the show, up from around 375 last year. From tech giants like Samsung, to the world’s leading car manufactures, every company has products that will spark curiosity in any consumer.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights:
Volkswagen’s Microbus goes electric
Volkswagen’s old Microbus is getting a major update and could be in a garage near you in around three years.
The company unveiled a futuristic battery-powered concept of the bus Tuesday night called the BUDD-e. VW expects it to be able to go a staggering 373 miles on a single charge, far longer than electric vehicles today, due to a more efficient battery technology.
The Budd-e has Internet connections to smart home devices and can be charged to 80 per cent of its battery capacity in about 15 minutes, VW says. Many charging stations for other electric vehicles now take hours to do the same thing. It also has gesture recognition technology to control the infotainment screen, and the doors can be controlled by voice commands.
VW didn’t say in its releases if the new Microbus will actually go into production, but said that the BUDD-e “demonstrates what electric mobility could be like by the year 2019.”
Intel makes music with wearables
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich says tiny micro-processors will change the future of sports and art.
Krzanich showed off new uses for the giant chip-maker’s smallest processors during a keynote speech that formally opened the conference. He said tiny, wearable computer chips will help athletes and fans track speed and movement, while helping musicians create songs by waving their hands.
The Intel chief invited a composer on stage to demonstrate a set of computerized wristbands that track hand gestures and translate them into musical notes. Other guests showed off drones and robots that use Intel’s three-dimensional optical scanning technology to navigate around obstacles and recognize familiar objects.
Samsung plays nice with the competition
Samsung has unveiled several new products that get along with those from other technology firms. The company said its Gear S2 smartwatch will be compatible with Apple’s iPhones later this year. Watches using Google’s Android Wear already are, though with limited functionality.
Samsung also unveiled a 12-inch tablet that attaches to a keyboard. The Galaxy Tab Pro S is aimed at business users and runs Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system, unlike the Android system used in consumer tablets. Samsung says it will be the thinnest and lightest tablet-PC combination on the market.
In addition, Samsung’s top-end 2016 SUHD TVs will come with a free USB dongle to serve as a smart-home hub and let users to control up to 200 devices from manufacturers from Nest to Philips via their TV. One remote control will also operate boxes from the Xbox One to a Time Warner Cable set-top box to Apple TV.
Add to that its Family Hub refrigerator to allow ordering of groceries through its 21.5 inch touch screen. It’s clear Samsung is positioning itself to be the centre of a fragmented technology landscape. Though the fridge is made in partnership with MasterCard, you can pay with other credit and debit cards like Visa.
Virtual reality: Coming to a big screen near you
Hollywood’s getting serious about moving beyond those old cardboard 3-D glasses.
The 21st Century Fox entertainment conglomerate said it has a deal to buy a minority stake in a leading maker of headwear for virtual reality and augmented reality, Osterhout Design Group.
The news comes as a Fox subsidiary plans a CES debut for the virtual-reality version of its hit film, “The Martian,” in which Matt Damon plays an Earthling space traveller left behind by his shipmates on the surface of Mars. This version, which lasts 20 minutes or so, will let viewers share some of Damon’s adventures in what’s been described as an immersive and interactive visual experience. According to published reports, Fox plans to distribute the virtual-reality version for viewing through headsets made by several manufacturers.
A doll that doubles as a caretaker
Call her mom. A small white plastic figure that resembles a Russian nesting doll offers a digital smile while it monitors if people it’s watching are taking their pills, drinking enough water or doing any of their daily routines.
Silver Mother is being marketed to caretakers and family members wanting to keep an eye on elderly loved ones.
Along with alerting caretakers and family, founder Rafi Haladjian says the white “mother hub” will play the sound of running water if a person doesn’t drink enough water for the day. It will also call people on the phone to remind them to take their pills. The hub and four sensors, which can be attached to anything including pill bottles, is sold for US$290.