CE Week wants to be the summertime CES. The show used to be affiliated with the gargantuan Vegas event, but not anymore. Even though it’s about a 100th of the size, there were still a variety of pretty fun and fascinating gadgets at this year’s event. Here are 7 that struck my fancy – starting (of course) with toys.
Wowwee Miposaur Robotic Dinosaurs. These new dinosaurs are pretty cool. They run around chasing a “Trackball”, which has 6 different game modes, ranging from playing fetch to dinner time. The Miposaur even responds to your hand gestures, and can change from being your best friend to velociraptor in the blink of an eye. The robots are now available for $125, and are sure to be a big hit this holiday.
Wowwee Robotic Enhanced Vehicles: Another cool new toy for the holidays, this time it’s an artificial intelligent twist on RC cars. The cars are controlled by your smartphone, and can race around and slide through corners like any other RC car. But they’re also battle cars! Hand one to your friend and battle each other until just one of you is standing. And if you can’t find anyone to play with, just pop one of the cars into A.I. mode and you’ll have a battle car to duke it out with. You get two cars in the box, and it’ll set you back $100 when it ships in August. I also think these will be big winners this holiday season.
Ozobot Bit: Although many experts think that every school should teach kids how to program, it’s very difficult to translate “If-Then” statements and for loops into fun and games. Lego’s Mindstorm kit did a decent job of it, but you still need to be 10 years or older to really figure it out. Now younger kids can play with Ozobot, a robotic toy about the size of a Dunkin Munchkin that reacts to colors and patterns to move along pre-specified paths. It’s a fascinating way to engage kids, and then introduce them into the concepts of logic, branching and more other simple commands. The first version shipped late last year for $50 – there’s a new $60 version that adds in a block-based programming language called Ozo Blocky, which can be used to instruct the Ozobot to perform more complicated formulas.
Fizzics Home Beer Dispenser: This fascinating product, now in Indigogo phase, turns any store-bought canned or bottled beer into a fresh, keg drawn, draft-brewed experience. It does this by injecting microbubbles into the beer, thus increasing the density and size of the head, while refreshing the liquid as well. It’s a neat little gadget, but at $150 it is not cheap. However, it just might be the next food dehydrator or panini grill for the beer lover in your family.
Roost Smart Battery for Smoke Alarms: I love my Nest smart thermostats, but the $150 I wasted on my Nest Protect still aggravates me. And now I feel even dumber, because for just $35 I can now turn any battery operated smoke alarm into a smart alarm. It’s an ingenious kludge – the Roost replaces the standard 9-volt battery with a smaller Lithium Ion version (that lasts 5 years). The rest of that 9 volt battery form factor is filled with a tiny computer module that includes WiFi, a microphone, and enough processing power to perform a few simple tasks. When the Roost “hears” your alarm going off, it will notify you via your smartphone wherever you are. You then have the ability to “sleep” the alarm for a few minutes (in the case of a cooking accident), or automatically alert a neighbor or friend of the problem. It’s supposed to be super-easy to install, and supports both fire and CO2 alarms. And when the battery dies after five years, you just have to pick up a new one for $20. It’ll be available in September.
Seaboard Grand: Imagine a piano or organ with a continuous surface, rather than discrete keys. That’s just what Roli did with its new Seaboard Grand. Now musicians can press, bend and slide over keys to create a much wider array of sounds. The company makes three versions, ranging from small to large – and I was incredibly impressed listening to one being played by a professional musician. If you play keyboards, you are going to want to check this out!
ZEISS VR ONE: Sure, you’ve seen Google Cardboard, a low-cost device that turns your Nexus smartphone into a poor-man’s Occulus Rift. Well now Zeiss is getting into the act, with a cardboard-style viewer built around the company’s high-end optics. The VR one only fully supports the iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy S5 today, although the company says any Android or iOS phone with a screen between 4.8” and 5.2” should work, including the Nexus 5 and LG-G3. This $120 device neatly straddles the line between higher-end models that aren’t really shipping yet, and low-end cardboard versions. The optics are nicely done, giving a clear expanded view field that almost eliminates border. Definitely worthwhile if you want to explore VR content and you own one of the two phones currently supported.