CES 2017: Product Evolution and Robotics Underline the Show

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Roughly 24 hours into the CES media whirlwind, a lot of this year’s show is category and company evolution rather than revolution – with an exception of personal robotics shaping up to be a breakout category. 

Evolution, more specifically expansion from a single product or focused set of announcements into a wider field of play, is clear across voice AI assistants, wearable tech, health tech, and a variety of little guys getting bigger. 

Amazon first started making Alexa hooks and announcements last year. Today, you can’t take two steps without hearing about how the AI voice assistant can be used to control TVs, alarm systems, personal healthcare devices, and a whole bunch of other things that I can’t even begin to remember.  At risk of being accused of being sexist, I’d say Alexa is Skynet in a dress, because it’s taking over everything.  Kudos to Amazon for leveraging a winner combination of open APIs, the cloud, and building third-party support – something both Apple and Google need to learn if they don’t want to get swept off the map.

Smart watches are here, but nobody’s hyping them.  Instead, the intermingled categories of fitness/health wearable tech/IoT continues to grow. Companies launching a sports measurement vest Bewell Connect introduced a hold/it two lead ECG heart monitor last year; now the company has put it along with blood pressure, glucose, and blood oxygen sensors into a networked kit for a comprehensive home/telemedicine monitoring suite. Similarly, Omron has taken its first-generation BP monitoring wrist wearable with its sweatband-sized “cuff” and shrunk the band down into a second-generation device that could actually pass for a watch.

Roost, an IoT company of sorts, qualifies as a CES veteran with three years of appearances.  It introduced a $49.95 smart water and freeze detector.  Drop one in the basement or other plumbing space and it will provide notification of water leaks and the potential for freezing pipes by measuring humidity and temperature. Powered by AAA batteries, the leak detector/monitor joins Roost’s 9-volt smart battery.

Drones are all over the map, getting smaller or more foldy/compact or flexible with quick change mounts for cameras and other gizmos. My personal favorite of the new set of drones doesn’t fly, but swims.  The PowerVision PowerRay might be the breakout gift for fishermen, able to swim in water up to a depth of 100 feet. It has detachable fish finder, a fish luring light, option add-on remote bait drop, 12 MP camera with 4K UHD video, and VR goggles for an “immersive” fishing experience (without getting into the water).

LG and Hyundai both dropped early robotic news, with the latter company opening a new category of exoskeletons.  Hyundai is showing different models of electromechanical assistance for healthcare mobility, office work, and commercial environments.

Bosch might have dropped the biggest surprise with its unveil of the $699 Kuri.  Built by subsidiary Mayfield Robotics, Kuri will be out this fall, with one early view describing it as an “Alexa with wheels” that can play music and answer queries using a voice assistant AI on the back end.  Mayfield’s backstory is more intriguing, with the 40 person company only two years old and boasting 50 percent women staffing and 50 percent women executives.

Robots are also being touted as a complement to home monitoring/home security this year.  If there’s a bump in the night – especially if you are out of town, Kuri or another robot can go investigate. Alarm.com announced it is going to splice into Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Flight drone platform, enabling a flying robot to autonomously navigate through a property to investigate a triggered alarm or unexpected activity. 




Edited by Alicia Young
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