The Internet may be free, but the gadgets connected to it are certainly not. Dog collars, light bulbs, work tables and even basketballs now are Internet connected and the price tag could range from hundreds to well over a thousand dollars for the privilege of owning a “smart” device.
A staggering number of tech products, some connected and some not, were on display last week at the mammoth CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas. And while some consumers may gulp a little at the prices, there were some innovative ideas that may offer a useful insight into how we interact with our own devices in the months and years ahead.
Tired of running while listening to your music with those pesky earbuds? One of the wearable tech products on display last week was RunPhones, a “headphone in a headband” ($40) that has the speakers built-in.
Turned off by too many lousy, off-key singers at karaoke bars? A company called Singtrix (started by the creators of Guitar Hero) has developed an audio channel box ($300) that can make a screeching cat sound like Tony Bennett.
Worried that when the big storm hits, none of your flashlights will work? SmartCharge makes a LED bulb ($55) with a built-in battery so you won’t be left in the dark when the next hurricane washes ashore.
In the connected world, devices are getting smarter and more interactive. New model “smart” refrigerators ($3,000+) made by Samsung can now give you a running inventory of what’s inside. And one executive at the LG Electronics press conference last week proudly described the latest feature for his company’s washing machine by exclaiming, “You can now text ‘what are you doing?’ to your washer and get an answer!”
For sports enthusiasts, the equipment is getting connected as well. Zepp makes a sensor ($150) that can be easily attached to a golf club, baseball bat, or tennis racquet. It analyzes your swing in multiple ways and feeds the data back through smartphone apps.
And 94Fifty has developed a basketball with nine sensors that measure specifics like the arc, speed, and rotation of every shot. At $299 per ball, it’s not a device you’d want to accidentally leave behind at your local playground.
Products for pooches are getting into the mix also. Voyce showcased a new dog collar ($300) last week that constantly monitors an animal’s vital signs and pushes the data to either owner or veterinarian.
One of the more intriguing TV-related gizmos was from a company called SeeSpace. Their product just came out of stealth mode and is a small circular device ($99) that connects to your cable box and monitor. SeeSpace overlays Internet content about what you are watching on your screen either in 2D or eye-catching 3D, accessible via gesture control.
Then there is the Stir Kinetic Desk ($3800) that “learns” your work pattern and adjusts up or down using a built-in touch screen. It “senses” when you arrive and tracks how many calories you burn while working.
Finally, there is Mother, the one gadget at this year’s show that managed to make it on just about everyone’s list of the weirdest products. A programmable device ($222) from the French company Sen.se, Mother is designed to be your parent. It uses motion-tracking sensors to record all kinds of data, like whether you brushed your teeth or are drinking enough water.
Somehow, when whatever happens in Vegas stays there, this may be one of those times when that just makes sense.