Circular smartphones, robotic cats, tech that tracks your toilet paper usage. Hundreds of unnecessary new gadgets in one place can mean only one thing—the Consumer Electronics Show. The annual convention where electronics makers unveil their latest products took place only online in 2021 due to the pandemic, but it returned to Las Vegas this year. As in earlier years, hidden among the show’s who-would-need-that gizmos and futuristic-but-far-from-the-market prototypes were innovative products…
Ultra-portable digital projector. Samsung Freestyle is a lightweight device that can project streamed high-definition video content onto a wall or ceiling. Earlier products like this tended to be bulky and suffer from picture-quality problems. The Freestyle weighs less than two pounds and can be plugged into an AC socket. You also can purchase a battery so that it can be moved from room to room or taken outdoors. It automatically focuses and levels its image. In fact, Freestyle will maintain its picture’s rectangular shape even if it’s aimed upward at a wall. It features 360-degree sound and responds to voice commands. Available for preorder and expected to start shipping around February 25. $899. Samsung.com
Astonishing TV picture quality at a colossal size. LG’s G2 “Gallery Series” OLED TVs will be available in 83- and 97-inch sizes later this year. OLED—short for organic light-emitting diode—is probably the best of the TV-screen technologies on the market. It provides wide viewing angles, excellent motion quality, bright colors and perfectly black blacks. With most TVs, black portions of the picture never seem truly black because backlight leaks through, but OLEDs don’t have backlights—each pixel serves as its own light source. That also makes OLED TVs thinner, lighter and more energy-efficient. These LG OLEDs are expected to reach the market this spring and are an excellent way to create the immersive big-screen theater experience. Prices have not yet been announced, but they won’t come cheap. LG already has 55-, 65- and 77-inch OLEDs on the market, and an earlier-generation 77-inch recently sold for $3,800. LG.com
TV remote that never needs new batteries. Samsung SolarCell Remote debuted last year to help solve a chronic TV frustration—finding fresh batteries for the remote control when the old ones run down. This remote has a solar panel that can produce all the power it needs. That solar panel thrives if the remote is left in sunlight streaming in through a window…but even the light from indoor electric lights can be sufficient. This year’s version of the SolarCell Remote is unlikely to run down even if it’s left in the dark for days—it can also draw power from the radio waves generated by your Wi-Fi router. If all else fails, it can be charged via a USB-C port. This remote will be included with Samsung TVs starting later this year. Samsung.com
KITCHEN AND BATH TECH
True touchless kitchen faucet. Moen Smart Faucet with Motion Control isn’t the first kitchen faucet that can be turned on with the waive of a hand, but this Moen takes touchless control even further—you can adjust the water temperature by gesturing left or right. Hands-free faucets are useful even in less-virus-focused times—no more trying to operate the faucet with an elbow when you need to wash dirty hands. This faucet responds to voice commands when paired with an Alexa or Google Assistant smart speaker—even precise commands such as “two-and-a-half cups of 150° water.” It will be available in April with prices starting at $675. Moen.com
Tub system that runs a bath for you. Kohler PerfectFill automatically fills your bathtub to your preferred depth and temperature upon your verbal command, with the help of Kohler’s phone app. PerfectFill can maintain your desired temperature while you’re bathing, too. The system will be available this spring and is compatible with a range of Kohler tubs. Your budget will take a bit of a soaking, however—PerfectFill costs $2,700.
Massive tablet that fits in a modest-sized backpack or purse. ASUS Zenbook 17 Fold OLED (shown on page seven) has a huge 17.3-inch screen that can be folded in half for transport—the less-than-four-pound tablet measures just 12.5 x 7.5 inches when folded. With its stunning OLED picture quality, it’s the ideal tablet for streaming video. But it also comes with a wireless keyboard so you can stand the tablet up and use it as a large and powerful laptop computer—it’s equipped with the latest-generation Intel processor. If you don’t want to cart that keyboard around, you can fold this Zenbook into an L-shape and use the lower section as a virtual keyboard. It’s expected to reach the market by midyear. Pricing has not yet been announced. ASUS.com
Big laptop with a spare screen in its keyboard. Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 has a 17.3-inch screen plus an additional eight-inch screen built into the right side of its keyboard. That second screen lays flat on the keyboard rather than facing forward when the laptop is in use, which makes it ideal for jotting notes with the help of the ThinkBook’s stylus. Example: You might jot notes or edits on a shared document while participating in a Zoom meeting on the laptop’s main screen. The second screen also can function as a calculator and can mirror your smartphone. This laptop is expected to reach the market in May with a starting price of $1,399. Lenovo.com
FUN AND GAMES TECH
Better bird feeder. Bird Buddy is a bird feeder with a built-in digital camera and microphone to bring you closer than ever to the avian action. It saves photos of the birds that visit so you can see who flew in to enjoy your hospitality, and its artificial intelligence system identifies breeds based on their appearance and songs. The Bird Buddy has a detachable battery module that lasts about a month between charges. It is scheduled to ship in June, but you can preorder one now at a discounted price of $199 or $259 with a solar roof attachment. MyBirdBuddy.com
Classic board games without all the bits and pieces. Arcade 1Up Infinity Game Table is a freestanding touchscreen high-definition digital table that comes with virtual versions of more than 40 classic board games, including Monopoly, Scrabble and Yahtzee. Additional games can be downloaded for $3 to $10 apiece, including modern hits such as Ticket to Ride and Pandemic. Up to six people can play without ever searching for lost game pieces or having to clean them up when they’re done. The table provides “haptic feedback”—a tactile response to increase the immersive experience when, for example, you roll the dice—and its legs can be removed if you prefer to place this game table on another table. It’s already available with a price of $699 for the 24-inch model…or $899 for the 32-inch. InfinityGameTable.com
“Reading glasses” that can read for you. OrCam MyEye Pro is a lightweight device that attaches to one of the arms of a pair of eyeglasses. It helps a visually impaired wearer decipher words, objects and faces that he/she can’t make out. OrCam has been working on this technology for years—Bottom Line wrote about an earlier MyEye model back in 2018—but the latest MyEye Pro version represents such a significant step forward in speed and accuracy that it won an innovation award at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. MyEye Pro wearers simply say “Hey OrCam” to enable its voice assistant, then point it toward printed or digital text they can’t read—the device will read it to them through a tiny speaker positioned near the ear or through a paired Bluetooth audio device. MyEye Pro also can tell different denominations of money apart, for example. And if someone you know is standing in front of you, it could identify who he/she is. MyEye Pro is already available, with a price of $4,250.