Gary Kaye, founder and chief content officer of Tech50+, a website that covers consumer electronics–related topics. Based in Oxford, Connecticut, he has reported on technology for more than 30 years at various TV networks and other organizations. Tech50Plus.com
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Virtual reality has finally become real…TV pictures are sharper than ever…and “smart” items ranging from socks to thermometers now can be connected to the Internet.
Early each year, tech companies unveil a slew of new products at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The 2016 show was the largest ever…and many of the products were, let’s just say, of limited appeal. Do you really want a self-piloting personal helicopter—and do you have around a quarter-million dollars to buy one?
But there were affordable and potentially very useful products that stood out. Here’s a look at 10 futuristic new products that could truly find a place in our lives…
HEALTH AND FITNESS
Blood pressure monitor that you wear like a wristwatch. Omron Project Zero Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor is the first wearable fitness tracker that tracks not only your pulse rate but also precisely monitors your blood pressure. It has small inflatable bladders hidden on its underside that substitute for the large inflatable cuff worn around the upper arm with a traditional blood pressure monitor. The device itself is oversized by wristwatch standards, but it doesn’t stand out very much in this era of big, chunky watches. People who have heart conditions can use it to check blood pressure throughout the day and even use its app to send any troubling results directly to a health-care provider for guidance. Omron is among the most respected makers of traditional blood pressure cuffs, and the company is in the process of gaining FDA clearance for the device, which also tells time, counts steps and monitors sleep like other wearable fitness devices. The monitor is expected to be available late this year for around $200. OmronHealthcare.com/Zero
Socks that analyze walking problems. Sensoria smart socks have tiny built-in sensors originally designed to help runners analyze their strides but that are now put to more uses. An accompanying electronic anklet and app work with the socks to analyze your walking and running characteristics. Sensoria can identify subtle stride issues that might suggest the wearer is at long-term risk for a fall, giving the person a chance to seek corrective or rehabilitative treatment before a fall occurs. It may be particularly useful for people who have slowly developing balance or leg problems or who have neurological conditions that could lead to balance problems. A kit containing two pairs of the socks and an electronic anklet sells for $199 and already is available. The socks are machine-washable. SensoriaFitness.com
Headband that prevents headaches. BioTrak Health Halo senses subtle head and neck muscle tension that can presage the onset of migraines and tension headaches. The headband sends a gentle vibration to alert its wearer to the potential problem. Then an app guides the wearer through relaxation techniques designed to ward off the headache. BioTrak says Halo users eventually learn to sense an oncoming headache themselves, reducing the need to wear the headband. Halo has not yet been subjected to independent studies, but research suggests that biofeedback and relaxation techniques can control certain headaches. Halo should be available in the second half of this year for around $200. HaloCalm.com
Ultra-portable, handheld exercise device.TAO WellShell, which resembles a computer mouse, is a four-inch-long squeeze exerciser transformed into a high-tech fitness device. Its app connects wirelessly to the device to coach you through more than 50 available exercises and track your performance. The isometric exercises do not provide a cardiovascular workout, but they do tone the muscles—and not just the muscles of the hands, like a conventional squeeze exerciser. By adjusting how the device is held, you can target many different muscle groups, including those of the hands, arms and even the legs—in some exercises, the device is pressed against a leg or squeezed between the knees. TAO WellShell should be released late this summer for about $249. Tao-Wellness.com
Artificial intelligence system to assist people with vision problems. OrCam MyMe features a small camera that clips to your shirt plus a Bluetooth wireless earpiece. MyMe often can identify what’s in front of you—it recognizes thousands of different types of things, including people. MyMe can read text (not just words on a printed page—it can read things such as street signs). It has facial-recognition capabilities, too. If someone has been added to MyMe’s database, it can identify the person and remind you of his/her name. MyMe should be available late this year at a price yet to be determined. The company’s previous, less sophisticated artificial intelligence products cost $2,500 to $3,500, but this one may cost less. OrCam.com
Remote that can control more than 50,000 devices. Neeo goes beyond a universal TV remote to also control many home-automation products, including smart lights, thermostats, locks and window shades from a variety of manufacturers. It has an easy-to-use touch screen. The remote even identifies which household member has picked it up, then adjusts itself to best suit that person’s preferences. Neeo is expected to be available by midyear. Its “prerelease” price is $339 for the remote and base unit, the “brain” of the system. Neeo.com
Alternative: Another new product, Savant Remote, is similar to Neeo, and it includes the option of voice control. It will be available midyear for $499. Savant.com
The most impressive TV yet.LG G6 Signature OLED 4K TV is the hands-down winner among TVs vying to present the best picture. It’s a 4K set, meaning that it has four times as many pixels as a typical HD screen of the same size. With OLED, or Organic Light-Emitting Diodes, blacks are truly black and overall contrast is impressive. Like many of the best new sets, the LG features a new color technology called High Dynamic Range (HDR), which pumps up color. But unlike some other HDR models that tend to exaggerate colors, the LG provides crisp, bright, realistic color without an artificial feeling. The unit itself is stylish and impressively thin. It is due out in the spring. Expect prices to be very steep at first, particularly for large models—potentially in the neighborhood of $8,000 for the 65-inch model—but history suggests that prices will come down sharply fairly quickly. LG.com
Record player that converts vinyl records into “high-resolution” digital audio files.Sony PS-HX500 does not just play old (and new) records, it also can convert them into high-resolution digital WAV files, or files in Sony’s own DSD format, if it is connected to a PC or Mac computer. There are other turntables that convert vinyl to digital, but this is the first to convert it to high-resolution digital, which won’t lose any of the richness, warmth and dynamic range that the original vinyl record provided. It will be available in the spring. Pricing has yet to be announced, but speculation has been that it might cost in the neighborhood of $600. Sony.com
Camera that takes virtual reality pictures. Vuze from HumanEyes Technology gives you not only a headset to view 360-degree, 3-D images but also a camera to record images that surround you and play them on any virtual-reality headset. The camera really is eight HD cameras built into a five-inch-wide device that resembles a shrunken Roomba robot vacuum cleaner. Vuze will be available in late summer for around $1,000. Vuze.camera
Camera that captures ultra-long-term time-lapse video.Enlaps Tikee can record extremely slow changes that a normal video camera cannot. Want to film a plant growing or a building going up over a period of weeks—and then play it back in just seconds? Tikee can do it. Tikee includes a solar panel for power and a waterproof case. It should be available by late summer for around $800. Enlaps.io