73 cool new consumer technology innovations from CES 2015

January 10, 2015 — Leave a comment

ces 2015 Ah, the Consumer Electronics Show: the annual international destination for the most forward-looking technology each year, matched with a frenetic navel-gazing from industry insiders that pales only to the self-aggrandizing swagger of the tech world’s brand behemoths, and big promises from baby hardware start-ups hoping to make it big on a non-working plastic prototype and a semi-polished sales pitch.

Oh, and there are always more than a few gems that make it all worthwhile.

It’s a huge show. I logged 40,000 steps walking every aisle of the show floor over 48 hours, and I’m sure I still missed something.

It’s my third trip to Vegas for the annual tech toy fest. The first was seven years ago (2008 recap); then last year (2014 recap).

For 2015, I can tell you I was inspired, underwhelmed and energized at what I found at this year’s show. This was a year of paradox for a culture in the age of technology transition.

There were more booths with Oculus Rift virtual reality demos than companies selling the 360 degree cameras and software needed to create content for it. However, there were many companies exploring new ways to maneuver in 3D and IRL realms, including via feet, ears, wrist and shoes. And NFC tattoos.

There was more talk about autonomous cars as a guaranteed reality than the infrastructure and near-term, baby-step innovations required to support a more realistic evolution.

The TVs this year were truly more picturesque than real life. Except the majority of programming is just finally starting to catch up to 4k, so buying an 8k TV would be lots of wasted pixels.

I witnessed people walking up to strangers and letting them plop a brain scanner on their noggin without a semblance of acknowledgement there could be side effects — or who owned the data from the experience.

There were drones galore. Talk about smart watches, smart homes and smart wallets. But none of it actually plays very well together, and not a lot of it solves immediate problems.

It seems to be common knowledge that if a device can send a notification to your phone, then it’s awesome. I struggle to disagree with this assessment, myself. And enchanted objects — regardless of how life-improving they may be — make non-smart objects look all the more dumb.

There were an increased number of 3D printers this year, and an encouraging base of 3D handheld scanners and material providers growing up to bolster the category.

Last year, the threat of an Apple Watch loomed over the wrist wearable and smart watch vendors. This year Apple stole some mindshare by announcing a March launch date on the first day of the show.

Meanwhile, the rise in haptic technology is truly amazing, and I look forward to that category growing into our computers, wearables and autos. Although, someone will surely get burned (literally), and I fear miseducation will impede its adoption. I guess we’ll see.

Here are some of the advancements I saw this year that caught my eye, separated into the following categories:

  • Virtual Reality
  • The Future of Hands Free
  • Technology to Impact Your Daily Life
  • The Future of Personal Transportation
  • Television
  • The Drones are Coming!
  • Internet of Things
  • Robots, because CES
  • Music
  • The Ridiculous Side of CES

Here we go!

Virtual Reality

More than 10 booths included Oculus Rift or virtual reality demos, including Chevy. Lots of “Oculus Killers,” but Oculus was by far the platform of choice. Next up is a support industry for these VR technologies, including hands-free navigation…

Virtual Omni system with Oculus Rift. A 360 VR Omni-directional treadmill. This guy is sweating! #CES2015

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Giving away branded Google Cardboard as tchotchkes (see: I have seen the future, and it’s made of cardboard)…

Google Cardboard tchotchkes! A first. #CES2015

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The Future of Hands Free

Haptic technology, using electric current, vibration and/or directed sound to give the user a more realistic touch experience, or give hands-free directions via shoe…

Mid air tactile feedback using ultrasound technology from Ultrahaptics. #CES2015

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Brain sensing headbands and EEG sensors being put to use beyond Muse’s yoga application. And a surprising amount of excitement to step right up and strap one’s brain into an experience no-strings attached…

Using my brain to power a race car. Kind of. #fail #CES2015

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All our brains are belong to you. #CES2015

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Move holograms… with your mind. From Uncle Milton Science. #CES2015

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Reach Bionics’ peri-auricular muscle controllers (aka ear wiggling) measures electromyography (EMG) signals generated by the muscles around the ears and wirelessly transmits those signals to target devices as commands. Beyond the obvious benefits of using this technology in assistive devices for the disabled, the creators shared with me how this tech could be used in complement to other wearables (e.g., Google Glass, Apple Watch) to unlock silent or invisible hands-free controls (e.g., playing a video game). Here’s a video of me playing a game with only wiggling my ears.

Using electromyography signals from my peri-auricular muscles to play a game (aka ear wiggling). #CES2015

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The eSkin Tattoo is a super thin, flexible NFC tag that allows the user to store information and interact with a phone or other NFC/RFID triggers (watching a video, changing lights, trigger an app). It’s the size of a nickel, is waterproof and can last for approximately five days depending on wear. Really cool technology…

Vivalink eSkin Tattoos. Unlock your phone. Take your temperature. #CES2015

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Technology to Impact Your Daily Life

Ring evolved from a prototype last year to a fully functional demo this year. Still not sure it’s something I would wear day-to-day…

Testing out the gesture control Ring. It's come a long way since last year. #CES2015

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USB-powered water bottle vaporizers for hotel rooms or your desk at the office…

USB-Powered water bottle vaporizer #CES2015

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Battery-powered belts from two different companies (obviously a growing niche market)…

Like our kids don’t have enough trouble with screen time, we’re putting games on their feet now. However, it’s a simple concept and brain-stretching memory game. I’m truly on the fence…

Got some hands-on time with a beloved reversible USB cord. Distributor said it would increase the cost of most cords by $1 to include. It would be so worth it…

A handful of significant innovations in washer/dryer technology, including a washer within a washer and built-in sinks. But you know what? Absolutely zero toilet innovations at CES. Sad…

A washing machine with a built in sink. #whatlltheythinkofnext #CES2015

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However, the desire to put crappy digital drawing capabilities on our appliances and car dashboards is stronger than ever…

Finally. MS Paint on our refrigerators. #CES2015

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Finally! MS Paint in our car dashboards! #CES2015

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The ability to turn any surface into a touch device is only as good as the software powering it…

Now you can lose connectivity on your touchscreen kitchen countertops! Finally! #CES2015

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I feel the same way about plant-watering alert systems (after several dead plants thanks to ignored alerts from my Parrot Flower Power). That’s why a system that actually waters the plant is ideal…

And sometimes simply scraping off your grill no longer seems worth the effort…

Grillbot. Retail: $120. #CES2015

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The Future of Personal Transportation

Mercedes’ autonomous car (which looks like a computer mouse)…

Driving your own car is so overrated. #CES2015

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Although the major auto manufacturers are sharing demos of their autonomous cars, there is a growing market for partially autonomous experiences – a half-step forward rather than drastically handing over full control to the algorithms…

Parking your car via wrist watch seems to a powerful consumer need the major auto manufacturers are trying to solve…

Just summoning my automated car via my watch. No big deal. #CES2015

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Watching VW's trained car park itself. She triggered it via watch. Via watch. #CES2015

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Our mobile electronics are only as good as their batteries. There is a significant rise in conductive cases, rapid charge technology and tiny power innovation for electronics ranging in size from hearing aids to cars…

"Can you imagine powering a Tesla with a battery this size?" Panasonic's 18650 on display. #CES2015

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Gas may be $2.00 a gallon but micro cars, you guys. And people say my Chevy Spark is small…

And people say my car is small. $6k. Max speed 10 mph. Weighs 400 lbs. #CES2015

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Will Segways go hands-free? Here are a few glimpses of what that could look like…

Electric unicycles. #CES2015

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It's not quite a hoverboard, but it's still pretty cool. #CES2015

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I spent almost no time fawning over the new televisions. There will always be crisper screens, smarter controls and thinner consoles. And the programming for these new devices will always be lagging behind the tech. But here are a few of the things that caught my eye.

Plug and play 3D cameras are reaching a low enough price point that there are some interesting use cases coming…

3D TVs are still a thing. But the new buzzword is glassesless…

The World's Largest 8K Glassesless 3D TV. Because "glassesless" is a thing. #CES2015

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Despite the rise in 4K TVs (even 8Ks!), HDMI cable innovations and digital signal technology at this year’s show, the need for traditional antennas still exists globally…

Omg. I found the giant TV antennas, you guys. #CES2015

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Change your entire living room into a gaming space…

Waterproof TVs rated for goldfish aquariums…

Finally. TVs for our goldfish tanks. #CES2015

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The Drones are Coming!

Last year it seemed like 5 companies were selling drones. This year, it was more like 25. It really feels like this technology is going to become very widespread in the coming year. And I predict it’s going to cause some tension among the general public (see Dads with Drones are Wreaking Havoc This Christmas).

Drone technology beyond remote control helicopters…

Finally. An auto-follow drone that follows me around automatically to film me from all angles. #CES2015

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Synchronized micro drones, you guys. #CES2015

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Who needs 4k TVs when you can watch synchronized drones set to music? #CES2015

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This one flies, drives and can pick-up/deliver packages…

Even the FAA was on hand to answer questions. Hard questions, like “When is the government going to catch up?”…


CES isn’t really the place where big mobile innovations are debuted, but there are still a handful of after-market and support products worth perusing.

Innovation in physical keyboard technology for smartphones. Turn your iPhone 6 into an iPhone 6 Plus-sized Blackberry…

Physical keyboard case for iPhone 6. Retails for $99. #CES2015

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The promise of telecommuting via iPad-controlled robots reaches Ouroboros proportions…

Telecommuting for Giants. #CES2015

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Technology to enable one’s desire to hit your iPhone with a hammer…

When you absolutely, positively must hit your iPhone 6 with a hammer… #CES2015

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And it’s always good to remember that today’s amazing technology is tomorrow’s dinosaur-like museum pieces…

Some day our iPhones will be on display as ancient history, you know. #CES2015

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Internet of Things

Internet of Things starting to solve problems, rather than creating new ones…

Bluetooth shoe heaters…

Digitsole lets you hear your feet via your phone. Finally. #CES2015

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Using your home wifi system as your burglar alarm…

Wifi Pertubation Security System. Amazing. #CES2015

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Bluetooth LP gas monitor…

Real-time propane monitoring, synced to your phone. $25 bucks. No brainer. #CES2015

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Wireless fish-finding…

Wireless fishfinder sends underwater data/radar to your phone. $229 on Amazon. #CES2015

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Baby monitoring innovations, especially those that could redefine SIDS…

Unlocking your front door with your phone and a touch…

These Kevo door locks are pretty sweet. The idea of ditching physical keys is pretty attractive. #CES2015

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Wireless pet monitor and treat dispenser (another MN company!)…

$349 wifi pet treat dispenser. #CES2015

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Like the Amazon Echo, the market is starting to see more always-on listening devices…

Listnr is a cloud-connected listening device. Set it up to trigger actions based on snaps. #CES2015

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This eInk jewelry was on display last year and wasn’t really updated for 2015. Still seems completely impractical. It’s one thing to have a dead battery on your cell phone. But having to charge your necklace is not a problem I readily welcome…

Would you wear it? #CES2015

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Robots, because CES

Forget the Turing Test. This is the Beer Pong Test…

Finally. A robot that plays beer pong. #CES2015

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This is a fake robot…

Fake robots. #CES2015

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Because the robots are coming, you know…

I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords. #CES2015

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I didn’t pay any attention to the headphone, earbud and bone conduction headsets this year, but here are a couple things in the music category that were worth checking out.

Forget keyboards. We’ve want unwieldy music balls in the future…

Took this one special for @kindohm #CES2015

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Minnesota’s Indiegogo darling Jamstik was a highlighted product this year (see Minneapolis musician Chris Heille play Daft Punk’s Get Lucky on it here)…

Minnesota's jamstik on display at the Indiegogo booth. #CES2015

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Sure, I love my bluetooth Beats pill. But the small tinny speakers in our phones, earbuds and cars just can’t compare to good, old-fashioned, giant speakers. And these were gorgeous…

Check out these gorgeous home stereo steampunk speakers from HiVi. #CES2015

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The Ridiculous Side of CES

Brands should make no apologies for efforts to stand out in a sea of sameness and noise. But some of these are truly jaw-dropping…

Ummm… #CES2015

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Pots and pans cycle. #CES2015

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This. #CES2015

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This would be great in my living room. #CES2015

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The future of exercise…

The future of exercise. #CES2015

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Physical pixel event activation experiences…

Physical pixels are my favorite. #CES2015

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Celebrities who don’t really have deep knowledge about consumer technology being asked questions about it…

Hey @nathantwright, 50 Cent says you should buy his headphones. #CES2015

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"People with disabilities buy things too. Just make them accessible." -Stevie Wonder #CES2015

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The World’s #1 Bluetooth Audio Hat — last but not least…

World's #1 Bluetooth Audio Hat. Finally. And it's #1. In the world. #CES2015

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