HAVE YOU SEEN MY HAIR GROWTH HELMET?
You know your TV? The one you thought was flat-screen. The one you proudly show off when people come around? It's about to look like a bulky 1950s relic from quaint and simpler times.
The International Festival for Business is at the forefront of new thinking in global business and the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is the best glimpse you can get into the future of consumer technology. This year it brought us a TV so flat it can roll up like a newspaper, a hairbrush that tells you all about your split-ends and a fridge that sorts out your next shopping list.
It's not just phones that are getting smart. Scarves, canes, beds, and even shorts - yes shorts – are also going digital, to give you more. Weird and wonderful things are happening to even the most mundane household items. Here's a list of ten incredible tech inventions which stole CES 2017 and solve future problems today. It truly is a great time to be alive.
1) PROBLEM: "MY BORING OLD BED JUST LIES THERE..."
Product: Smart bed
Tech: Sensor technology
Company: Select Comfort / SCSS
Result: Sleep like a baby, the smarter way
Anyone with a new-born baby or snoring partner will tell you how important sleep is. We spend a third of our lives asleep and lack of it has significant consequences on our health, mental agility and, let's face it, our looks. But can a bed do more to give you a dream night sleep?
SCSS unveiled Sleep Number 360 at this year's CES. It doesn't just tell people how their night's sleep was. It actively works during the night to improve the quality of your slumber for you and your better half.
The bed's nightly mission it to keep you sound asleep by automatically adjusting air columns within its mattress, to react to people shifting on their side, back, or stomach. It has an automatic snore detection (That's right, undeniable concrete snoring evidence) and it also comes complete with a powerful foot warmer.
But that's not all. Pete Bils, vice president of sleep science and research at Select Comfort, gave us some finer details. “Sleep Number 360 knows when you get into bed and can track your heart rate and respiration as well as sleep cycles. It stores that information for you in the cloud for review. It's smarter sleeping made easy. Bet you're new quilt top king-size doesn't look quite so great now.
2) PROBLEM: "MY HAIR'S A MESS AND IT'S NOT JUST BECAUSE OF THE HOVERBOARDING..."
Product: Smart Hairbrush
Tech employed: Microphone Gyroscope
Result: Better hair, because you're worth it
The crowning glory for both men and women across the world, hair is very important to a lot of people. That's why the global haircare market is estimated to be worth more than $83bn a year. So there's plenty of room for some new tech and beauty giant L'oreal have been ‘brushing up' on the ever increasing demands of this ever growing market.
The Loreal Smart Brush really cares about your hair, almost too much. It listens to the sound of your hair, with a built-in microphone and warns of breakage through vibration. Regular use allows other sensors to build up a profile of how its owner looks after their hair. It shares its findings via wi-fi or Bluetooth to an app, which then gives you tips on how to brush your way to better-looking locks.
But is it really possible to brush wrong? Actually, it is. Guive Balooch, global vice president of L'Oreals' research and innovation technology explained why. "One of the biggest challenges when brushing your hair is making sure you don't brush too hard and break the fibres. That leads to hair damage and that doesn't look good for consumers”.
3) PROBLEM: "COMB-OVERS ARE NEVER COMING BACK. EVER."
Product: Hair Growth Helmet
Tech: Low-level light technology
Company: Apira Science
Results: Hair, we hope.
It doesn't matter how smart the brush is, if you've got no hair. But is follicly challenged necessarily forever? Hundreds of thousands of hopeful hearts (and increasingly shiny heads) have been sold empty promises before. Can new technology turn back the clock and restore a thick head of hair?
Well, we can't say for sure. But the i-Grow Hair Growth System has been cleared by the FDA 510k for both men and women. The helmet works by flashing low-level light technology onto the scalp to activate cellular activity within the hair follicles, ‘promoting the proliferation of healthier looking hair' Side effects? Well, it does make you resemble an evil cyborg extra of Dr Who, but, on the plus side, it's got headphones built in, so you can listen to your favourite songs, while you keep your fingers crossed.
4) PROBLEM: "VIRTUAL REALITY? WE'RE NOT REALLY FEELING IT"
Product: Virtual Reality Shoes
Tech employed: Tactile sensors
Result: Really feel the virtual ground beneath your feet
Virtual reality glasses do a decent job of making us see and hear new virtual worlds. But they don't really make you feel it. Step forward Taclim VR shoes. Big, bulky and black, they don't look as good as your swish Nikes, but they do make immersive tech feel so much more real. But how?
The Cerevo website revealed all. "Taclim generates the sense of stepping on the ground in virtual spaces, including desert, grassland and even water, giving the user the sense of wearing shoes worn by a virtual character and adding an authentic sense of touch”. Sounds simple, but the potential is huge. Virtual football, climbing, or even kickboxing become notably more appealing when paired with this technology.
The shoes have been created for Google's VR offering but Cervo says it hopes to add support for Oculus, Steam VR, and PlayStation VR in the future. These shoes won't look good on the street, and they'll set you back anywhere between £800 - £1200, but they could make you feel like you're walking on the moon, running along the beach or scoring the winning goal at Wembley. So worth it.
5) PROBLEM: "MY ROBOT THINKS ALL HUMANS ARE THE SAME"
Product: Robot (but with personality)
Result: Putting the personal into personal assistant
As ever, Hollywood is way ahead of us with this one. R-2DT, C3-PO and BB-8 and each have their own remarkable little character in the Star Wars Universe. They saved the galaxy and stole the show, but is this realistic? Can robots really have a personality? Who will save us from the perfectly polite but identic offering from Alexa and Cortana?
Emotech believe the answer is Olly. ‘His' intelligence is artificial, he's shaped like a doughnut and just like his competitor's models, he can also tell you where your nearest Indian take-way is and whether you'll need your brolly tomorrow.
But don't get us wrong, Olly is quite different and that's why he's won four CES innovation awards at this year's event. Olly is special because he learns. He might be tethered to a power cable and a base, but he doesn't let it hold him back.
Olly loves to really get to know his owners. He memorises their daily interests and activities and uses this knowledge to predict behaviours. Olly analyses vocal patterns to adjust to different people and even offers follow-up information based on past conversations. Olly knows what you sound like, what you like and ultimately will anticipate what you'll need and when.
Olly's expected to be released this year, but we don't know when. We imagine that he does, though.
6) PROBLEM: "FLYING DOESN'T FEEL REAL ANYMORE..."
Product: Hypersuit that give you wings
Tech: VR extension
Result: The sky's the limit
For all our technological achievements, advancements in engineering and mastery of the skies, through aviation, flight – at least in terms of personal flight, like a bird – still evades us. We dream of it. Our heroes, like Superman and Wonder Woman, can do it with ease and it looks like a lot of fun. But what's it really like to fly and will we ever experience it?
Bringing us one big jump closer is The Hypersuit. Produced by Paris-based Theory, Hypersuit is a mobile exoskeleton which enhances the virtual reality experience. It gives the wearer the impression of having wings and makes people feel like they can fly like a superhero. Other settings simulate base-jumping or a cosmonaut experience and a fan enhances the feeling of being above the clouds by blowing air in different directions, depending on the course of travel.
The prototype won't be coming to market for some time and Theory are still developing Hypersuit's applications. Although initially intended for entertainment and gaming purposes, they now believe the suit could one day be used to train pilots in the military.
7) PROBLEM: "MY SPEAKERS SOUND GREAT BUT THEY LOOK UNREMARKABLE..."
Product: Levitating Speakers
Tech: Er, magnets
Results: Elevated sound
Most of the products unveiled at CES have real, practical uses and solve genuine problems. But some didn't. Some just looked really cool and there's nothing wrong with that. One such item was LG's latest Bluetooth speaker, the PJ9. It levitates, hovering above it's charging platform for up to ten hours. It might look futuristic, but the ‘tech' is totally old school.
Powerful magnets cause the speakers to float inches above their base. When their power runs low, the speakers slowly descent, by themselves to be charged again. The speaker is weatherproof, so perfect for outdoor barbeques and showing off to your neighbours. Let's be honest, its appeal is entirely aesthetic and it's the kind of gimmicky tech your parents would hate. But we still want it. Why? Because they float, that's why.
8) PROBLEM: "MY FRIDGE WON'T TALK TO ME..."
Product: Smart Fridge
Tech: Smart technology
Results: Smarter shopping, eating and food storage
Some questions are eternal. What's for dinner? What's in the fridge? What's on the shopping list? And has the milk turned? If your fridge could talk, recognise food, order products that you're out of and come up with recipes, based on what food you have in, these questions would be much easier to answer.
Samsung has been on the case, developing a smart fridge, that does all this and allows you to order food through the click of a button. As for the questions? They're still eternal, but with the Family Hub 2.0, you'd be asking your voice controlled talking fridge and getting a sensible answer. How cool is that?
9) PROBLEM: "THIS SMOG IS KILLING ME..."
Tech: Filtration and sensors
Result: Protection from pollution
Air quality is a serious concern today and the quality of our air is forecast to deteriorate even further in the future. Future cities are expected to be more densely populated, more congested and suffer greater air pollution as a consequence.
Cyclist and joggers will be taking in great gulps of this air and the Wair anti-pollution scarf filtration system aims to wrap them in protection. But you don't need to wear it over your face all the time, like a bandit, just in case, as the scarf continuously measures the quality of ambient air and uses the wearer's smartphone to encourage them to raise the scarf over their nose and mouth when entering polluted areas.
10) PROBLEM: "I MAY BE OVER 100 BUT I STILL WANT TO POP THE SHOPS..."
Product: Smart Cane
Tech: Sensors and GPS
Result: Added peace of mind for cane users and their family
Concluding our top ten is the Smart Cane (We did consider the vibrating GPS ‘Daisy Duke' style silver hot-pants, but we just couldn't, sorry).
People in the future are expected to live longer. Forecasters even believe that the first person who will live to 150 has already been born. So technology that aids safer mobility is likely to more important than ever in the future. You won't find such devices in every home. But they could mean more to people with lower mobility than any smartphone, smart-brush or voice powered fridge.
The Dring Smart Cane is a safety device. It's handle tracks the user's location and can notify a friend or relative by a telephone call or text if they have fallen or left a certain area (particularly useful for dementia sufferers, who may get lost). As for the cane itself, it's made by prestigious, century-old walking-stick company Fayet and wouldn't look out of place on famous cane users such as Dr House, Detective Poirot or even Winston Churchill.
New technology can be weird, wonderful and range from the sublime to the ridiculous. But if one word could sum up this year's CES, it's ‘smart'. Companies are looking at their industry, their services and their own products and asking What's next? What can this new technology do for us and our customers? What opportunities does this create and how can we get in on the action? If you're looking to future-proof your business you'd be smart to do the same.