Tech Savvy: Flying taxis and robots
One of the great things about the CES show is the opportunity to gaze into what might be.
The annual event in Las Vegas looking at the future of consumer electronics is described as overwhelming for its size and scope. It provides a look at products that are right around the corner in terms of being on the marketplace and things that could be part of the future—concepts for living, communication, entertainment. Sure, there are ideas presented that may never see the store shelf, but the exercise in looking into what is possible is mind propelling and intensely interesting. What is next to make life better, less stressful, more focused on health and wellness? What is the next big thing?
Last week in Tech Savvy, we ran a list of some of the standout products. After looking through the coverage, here is more food for thought.
Understanding the important role sleep plays in healthy bodies and brains has sleep-deprived Americans more and more focused on the topic. At CES, there were more than a dozen sleep gadgets designed, as Washington Post reporter Geoffrey Fowler described, to "make you feel, perform and look better." Options include a Sleep Number beds with sensors in the mattress to measure movement, heart rate and breathing. Be prepared to spend at least $1,000.
A $150 stamp-sized Beddr SleepTuner sticks to the forehead to measure sleep and even reads the oxygen in the blood. A free app called SleepScore tracks sleep stages using sonar. Fowler noted there are a number of devices out there to relieve the pain of sleeping next to someone who snores. Some help people sleep through the noise like $250 noise-masking headphones from Bose and others focus on the culprit with pillows or an ear and nose mask for the snoring person that are designed to shift their head position without waking them.
"A few stand out for their creativity," Fowler reported. "Aromarest, a $120 diffuser, lamp and white noise machine, lulls you with lavender and wakes you with citrus."
There are water-cooled mattress toppers, which may appeal to those who just have trouble regulating their body temperature to sleep well, and a $3,450 Rocking Bed. "It sways you to sleep, inspired by how a hammock synchronizes brain waves during a nap. It was comfy, but after 10 minutes it felt like the room was moving without me," Fowler reported.
"The most-overlooked element of good sleep is a calm mind, especially in a world of smartphones and Netflix binges. Meditation apps such as Headspace can help you disconnect from the day, but doctors warn using your phone before bed might be counterproductive, since you're staring into light that tells the brain to be alert," Fowler reported.
Other items included a $550 device called Somnox that simulates the breathing of a bed companion. Fowler described it as a "high-tech Teddy."
"There's also a growing niche of brainwave-reading devices, such as the $500 Dreem. This lightweight cap tracks your brain activity, heart, respiration and movement. You can use the data as feedback for breathing and relaxation exercises. And Dreem also touts the ability to emit "sound stimulations" while you're in deep sleep, improving its quality," Fowler noted.
We all want what we want and we want it faster. That's part of the push to 5G and wireless companies had those on display at the CES show. Bloomberg reported the fifth-generation wireless technology may one day guide driverless cars, but noted today's consumer is more concerned with faster smartphones.
"In coming weeks, AT&T Inc. will introduce an interim "5G E" service that promises 50 percent faster internet speeds in many places. Verizon Communications Inc. was out first in September with a 5G home service, pitching ultra-high-definition TV and speeds up to 20 times faster," Bloomberg reporter Scott Moritz noted. "Full-fledged 5G networks are still more than a year away, but selling investors on the idea, and touting eye-popping speeds to jockey for the lead in consumers' minds is every bit the game—even if it means slapping that label on technology that isn't really fifth generation."
Cars that walk
Futuristic and apocalyptic may be how a concept car from Hyundai could be described.
Hyundai's latest concept car is designed to walk as easily as it rolls.
"Called 'Elevate,' the daddy-long-legs-like machine has wheels at the end of long robotic legs that would allow 'users to drive, walk or even climb over the most treacherous terrain,' according to the company," Peter Holley from The Washington Post reported.
"The company - which labels the machine a UMV, or 'ultimate mobility vehicle'—said the concept was inspired by the need for 'resilient transportation' in disaster zones, where conventional vehicles are often rendered useless."
Hyundai noted this vehicle could climb over flood debris from a tsunami or crumbled concrete from an earthquake. So it could help people escape or get rescuers to the scene more quickly. Hyundai reported the vehicle's legs would be able to climb a 5-foot wall or cross a 5-foot gap.
Air taxis were also touted as a way to beat highway congestion in traffic-clogged cities, Holley reported. Bell Helicopter's prototype Bell Nexus, described as an "urban air mobility vehicle" debuted at CES. The idea is for short metro trips with a capacity to seat five to 10 passengers in a plush vehicle not a wholesale ability call up a taxi at your house to reach a destination. But who knows what may come next.
"Uber, which has unofficially partnered with Bell Nexus, has said its fleet of air taxis would be able to travel 150 to 200 mph, allowing the company to whisk passengers across a sprawling metropolis such as Los Angeles in minutes instead of hours," Holley reported.
This means my dream of really living in the world "The Jetsons" filled my mind with is coming ever closer. Now it if can fold up into a briefcase—drop the mic.
Holley reported in addition to designing its 6,000-pound aircraft to be resistant to wind, rain and birds, Robert Hastings, Bell's executive vice president of strategic communications said the design was focused on being as quiet as possible.
"They've done this, he said, by making the rotor blades smaller and by encasing the ends of the 8-foot blades - where most of the noise is created - inside circular ducts," Holley reported. "The result, Hastings said, is that the blade's sound changes from a 'whop whop whop' to a 'whoosh whoosh whoosh.'
"The question for cities will be whether creating more traffic, this time from above, is an acceptable price to pay for relieving congestion."
And, of course, there were robots. We expect the future to have robots. And at CES they even had one that made bread to the tune of 10 hours a day.
"The robot isn't fully independent, the company says, noting that users still need to clean the machine after it's used and slice the final product," Holley reported. "The machine is being marketed to grocery stores as a way to jump-start bread making several hours before a store opens and allow the user to schedule baking times and loaf quantities months in advance."