The Top 5 Things I Learned at CES 2017

Yes, it’s been a few weeks since CES, but it’s taken me that long to not only process everything that happened, but also to recover from the annual resulting cold (no amount of hand washing could prevent what my colleagues and I came to refer to as “The Pepcom Plague”). So, if you’re sick of the same old CES coverage (ooh look! More drones!) then read on to find the top 5 things I learned at CES 2017.

1. Your reality is going to be augmented. Oh you thought since Google Glass went away, you’re safe from computers strapped to your body? Nope. Whether it’s  AR, which is exploding in popularity and access; “hearables” which are computers in your ears that adjust what you hear of your surroundings, and may eventually translate languages; or just innumerable ways to track every aspect of your body from body fat to VO2, CES has convinced me that we are all going to live in a cyberpunk novel within 10 years.

2. A/V companies are still convinced that we need “tech for women,” even though I’ve yet to see anything marketed as “Bluetooth speakers for men,” or “headphones for men.” This is a real shame, since based on what I’ve seen in the women’s scene, a men’s bluetooth speaker would be shaped like a football, dispense shaving cream, and be covered in blue camouflage.

3. CES, is starting to make some positive changes, however. Last year, after a horrible experience trying to pump milk for my baby while on the show floor, I wrote an article for The Daily Beast, and fellow CES attendee Molly Dickens wrote a story on Medium that went viral. This led to a conversation between myself, Molly, Mamava, a company who make lactation pods, and the folks who run CES. The result? This year CES had three lactation pods on site for mothers who needed to use them. And they were popular. The one I visited at the Sands had a line at times!

In fact, the mother and baby technology showfloor had some of the most interesting ideas that actually served to solve real problems. From at-home pregnancy monitors that could allow expecting women with higher risk pregnancies to stay home and out of the hospital longer, to wearable fertility trackers that can help women make educated decisions regarding family planning; if you want to see tech that really does meet the unique needs of a woman, you’ll need to leave the LVCC. Yes, a few lactation suites and women’s-health related tech might seem like small steps, but hey, it’s progress, and I’ll take it as a good sign of things to come.

4. Everything will have some sort of digital assistant in it. Alexa, Siri, and Cortana are coming to headphones, speakers, televisions… pretty much anything you use to consume media. Except, possibly, turntables. Why? Because some things are just sacred, that’s why. So get ready to yell into the ether for pretty much anything that you use a remote for today.

In all seriousness, having a digital assistant to run all of your media can be handy. However,  you will likely need to choose one ecosystem, and choose products that have the AI integrated natively, as most add-ons take a lot of time to set up, can be wonky in application, and often take longer than just getting up and grabbing the Harmony.

5.) Kids are getting some of the coolest tech. Mattel and Nabi announced Aristotle, an AI for a child’s room that grows with the child. Initially available in an encrypted WiFi-based baby monitor/night-light/speaker, the software will perform parent-preset if/then tasks like playing soothing music when baby cries, and dimming the lights when Aristotle’s camera sees baby placed in bed.

But Mattel says as the child advances, the the software will too. For example, practicing ABCs with a toddler, requiring an older child to say “please” when asking for music to be played, or working on homework, tutoring, and foreign languages with elementary schoolers. The software will also be compatible with other smart home devices like Zigbee, Wink, and Wemo, so parents could pair Aristotle to third party devices and, for example, have the TV dip in volume when baby is put into bed, or have the coffee pot automatically turn on when your toddler wakes up in the morning. And, Mattel says, Aristotle will learn the child’s speech patterns, so early language users who might have trouble with “R” or “L” sounds will still be understood by the system. It’s a fascinating prospect, and Mattel/Nabi claim that all the data is encrypted to HIPAA level standards, so parents like me with privacy concerns can rest a little easier.

Those who love LEGO will be interested in the Boost kit which teaches kids not only building and robotics, but coding. The kit includes everything kids (and kids at heart) need to build a robot, guitar, cat, rover, and an “auto builder” that builds other small lego models. All of these devices have motors, lights, and are coded and controlled via an app that connects to the creations through Bluetooth.