The best products and ideas at CES 2024 | The DeanBeat

The best products and ideas at CES 2024 | The DeanBeat

The CES 2023 tech trade show is finally over in Las Vegas, after a grueling six days for me and crowds that numbered perhaps around 130,000.

I walked around a lot to find the coolest tech. At or ahead of CES 2024, I recorded around 80 press events, interviews, and sessions. I walked 46.78 miles, or 105,407 steps, over six days compared with 38.81 miles (or 87,447 steps) over five days a year ago. My feet hurt and my back is sore.

I wrote 67 stories ahead of and during CES and I moderated one panel. I recorded 96 sessions, interviews and product descriptions. I have a lot more stories to write. This story is about the coolest tech I saw in Las Vegas. If you had some FOMO from not going to the show, maybe this list will help fill you in on the good stuff at the show. There are 19 products and projects from CES here, as well as updates on products I’ve seen in years past.

I don’t know about you. But I felt like this was an amazing year for new technology, triggered by refinements in old ideas as well as the gift of generative AI.

Dean Takahashi reduces your FOMO by coming up with a list of the best of CES.

Now it’s time to analyze and make some sense of this. I hope you like these ideas, whether they are concepts or finished products. Here’s my list from last year at CES 2023 and the year before at CES 2022.

This year featured nearly 3,500 exhibitors, up from 3,000 exhibitors in 2023, and down from 4,000 (in-person) in 2020. Despite occasional warnings from security guards, I dragged my roller bag all over the place. Here are the things that caught my eye.

Supernal S-A2 eVTOL air taxi

Supernal's eVTOL air taxi, the S-A2.
Supernal’s eVTOL air taxi, the S-A2.

Hyundai’s Supernal showed off its latest design for an air taxi at the CES 2024 tech trade show in Las Vegas this week.

Air taxis and flying cars have been making a splash at CES for years now, but it’s encouraging to see a big company like Hyundai taking it seriously and moving forward with designs. I thought it was the most interesting thing I saw at CES this year.

The Supernal air taxi is an electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, or eVTOL. The S-A2 is a second-generation design.South Korea’s Hyundai unveiled its first S-A1 eVTOL program at CES in January 2020.

Neil Marshall, head of manufacturing and program management at Supernal.
Neil Marshall, head of manufacturing and program management at Supernal.

The aircraft will take four passengers. It can cruise at 120 miles per hour and it has eight rotors that can rotaet. It has four in the front of the wing and four in back to balance itself in a vertical take off. The engines will be quiet at 45 decibels during flight and 65 during take off or landing. That’s as quiet as a dishwasher. It can go from zero to 60 miles per hour during takeoff.

This year, the company showed off a VertiPort, or a concept for the places in Los angeles where you could catch an air taxi. As a division of Hyundai Motor Group, the company is not just developing an aircraft. It’s creating a mobility solution. Neil Marshall, head of manufacturing and program management at Supernal, told me it’s creating a mobility solution. The all-electric air taxi will have a range of 25 miles to 40 miles, with each trip taking just minutes instead of an hour in a car.

A VertiPort for Supernal at CES 2024.
A VertiPort for Supernal at CES 2024.

“It’s a new form of taxi, a new form of mobility,” Marshall said.

The trips will be short hops to places like downtown Los Angeles or Woodland Hills, long enough to skirt traffic in a 40-minute ride, but likely needing a ride-sharing solution to complete the last mile from the VertiPort to the rider’s final destination.

Rather than make a flying car, Marshall thinks the rideshare car and the air taxi make for a better solution for mobility given the infrastructure that’s already in place. At first, you’ll make reservations for air taxis. But at some point you’ll just be able to go and catch the flights that are maybe 10 or 20 minutes apart.

Supernal's air taxi of the future.
Supernal’s air taxi of the future.

Marshall also showed off the proposed control room where air taxi traffic would be monitored and managed.

The air taxis need an air traffic solution, and they have to stay out of commercial air space for airports like LAX. So they will follow the routes of roads, making it easy to stay on course and out of the way of other air taxis. A flight from Universal Studios to Woodland Hills could take 38 minutes, flying over the roads. But it could take more than an hour at peak times in a car.

Supernal is talking to the FAA and NASA about how to establish the routes properly. The air taxis will have to share the air with devices like drones. Marshall ultimately believes an air traffic control system that is not dependent on human controllers will be the best solution.

Inside the Supernal air taxi.
Inside the Supernal air taxi.

“It’s not just about developing an aircraft,” Marshall said. “It’s about developing a mobility solution. We’re looking at the first mile and the last mile.”

Air taxis going one way will be able to fly at one elevation and those going another could fly at a different elevation. The elevation will likely be in the 1,500 feet range.

It’s not clear how much each ride will cost yet. But Marshall said it could start service as early as 2028.

Clinatec brain-computer interface

A brain neural interface from Clinatec.

When it comes to a brain-computer interface, Elon Musk’s Neuralink isn’t the only show in town. Clinatec also showed off its research at CES Unveiled during CES 2024. The research organization brings together multidisciplinary experts to treat neurological diseases and restore motor functions for those who have had brain or spinal accidents.

Clinatec is a biomedical research center at Polygone Scientifique in Grenoble, France, with biologists, nanontechnology experts and more. Clinatec was developed by the research division of France’s CEA, Inserm and Universite Grenbole Alpes.

The biomedical research center in Grenoble, France, has developed a non-invasive brain implant that rests on the surface of the brain and helps restore electrical communication in areas of the brain that have been damaged, said Abdelmadjid Hihi, deputy director for scientific affairs and partnerships at Clinatec, in an interview with me.

Abdelmadjid Hihi of Clinatec/CEA.

The cerebal implant records neurological activity and it mimics the signals for making muscles work, said Hihi, who has a doctorate in biological sciences from Lausanne University.

“We’ve been working on brain implant technology,” said Hihi. “The concept is that it is possible to use brain activity that corresponds to movement intent to help people who have severe movement impairments.”

Clinatec helps restore muscular capability through neural implants.
Clinatec helps restore muscular capability through neural implants.

For instance, someone with a spinal cord injury may not be able to move. Clinatec tries to record brain activity with a system that is bio-compatible and has electrodes which can send signals out of the brain. Those signals are then decoded in real time by machine learning algorithm based software, Hihi said.

“And then this information was decoded is recorded into machines that can help people walk again or grasp again, or hear again,” he said. “We basically use this system initially with people who had accidents.”

He showed a video of an injured man taking steps with the help of an exoskeleton, and the man is able to do this with signals stimulating both the brain and the muscles. Clinatec has also worked with people who are paraplegics, giving them stimulation for the muscles to make them function.

A brain-computer neural interface.

The work has been going on for more than 10 years, and the first patient got an implant more than six years ago. France supports the research through a grant, and in the future Hihi said the group wants to work with those who have had strokes and need rehab.

The brain accepts the implant because it consists of bio-compatible materials that are tested before implantation. It doesn’t go inside the brain tissue, but sits on top of it so it reduces inflammation and fibrosis. It makes me think of William Gibson’s sci-fi short story Johnny Mnemonic.

Dexcom Stelo measures glucose for those with Type 2 diabetes.
Dexcom Stelo will measure glucose for those with Type 2 diabetes.

Back in 2020, I wore a Dexcom G6 Pro glucose monitor to see what it would be like to have to monitor my blood sugar as if I had diabetes. I am on the border of that condition, but like many millions of Americans I’m at risk if I start to let me weight get out of control. Now Dexcom has something new in the Stelo.

My interest came out of being a tech narcissist. I’ve been interested for years in how technology can deliver a “quantified self,” or data about myself and how I live. It measures sleep and steps, but what does it really tell us? In the case of a glucose monitor, it tells you the kind of foods that can send your blood sugar into high or low states. For those with Type 1 diabetes, this is a life-or-death situation requiring frequent insulin injections. They have to make sure their blood sugar stays within an acceptable band or they risk fainting or even death.

 As I agreed to test the monitor, I realized that I was going to get a glimpse inside my body that most people never get a chance to do. I could look at what I was doing and what I was eating and figure out what the effect was on my blood sugar.

Dexcom COO Jake Leach

I was astounded to learn that eating a big pile of spaghetti was one of the things that could push my blood sugar level off the charts and even put me above the 180 milligrams per deciliter threshold that doctors considered to be high.

It’s not just the highs that can be bad news. At the same time, when I went for a jog, I found my glucose levels dropped so much that it dipped below 70 milligrams per deciliter and triggered alerts for me, as if I were in danger of fainting. The lows, known as hypoglycemia, can lead to hunger, trembling, heart racing, nausea, and sweating. When I was out of range, I got a notification on my iPhone.

Dexcom Stelo will measure glucose in blood for 15 days.

What’s different about the Dexcom Stelo is that it is designed for Type 2 diabetes patients who don’t need to take insulin. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90% or more of diabete cases, yet these people don’t always have a clear idea of which foods spike their blood sugar and what to do about it.

Glucose monitors measure the level of sugar in your blood. For diabetic patients, this is critical. Diabetes affects more than 34 million Americans and is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. The traditional standard of care for glucose monitoring has been a fingerstick meter, which is painful as some patients need to test their blood by pricking their fingers up to 12 times a day.

In a patient with Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas can’t produce the hormone insulin, which helps the body absorb sugar and remove it from your bloodstream. For Type 2 diabetes patients, their body may not be able to produce or process insulin effectively. Either condition means people have to inject themselves with insulin to take their glucose levels down. But they can only do this if they can accurately measure their blood sugar levels in real time, something that hasn’t been possible or convenient until recently.

Stelo will be a wearable device that sends data to your smartphone and has sensor that can last for 15 days.

The pricing will depend on insurance, but the company made the monitor so that it will be affordable for people who don’t have good coverage. It will have a cash pay option for those who don’t have insurance coverage. The good thing is that Moore’s Law is bringing down the cost of these devices.

Stelo is in the midst of getting FDA clearance and it could launch later this year.

Nvidia and Convai show AI characters in a ramen shop

Nvidia and Convai showed off another cool demo with AI characters in the ramen shop. The owner of the shop, Jin, is a non-player character with a realistic-looking avatar that you might find in any video game. In the past, AI showed off a limited demo of this scene. But I was able to do a 20-minute demo where I was able to test the generative AI in just about any way I wanted.

Previously, Nvidia and Convai created an amazing demo of the tech with a realistic ramen shop and its characters Jin and Kai. Now Convai showed off the next evolution in AI-driven character technology, which gives characters the ability to hold realistic conversations with players in games. This conversation showed off four different dynamic AI models.

Nvidia’s ACE demo shows off Jin and Nova in the ramen shop.

Jin is powered by generative AI, as is his friend Nova, a cybersecurity expert who is a customer in the ramen shop. They were joined by me, playing as the character Kai. I had an open-ended conversation with them. Seth Schneider of Nvidia ACE and Purnendu Mukherjee of Convai guided me.

It starts with micro services from Nvidia ACE called ASR, or automatic speech recognition. It takes your voice and turns it into text. Nvidia puts that into a large language model, which can generate the response for the character. Then it has to be piped into a text-to-speech model, and then that has to be fed into a lip-sync program that matches the character’s lip movements to the voice. All of this has to happen in real time, and I only detected a slight delay, perhaps second-long.

Nova and Jin could have talked among themselves and I could have listened in to that conversation as a fly on the wall. But we skipped that part of the demo when it had a hiccup. Jin did say that making ramen was an art. So I just started asking questions.

The latest from Convai empowers users to engage NPCs dynamically, seeking real-time responses and actions. Characters now execute complex tasks, fetch items, and initiate interactions with other NPCs. Even during idle moments in the game, Convai-enabled NPCs engage with each other, expanding the spectrum of their interactions and perceptions within the virtual world.

Nvidia’s Seth Schneider and Convai’s Purnendu Mukherjee.

Designed to integrate seamlessly with game engines like Unreal Engine and Unity, Convai’s latest iteration redefines the behavior and responsiveness of AI-driven characters within interactive environments.

These NPCs now possess enhanced spatial awareness, dynamic character actions, and the ability to engage in meaningful interactions with their environment and other characters. Beyond scripted responses, Convai-powered characters navigate complex instructions, showcase emotional awareness, and participate in organic interactions. It has the potential to reshape the landscape of gaming narratives.

In a strategic partnership, Convai integrated Nvidia Avatar Cloud Engine (ACE) modules, specifically Nvidia Audio2Face and Riva. This integration enhances the realism, believability, and responsiveness of character interactions.

Nvidia ACE is a suite of technologies leveraging generative AI to bring digital avatars to life. Audio2Face facilitates industry-leading lip sync and facial animations, while Riva delivers high-quality, low-latency speech-to-text capabilities.

Convai’s technology enables developers to swiftly customize NPC backstories, personalities, and knowledge, granting NPCs the ability to respond uniquely and adapt dynamically. Through an intuitive playground or programmatically via the API, creators witness their characters embody spatial awareness and execute a myriad of actions, offering an unprecedented level of dynamic conversation.

I asked Nova if she had any interesting cybersecurity cases lately. She asked if I had something interesting. I asked about the hack against Insomniac Games. She said, “I’m not sure but I can look into it if you want.” I wondered if it was all the leaked info was real. She said, “It’s hard to say but leaks like that usually have at least a grain of truth to them.

I turned to Jin and asked if he could recommend some ramen. He suggested Shio ramen for something light and miso ramen for something adventurous. I ordered the miso ramen. I asked him how the crime in the neighborhood was. He noted how it’s a rough neighborhood but now he has Nova on his side. But he said we don’t talk about the fear of organized crime.

“Just enjoy your ramen and let the city do its thing,” he said.

I asked him about the good luck cat on the wall and he told me how it brought good luck. He also talked the most expensive bottle of sake in the shop. He noted how old man Tanaka told his life story from start to finish in six hours. I asked what was the most interesting part, and Jin said it was when Tanaka claimed he saw a real ghost.

Nvidia hardware makes the ramen shop demo run.

There was one moment where I went to far and Jin let me know it. I asked how much money the ramen shop makes in a week, and he said that was private information.

“Let’s just say the shop does alright and leave it at that,” Jin said.

Convai had set the aggression level pretty low for Jin, so he didn’t sneer at me with his answer. That was a short conversation, but it was pretty amazing considering it was AI doing the talking.

AI comes to your laptop

Microsoft is bringing Copilot to your PC in the form of a new key on the keyboard.

Microsoft is adding an AI easy button to the Windows keyboard. It’s the first significant change to the Windows PC keyboard in three decades.

It’s a sign of the times and a lot of companies announced they would be adding it to their new desktops and laptops coming out this year, making 2024 the “year of the AI PC.”

Mehdi added that the addition will be a big step towards “making 2024 the year of the AI PC.” The news comes after Microsoft’s September announcement that a new version of Windows 11 would have Microsoft’s AI companion Copilot as part of the operating system. The PCs are coming in late February and through the spring, and they will be on Microsoft’s own Surface devices.

Intel joined the party by announcing its new Core Ultra processors would have neural processing units, while Advanced Micro Devices said it has already shipped more processors with NPUs on them already. These machines can run machine learning tasks on the local machine, resulting in tasks that are faster, use less battery and are more secure than running them from the cloud.

HP, Asus, Acer, Lenovo and a bunch of other companies announced PCs with these features. Eventually, the AI on your own machine will become strong enough to perform tasks like analyzing your email inbox and giving you pointers about the people you will be talking to in your upcoming calendar, like the last time you talked to them and what you talked about.

Transparent OLED TVs from Samsung and LG

LG’s transparent TV at CES 2024.

OLED TVs took a new step forward at CES 2024 with transparency. Both Samsung and LG showed off their own versions of the clear TVs.

Samsung showed its micro-LED display technology which has both brighter and clearer images along with better transparency. This means you can see through the TV to view objects on the other side, such as a window in a skyscraper apartment. You could use it to see through a window-like TV at a private suite in a sports stadium and see both the TV and the action on the field.

The LG Signature OLED T is expected to go on sale this year. It is a 77-inch 4K OLED TV with a retractable screen. It’s designed for great ambience, allowing your TV to fade into the background or display an image like a digital fish tank. Just an inch thick, it uses wireless Zero Connect, which puts the cables and I/O in a separate box elsewhere. And it has a rolling contrast screen that can turn it into a TV.

Pricing isn’t available yet. The clarity and quality of the TV looked amazing.

Celestron Origin intelligent home observatory

Celestron Origin is an intelligent home observatory.
Celestron Origin is an intelligent home observatory.

Celestron introduced the Celstron Origin as a way for telescope fans to turn their home into an intelligent home observatory.

This product brings state-of-the-art RASA optics to both novice and seasoned astronomers, enabling effortless exploration of the universe from the comfort of one’s living room, backyard, or campsite. That could make Celestron competitive with Unistellar, which uses AI to filter out light noise in cities so you can look at other galaxies via a telescope in your backyard.

Celestron said the Celestron Origin incorporates decades of its innovation and expertise, integrating the most sophisticated optical and astronomical technology available today.

Celestron Origin's mobile app.
Celestron Origin’s mobile app.

At its core is a customized version of the Rowe-Ackermann Schmidt Astrograph (RASA) f/2.2 optical system. This system, renowned for its extraordinary wide field of view and ultra-fast telescope technology, has been the preferred choice of professional researchers and government institutions worldwide.

The company said what sets Celestron Origin apart is its onboard camera sensor and AI-powered image processing capabilities, which bring celestial objects from deep space to users’ smartphones, tablets, or smart TV/projectors in stunning color and detail within seconds.

Celestron Origin helps you find galaxies to view easily.
Celestron Origin helps you find galaxies to view easily.

In addition to its optical performance, Celestron Origin incorporates integrated software, a mobile app, and automated electronics that provide unprecedented convenience and ease-of-use, regardless of the user’s skill level. Previously time-consuming tasks such as sky alignment, focusing, tracking, object identification, and location are now autonomously managed by Celestron Origin’s all-in-one intelligent functionality.

Celestron Origin offers users a complete star-concierge experience. Users can even schedule deep-space viewing while they sleep by preselecting multiple celestial objects, which are then autonomously captured and saved for later viewing or sharing with family, friends, and fellow astronomy enthusiasts.

he observatory’s proprietary app, developed in collaboration with Simulation Curriculum, features a planetarium-style interface that provides educational audio presentations on the selected celestial objects. The app also allows for fully remote operation via smartphone or tablet, including the option to mirror the screen on a smart TV for indoor viewing comfort.

The Celestron Origin is the culmination of more than a decade of development, the company said.

Unistellar Odyssey Telescope.

I would also give an honorable mention to Unistellar, which came out with its smaller Odyssey telescope at CES 2024. Its previous announcements spurred a competitive response from Celestron, a much bigger company. Unistellar is also extending its pursuit of backyard astronomers with the launch of a new generation of its AI telescopes dubbed the Odyssey Smart Telescope.

 The promise is to bring the cosmos closer than ever before through a transformative stargazing experience for both seasoned astronomers and enthusiastic novices on a cosmic journey from the comfort of their homes, even amidst urban landscapes, the company said.

Withings BeamO health multiscope

Withings' BeamO takes your temperature by scanning your temporal artery.
Withings’ BeamO takes your temperature.

Digital health company Withings announced its BeamO “multiscope,” a device that can perform four health checks in under a minute.

The Beamo fuses the capabilities of thermometer, electrocardiogram, oximeter and stethoscope in an at-home checkup device. In other words, the multiscope can do more than a fitness watch and leapfrog other single-purpose devices.

The aim is to let people do more tests at home and talk to doctors in remote calls about the results, advancing the efficiency of telemedicine.

Typically, temperature is the only health scan performed regularly at home, Withings said. BeamO is positioned to become the new thermometer of the future in every home, and observe heart and lung health at the same time, the company hopes.

We don’t have our Star Trek Tricorder yet, but we’re getting there. Last year, Withings made headlines at CES 2023 with its urinalysis tool based on toilet readings.

This advanced “multiscope” will place the ability to measure core health vitals taken during physician visits into the palm of the hand and will become available in the United States following FDA clearance, Withings said.

For the first time, BeamO will combine ECG, oximeter, stethoscope, and thermometer sensors to turn the humble thermometer into a powerful tool for regular monitoring of heart and lung health. Portable and smaller than a smartphone, it is designed to help individuals and families perform at-home checkups and to substantially improve the quality of telehealth visits.

Using the stethoscope part of BeamO during a remote doctor's visit.
Using the stethoscope part of BeamO during a remote doctor’s visit.

BeamO is packed with sensors that beam light waves to interpret blood flow patterns and temperature, as well as acoustic information. It performs multiple functions in one handheld device.

Photoplethysmography (PPG) and electrodes along its sides allow BeamO to perform blood oxygenation (SpO2) and heart rate readings simultaneously while also conducting a medical-grade 1-lead ECG. A simple light grip of BeamO initiates measurements that can be viewed by users in real-time on its animated colored LED display.

BeamO conducts accurate and stable core body temperature readings with a noninvasive scan of the temporal artery. An advancement on the Withings Thermo sensor technology, the second-generation hotspot sensor is a mono-element thermophile that narrows the focal area of the infrared beam for contactless measurements. This increases the sensitivity of the scan, making it more robust to changes in distance from the skin or movement.

A cutting-edge digital stethoscope, BeamO captures chest or back acoustic sound waves through a Piezoelectric disc. With intuitive tutorials, users achieve precise heart and lung measurements. Equipped with a USB-C to jack adapter, results can be heard through headphones and seamlessly transferred, stored, and shared in the app. During telehealth sessions, audio streaming enables physicians to guide device placement and focus on specific areas of interest.

BeamO will retail at $250 in June 2024, following FDA clearance of its ECG capability. It’s a high price for a glorified thermometero. But Withings notes BeamO will conduct a 4-in-1 health checkup of body temperature, heart, and lung health in under a minute.

L’Oreal AirLight Pro hair dryer

L'Oréal's AirLight Pro hair dryer.
L’Oréal’s Airlight Pro hair dryer.

L’Oréal Groupe unveiled AirLight Pro, a sustainable hair dryer that can adjust to the type of hair it’s drying.

The product is backed by 150 patents — not bad for a non-tech company that is 115 years old. But that’s the nature of technology’s broad reach these days, where non-tech companies are leading with technology products and the tech itself fades into the woodwork.

AirLight Pro, developed in collaboration with Zuvi, a hardware startup founded by experts in drone engineering and science, boasts a blend of infrared-light technology and high-speed wind to revolutionize hair drying. The tool promises visually smoother and more hydrated hair while consuming up to 31% less energy across various hair types.

The brainchild of a partnership between L’Oréal’s haircare expertise and Zuvi’s technological prowess, AirLight Pro incorporates Zuvi’s patented LightCare technology, utilizing infrared light and high-speed wind to efficiently dry hair while preserving internal moisture. AirLight Pro will be available in 2024 and will cost under $400.

Unlike conventional heating hair dryers with only heating coils, AirLight Pro is equipped with a special 17-blade, high-speed motor and patented infrared technology powered by tungsten–halogen bulbs designed for fast hair drying without excessive heat. By efficiently drying water on the hair surface, hair is
left with internal moisture in the strand resulting in smooth, shiny hair.

AirLight Pro not only promises up to 33% more hydrated and 59% smoother hair but also features faster drying times and an enhanced user experience. It was built by a team of more than 100 engineers.

The Sphere

The Sphere

It’s not on sale unless you’ve got more than $1 billion. But The Sphere is an amazing technological achievement that was on display all the time during CES 2024.

I was able to see Postcard from Earth in a group suite with Ansys. Sure, it wasn’t U2. But the 2023 film about life on Earth and our climate risks was amazing. It was directed by Darren Aronofsky and it was designed and shot for the 16K resolution video screen of The Sphere.

It’s a 4D film with 270 degrees of viewing experience. It includes haptic seats that rumble with a stampede, scents and wind that blows at you as if it were coming from the screen. The Sphere’s wind effects units can technically achieve blasts of up to 140 mph. Spatial audio comes from 168,000 speakers.

Dean Takahashi inside The Sphere.

The Sphere has 1.2 million LED lights on the exterior that you can see from miles away, and it’s the largest such building in the world. The venue seats 17,385 people. We’ll see if The Sphere keeps generating attendees. The advertising on the exterior alone is probably generating a ton of revenue.

Inside, the 160,000 square feet screen is the largest screen in the world. The giant LED screen wraps over and behind the audience, delivering a totally immersive visual environment. While the film isn’t that interactive, I imagine there will be more of that in the future. For now, it’s a place where you can see back and relax and be mesmerized.

Pivotal’s Helix light eVTOL aircraft

Kristina Menton shows off the Helix eVTOL aircraft from Pivotal.

Kristina Menton, COO of Pivotal, showed off the Helix, a light electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft that has been in the making for 12 years.

When I saw a video of her flying the aircraft, I asked Menton if she was crazy. She said she was a trained pilot with a lot of hours in the aircraft, which is the first Pivotal aircraft that will be made at scale.

Weighing in at just 348 pounds empty, the Helix is classified as an ultralight aircraft. It doesn’t require a pilot’s license to be flown, but it is prohibited in urban areas and can only be flown in rural areas. It costs $190,000 and up.

It runs on electric power and it has a 20-minute or 20-mile range, with 20% reserved for safety purposes. It has digital instruments and simple controls. While Helix does not require a pilot’s license for ownership, it does require a lot of training.

It can take off vertically and land the same way, but it flies like a plane with its fixed rotors, tandem wings and tilt aircraft. It’s a single-seat aircraft with no passengers allowed, per requirements of Part 103 Ultralight regulations in the U.S. It has amphibious capability restricted to emergency landings. It’s only 13 feet and 7 inches long, 5 feet and 3 inches high, and 13 feet and 5 inches long.

The wingspan is 33.13 feet. It can bear a load of up to 220 pounds and someone no taller than 6 feet 5 inches. It can fly at 55 knots, or 63 miles per hour. The aircraft is made from carbon fiber. It has a triple redundant flight control system, eight rotors with six required for flight and landing, and split elevons that tolerate servo failure.

Clicks case brings back the physical keyboard to smartphones

Clicks is bringing a real keyboard to the iPhone.
Clicks is bringing a real keyboard to the iPhone.

Clicks Technology is bringing back the days of physical keyboards for iPhones. The company showed off its Clicks keyboard/case that will make you nostalgic for the good old Blackberry.

This accessory is a case and keyboard built in one, working with either the Lightning or USB-C connector (which is used on the newer iPhones like the iPhone 15). The company showed it at the CES 2024 show and folks were lined up to check it out at the party where I saw it.

It’s based on the belief that a tactile keyboard gives content creators and users a better experience reminiscent of older devices like the BlackBerry, known for its physical QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard has a soft touch and the case has a solid grip. You can turn on a backlight with a button push.

With a full set of real buttons, Clicks offers iPhone users an alternative to the virtual keyboard, liberating valuable screen space and empowering users to multitask more efficiently. Scheduled for availability starting February 1, the Clicks keyboard is available for pre-order at a pricey $139.

It comes from Michael Fisher, cofounder of Clicks Technology. Fisher is a YouTube tech reviewer known as MrMobile with 1.2 million subscribers, and Kevin Michaluk (known as CrackBerry Kevin), alongside a team of experts with mobile experience from companies like Apple, BlackBerry, and Google.

The Clicks creator keyboard enhances the iPhone experience with screen real estate. By removing the keyboard from the display, Clicks maximizes the screen, doubling the available space for content immersion.

It offers a more natural typing experience for people on the move. Clicks facilitates mobile creation tasks like writing notes, editing documents, or prompt action on ideas. And it introduces iOS keyboard shortcuts to iPhone users for improved navigation and task handling.

Utilizing the Lightning or USB-C connection means that Clicks requires no separate battery or Bluetooth connection.

The Clicks Founders Edition, available in BumbleBee and London Sky colors, offers exclusive benefits including VIP support and early access to future releases.

Muscle Suit Every gives you an exoskeleton’s strength

Muscle Suit Every gives you wearable muscles.

The Muscle Suit Every from Japan’s Innophys makes everything feel lighter. The exoskeleton is pretty low tech, but it lightens the load on your back and it assists you with basic everyday motions like picking things up.

The suit weighs 8.3 pounds. The exoskeleton assists your movements with up to 25.5 kgf of auxiliary force. The Innophys rep told me that’s like lifting 25 pounds and feeling like you’re lifting five pounds. I tried it out and they helped me put it on in seconds. When I bent down, I could feel the suit deliver force to my hamstrings, making it easy to come back up. I saw a woman pick up a big man with the suit.

Dean Takahashi wears the Muscle Suit Every.

The artificial muscle uses air pressure. You pump it up when you want more strength. It adjust to the movement of every person wearing it. It needs no electricity, as the manual pump comes with it.

The Muscle Suit uses a McKibben-type artificial muscle as its driving force. The rubber tube is encased in a mesh made from polyester monofilament and both ends are secured with metal in this simple configuration.

The Muscle Suit is made up of a back frame and thigh frame, and a rotation axis that connects the two. The upper end of the artificial muscle is affixed to the upper portion of the back frame, and the connected wire is affixed to the rotation axis at the lower end. With the compression of the artificial muscle, the wire is pulled and the back frame rotates around the rotation axis. As the thigh frame, which is affixed to the rotation axis, rotates in the opposite direction, the upper body is held upright using the thighs as the fulcrum.

Doublepoint lets you control things via finger gestures

Finland’s Doublepoint Technologies launched a gesture-tech app on Google Play that shows off its gesture-touch technology for Android wearables such as watches.

You can do things like pinch at a virtual object with your fingers and the Android watch will detect your wrist movements and convey to the smartphone or computer that you’re pinching your fingers. The company said it can very accurately detect such “microgestures” and do so much more cheaply than cameras, which are used in devices such as virtual reality headsets. 

The app introduces the brand-new gesture-touch technology, coupled with instant Bluetooth connectivity to a myriad of devices, marking a leap in human-computer interaction, the company said.

The Finnish startup has released a version of its gesture detection algorithm, now compatible with WearOS smartwatches, aiming to elevate user experiences beyond traditional touch interfaces. You control things via a Bluetooth connection to the watch.

Razer’s Project Esther gaming chair cushion

Project Esther

Razer showed off its new Sensa HD Haptics technology with a concept dubbed Project Esther. The company embedded the force-feedback tech in gaming chair cushion.

I tried it out by playing a mech combat game where I had to shoot four different kinds of weapons at a bunch of enemies attacking my base. It was a frenzied scene where I could feel the haptics of explosions in my seat. But the rumble also came in through the game controller I was holding as well as the headphones that I was wearing. You could ratchet up or down the experiences. One of the coolest experiences was hearing and feeling the THX sound logo.

Project Esther isn’t available just yet. But it’s pretty interesting how haptics is moving in new directions. Now all they need is a fan to blow wind and rain at you.

Stern Pinball’s Jaws

Jaws Limited Edition side view.
Jaws Limited Edition side view.

Stern Pinball said its latest line of pinball games inspired by one of cinema’s most gripping motion picture thrillers – Jaws, from Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment. 

Players can now immerse themselves in the iconic trilogy with cool pinball technology and mechanical features that bring the film’s best moments to life. The Jaws pinball games come in pro, premium, and limited edition (LE) models, providing enthusiasts with various options to dive into the game’s narrative.

The Jaws-themed pinball games transport players to the picturesque yet perilous setting of Amity Island, off the coast of Long Island, New York. As the beloved fishing community gears up for Fourth of July celebrations, danger lurks beneath the surface as shark attacks threaten the island’s peace.

Seth Davis is CEO of Stern Pinball.

Mirroring the film’s intense storyline, players step into the shoes of Quint, the grizzled fisherman, tasked with combating the ominous ocean creatures. The gameplay features aiming pinballs at a motorized shark fin target, accompanied by animated lighting effects, while navigating through the Orca Boat upper playfield.

I played two rounds and did pretty good. But it was hard getting time at the machines with so many people gathered around it.

Varjo X4 headset can transport you to other places

Varjo is getting better at solving visual problems like this.
Varjo is getting better at solving visual problems like this.

Varjo released its “gaze-directed” XR-4 Series mixed reality headset today for $3,990, or half the price of its previous enterprise VR headsets.

Varjo‘s goal is to deliver mixed reality experiences that are indistinguishable from natural sight. The Helsinki, Finland-based company has made multiple generations of high-end VR and AR — mixed reality — headsets since 2016. I finally got a good look at it in a suite where I could see the fidelity of its 4K per eye displays.

I put the headset on and it felt lighter, given the engineering to balance the headset on your head. I was transported to a scene in an artist’s room. And it was pretty amazing how real it looked. It was a static scene in three dimensions, but everywhere I looked it felt like I was in another place that was real. I could also see someone else’s outline if they came to close to me in the room. Things blurred when I moved.

Varjo's fourth-generation mixed reality headset.
Varjo’s fourth-generation mixed reality headset.

It has added gaze-directed, high-resolution autofocus cameras in mixed reality with the XR-4 Series, which comes in either a Focal Edition or a Secure Edition.

Through the fusion of its highest-resolution displays, foveated capture stream, advanced LiDAR depth sensing and camera sensors, all of which mimic the function of the human eye, the Varjo XR-4 series offers virtual and mixed reality experiences that go beyond consumer-grade headsets by far, the company said.

Varjo said rival headsets cater to 2D productivity use cases. But Varjo’s 4th generation headsets are designed to deliver deeply immersive VR/XR experiences for industrial customers who require top visual fidelity and performance. The previous headsets came out in 2020.

Today, over 25% of Fortune 100 companies are using Varjo’s technology to train astronauts and pilots, radically shorten automotive production timelines, power medical breakthroughs, and render stunning 3D visualizations for architects and designers.

Varjo's fourth-generation mixed reality headset.
Varjo’s fourth-generation mixed reality headset.

Powered by Nvidia graphics processing units (GPUs) and integrated into the Nvidia Omniverse, the XR-4 series allows developers and industrial users to render photorealistic scenes and unlock ray tracing in mixed reality.

The combined technologies dwarf the computational power that can be achieved with a mobile chip and are a game-changer for developers, Varjo said.

This headset has a 50% larger field of view than the previous headset, with a 120-degree viewing angle. It can produce 28 million pixels across both eyes.

Varjo’s artist room demo.

The headset has dual 4K x 4K displays with a resolution of 51 pixels per degree (ppd) and over 50% wider field of view (120° x 105°) compared to previous-generation devices, with double the display brightness (200 nits) and wider color gamut with 96% DCI-P3.

It also has dual 20 Mpx cameras for powering the industry’s highest-fidelity, real-time photorealistic video pass-through mixed reality. And it has new ambient light sensors and 8 x improved LiDAR resolution compared to Varjo XR-3 that seamlessly blends real and virtual elements.

Goodyear’s demo of tire intelligence

Dean Takahashi tries out Goodyear’s driving simulator.

 Goodyear announced that it has built tire intelligence into its tires with the help of tech-focused partners.

I spoke about these developments with Chris Helsel, senior vice president of global operations and CTO at Goodyear, in an interview. Tire intelligence means getting data on the actual state of wear of a tire and making predictions about how long that tire will last or how it will perform in emergency conditions.

This is about getting real world information about the state of your tires and using that information for everything from scheduling replacement, getting maintenance or avoiding crashes. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is talking about this at its first booth appearance at CES 2024 for the first time in its 126-year history. And it’s why Goodyear brought its world-famous Goodyear Blimp to the show. I was lucky enough to get a ride in it.

But the coolest tech was down on the show floor, where I was able to get in a simulator. It showed me the stopping distance that I would have if the car used knowledge of the state of the tires along with other information coming from the car’s sensors. The first time I went driving in the rain, I found I couldn’t stop fast enough at a stop sign and I ran right into a deer. Fortunately, that part wasn’t animated.

The second and third times, I was able to stop well ahead of the stop sign with the added capability turned on. I was also able to do demos that showed the tire handling in driving between cones, when I had different tires on the car at different times. And I was able to experience what hydroplaning was like — spinning out on a wet onramp — without fearing for my life.

Translation apps

Mymanu can do real-time translation through earbuds and a handheld device.

Mymanu came back with live voice translation earbuds which can translate spoken words into your ears via earbuds or to a handheld device via text.

The day when you can’t get by without a translator may be gone soon.

Mymanu real-time translator.

There were a lot of translators at CES. Another was the Vasco Translator E1, which goes on sale in June for $390. It can translate 50 languages in real time while connected to an app on your smartphone.

Vasco added translations from linguists who can address idioms when a literal translation will be wrong.

The translated text is visible in the app and spoken to your through your earphone. I haven’t tried all of these out, but they all seem pretty space age to me.

Honorable mentions

The $700 Xreal Air 2 Ultra.

Honorable mentions include the GE Smart Indoor Smoker, which lets you smoke meats and more inside your home; the $700 Xreal Air 2 Ultra augmented reality glasses that will give the $3,500 Apple Vision Pro a run for its money; the Samsung Ballie, which is a bowling ball robot that rolls around your home and answers questions for you and projects images on a wall; and the Rabbit R1 which is a $200 AI gadget that serves as an assistant for you.

Excellent things that were back for another year

Skyted’s silent mask

Skyted silent mask.
Skyted silent mask.

Skyted showed off a silent privacy mask that makes you look like Bane. It’s the kind of mask that fighter pilots wear to keep all the noise of the jet engine away from their microphone as they speak into the jet’s radio.

Skyted lets you speak into the void.
Skyted lets you speak into the void.

The mask is pretty tight but it is not rated for HEPA, or keeping out unhealthy germs. Rather, it’s a privacy filter that is sound proof. When you speak into it, no one else can hear you. So you can take a private business call in a busy area and you don’t have to worry about being overheard.

You could talk in a library or even on a crowded airplane.

The Pimax Crystal

The Pimax Crystal with a flight simulation rig at CES 2024.

I stopped by Pimax‘s booth at the Las Vegas Convention Center and saw some pretty good demos of games running on simulation rigs.

The people using the rigs wore Pimax Crystal headsets, which deliver an ultra-realistic virtual reality experience. At the show, Pimax was showing off the 60G AirLink, utilizing cutting-edge 60G millimeter wave(mmWave) technology.

The Pimax Crystal VR headset with a racing simulator.

It enables high-speed wireless data transmission and low latency, pivotal for video streaming and immersive VR experiences. It has good bandwidth and anti-interference features. Pimax showed off its 12K-EVTθ prototype with a wide field of view. Pimax also showed off a flight simulator and a racing simulator with players wearing the VR headset.

Milo Action Communicator

Milo can keep friends and family close while skiing, hiking, or other outdoor activities.
Milo can keep friends and family close while skiing, hiking, or other outdoor activities.

Loose Cannon Systems was back with its Milo wearable action communicators as reimagined walkie-talkies for outdoor adventurers.

You can use them to speak with groups of friends and family while you ride, surf, ski and more. The Milo communicator is hands-free, phone-free, and requires no Wi-Fi or cell signal. It also has some cool AI technology built into it. Now it can verify who is in your group and easily add or delete people.

The latest model has more functions for folks who need to keep track of each other for social and safety reasons while out in the wild.

Hyundai Mobis Mobion

The Hyundai Mobis Mobion enables cars to move diagonally, sideways, or even spin around in circles. It uses a new steering technology with advanced robotics that allow the vehicle to maneuver into different positions that you can run into when trying to get through crowds or parking a vehicle in a tight spot.

Hyundai hopes to be taking the tech to market in 2025. The wheels can move independently and more as you can see in the demo.

Hover Air X1 self-flying selfie drone

HoverAir X1 selfie drone

The HoverAir X1 is an easy-to-use self-flying selfie drone that sells for $350. It only weighs 4.4 ounces and it sports a 2.7K selfie camera mounted in a drone with high-speed fans.

I’ve tested one of these and it is easy to use. You simply sync it to the app on the smartphone via Bluetooth. Then you turn it on, hold it flat in your hand, and then launch it via the app. It takes off and runs a pattern, like hovering by you, and it snaps a picture. It can also go high in the air, orbit around you, or follow you and take pictures.

It tracks you and captures you in cinematic moments from angles where you can’t easily do it yourself.

Wacky AI item

The wacky AI backpack from Happysites.

AI was all over the show, of course. But the winner of my wacky AI award goes to the AI Backpack from Happysites. The Happysites LED backpacks let you create your own light shows on the back of your backpack. But if you aren’t feeling too creative, the company will let you use generative AI to help you make your own image or clip.

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