CES 2021 may be absent the blinding lights of the sun and slots of Las Vegas, Nevada this year but the digital event is still awash with tech goodness (and some tech badness). The WIRED Gear team has searched high and low to bring you all the most interesting products, from Dell’s video conferencing monitors that are depressingly 2021 to eye-catching new TVs from Samsung and LG.
It’s not all about the traditional tech at CES though, with the annual event presenting some questionable gadgets including smart toilets, smart lipsticks, smart salad growers, smart baths. In short, more smart things than you could shake a ‘warm’ smart sex toy at. Intrigued? Scroll down.
Sony execs love nothing more than to remind the tech world about ‘creators’ every time cameras come up in conversation. With its first drone, the AirPeak, which can fly an Alpha mirrorless camera around, we say: fair enough. Designed for professional film and video production and due this spring, we don’t know a lot more about Sony’s first drone yet – just that there’s more where this one came from. Curious timing, too, since dronemaker DJI was added to the US government’s blacklist at the end of December.
Sony also gave its Vision S EV prototype another spin with more sensors – vehicle position monitoring with LiDAR, radar, ultrasonic and the rest – and news that it has started road testing the car in the Styrian Alps.
Lenovo Thinkbook Plus Gen 2 i
The original Thinkbook Plus drew attention for the e-ink second display sprawled across its lid – adding a battery-friendly way to get more screen onto your laptop. With the second generation, Lenovo has beefed up the mouthful of a name as well as that inky screen. Previously, the interesting second screen covered around two thirds of the lid of the Thinkbook Plus. The Thinkbook Plus Gen 2 i sees it extended to almost completely covering the top. While the e-ink screen lets you delve into Windows as normal, it looks set to truly shine as a vehicle for note-taking, calendar checking and drawing – enabled by an included active pen stylus. The new Thinkbook Plus Gen 2 i will launch in the first quarter of 2021 for $1,549, with international pricing yet to be announced.
Voy Tunable Glasses
Forget the not-quite-ready-yet smartglasses, these specs are genuinely clever. US startup Voy’s Tunable Glasses can be adjusted from -5D to +2D, so if your prescriptions fall in that range, you can wear the same pair for reading, driving, working and viewing things at a distance. Each of the lenses is controlled by a small dial at the top of the frame. These adjust the placement of two polycarbonate plates which slide across each other, in turn tweaking the strength of the lenses. The Tunables also offer UV and blue light protection with an anti-reflection finish. Available in a range of colourways, including tortoiseshell and as eyeglasses or sunglasses, starting at $79.
JBL L100 Classic 75, Tour One & Reflect Mini
This year sees JBL hit its 75th birthday, and to mark this the brand is releasing a limited-edition version of its legendary L100 Classic speakers. Just 75 pairs are up for grabs, and they are based on 2018’s L100 Classic, which were updates of the original 1970 L100s. Confused? Fret not. Just concentrate on the fact that these $5,500 retro floorstanders available from May will likely garner five-star reviews, just like 2018 versions did.
JBL’s Tour One headphones are anything but retro. The over-ear ANC headphones coming in May for £280 have 40mm drivers and a frequency response that extends to 40kHz. Adaptive Ambient Aware and TalkThru listening modes are on board, as is a four-mic array for clear calls. One charge will offer 25 hours of playback with both noise-cancelling and Bluetooth enabled, but turn all that off and this doubles. The JBL Headphones app lets you customise the sound profile, and, yes, you get auto play/pause when you put on/take them off.
Lastly, we also like JBL’s new Reflect Mini NC TWS earbuds that are clearly designed for runners. A reflective coating on the outside of each earbud means cars, cyclists and lorries should be able to see you while on a night or early morning jog. Noise cancelling? Check. IPX7 water-resistance? Yep. Battery life? Up to seven hours before they need to be returned to their case. The best bit is that these are available right now for £130.
The LG Rollable is a phone that lives up to its name, arriving with a display that extends via rolling out to a larger size – similar to the company’s LG Rollable RX TV. We only got a small glimpse this time but, with Oppo revealing similar tech earlier this year, it seems rollable is the next smartphone fad.
Budget TV maker, TCL, has also ventured into the new rollable landscape, with its own 6.7-inch phone that rolls out into a 7.8-inch tablet. TCL is clearly well invested in this area, having previously showcased a 17-inch printed extending OLED display – which looks not unlike a digital treasure map.
Dell’s video conferencing monitors
Dell has revealed a set of new monitors made for the WFH boom – especially if you’re tied into Microsoft’s home working ecosystem. The 24-, 27- and 34-inch monitors come equipped with a pop-up webcam, protecting your privacy when not in use, and the largest version features a snazzy curved display.
Love or hate Teams, this monitor has its users firmly in its sights – with a dedicated button for launching Microsoft’s chat and collaboration software. Zoom… sorry, Teams calls should be a dream with this monitor, with a five-megapixel IR camera, a noise-cancelling microphone and dual 5W speakers. In general use, Dell’s new monitors should be easy on your eyes too – using its ComfortView Plus system for reducing blue light.
The 24-inch FHD, 27-inch QHD and 34-inch curved WQHD models are set to cost $520, $720 and $1,150 respectively – with UK pricing yet to be revealed. The launch date for the monitors is set for February 16.
YSL Beauté Rouge Sur Mesure
No doubt designed less with pre-Zoom touch-ups in mind and more on hopes of ‘life’ returning at some point in 2021, YSL’s Beauté Rouge Sur Mesure is equal parts ludicrous and genius, but it’s a true CES gadget if ever we saw one. It’s a lipstick mixing pod that lets you squirt together up to three shades of Velvet Cream Matte Finish lippies, with advice and colour wheels in the companion app. Yes, it’s Bluetooth connected. Yes, it costs $299. Yes, YSL is tracking the cartridges via RFID to offer refills. And yes, foundation and skincare pods are in the works. The future of beauty? We won’t fight it.
MaskFone and AirPop Active+
Looking to solve the inherent problems of making or taking calls while wearing a face mask, Hong Kong–based Binatone has created the MaskFone. This mask combines a machine-washable fabric mask with an N95 filter, built-in mic along with integrated earbuds. Costing $50, control buttons are even added to the front so you can increase and decrease volume and take calls or play music once you have synced the mask to Binafone’s mobile app. You can even command Alexa or Google Assistant to do your bidding through this product. Binatone says “the built-in microphone and lightweight earbuds, provide crystal clear audio”. We have no idea if this is true, nor do we know how long the battery lasts for on this smart mask – but we’d like to try one out.
Speaking of smart masks, MaskFone wasn’t alone at this year’s CES. The AirPop Active+ is a smart mask linked to an app and uses AirPop’s Halo sensor to give you feedback on breathing habits and filter quality. The difference here is that this smart mask will set you back a staggering $150. That sensor can supposedly track fitness metrics such as breaths per minute and breaths per pace, but also which pollutants have been filtered.
LG Gram 2021
Among the likes of Dell and HP, LG has managed to stand out – producing a dark horse in the ultrabook market with the LG Gram series. In particular, the previous LG Gram 17 model was impressively engineered, weighing as much as your average 13-inch but packing in a 17-inch display. The marvel soured slightly when it came to the rest of the design, though, looking rather outdated compared to the majority of rivals, and the slightly lacking internal specs. In 2021, LG has revamped its LG Gram 17, Gram 16 and Gram 14 while adding some 2-in-1 models too. To our delight, the new Grams sport fresh designs and respectable specs, all while keeping that signature ultra light weight.
Samsung Bot Handy
Dishwashers, robot vacuums and virtual assistants should all be applauded for their efforts to reduce the household chore burden, but the picking up and putting away of it all persists and persists. Samsung’s CES bots are essentially vapourware at this point, but that doesn’t stop us getting excited about this latest concept: a robot that wheels around, raises itself up and down, recognises objects via its camera (and computer vision algorithms), assesses their material to determine its force and then grabs them with a claw-like ‘hand’ on a single, pivoting arm. We’re talking pouring a glass of wine and bringing it to you, picking up clothes, setting the table. We’re talking… loading the dishwasher. When will we see these in homes? Don’t spoil the dream.
Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR
In something of an alternate universe to the Apple Watch, Fossil Group keeps releasing stylish lo-fi watches. We’re still fans of the approach, in particular the understated Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR, which offers a traditional watch face and three widgets (plus the logo) on its low-power e-ink display. To run with GPS, you’ll need your phone, but the Jorn does steps, sleep and resting heart-rate tracking with auto workout detection with phone alerts and music controls via the watch’s pushers, plus extras like a stopwatch, alarm and the weather. Oh, and did we mention it runs for two weeks on one charge?
LG OLED Evo
Along with a big future update to its software, LG had plenty to say in the TV hardware department too. LG Display revealed a new more reasonably-sized 42-inch OLED, its smallest yet, new OLED Evo models, QNED Mini LED models and NanoCell TVs. The OLED Evo is aimed at offering the next step in LG’s flagship TV tech, providing added brightness and more vibrant images. The high-end TV stakes isn’t limited to just LG either, with fierce rivals Samsung launching its Neo QLED TVs with Mini LED backlighting for 2021 and new Micro LED models – with 110-inch, 99-inch and smaller sizes coming this year.
However, LG may have outshone its own more immediate offerings as well as Samsung’s with a forward-looking concept. LG Display unveiled a transparent OLED, in that it is see-through when not in use. The model was showcased, emerging from the foot of a bed – glorious – but also in situ, providing information on a train window.
Vespera space observation station
Vespera has swooped in with a great idea for the aspiring stargazer, as well as a marvellous option for looking beyond our extremely indoor surroundings. The Vespera space observation station is designed to be compact and easy-to-use, providing a hybrid between a smart telescope and camera. While the space-exploring station’s primary use is, of course, for stargazing, it doesn’t look half bad either and might strike a particular chord for fans of Portal. The Vespera is fully integrated with a smartphone app – allowing users to save their favourite snaps of wondrous galaxies and the brightest stars. Good, clean, wholesome CES fun.
Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2
Samsung has revealed the follow-up to its Galaxy Chromebook, a device which both caught and then scorched eyes at CES last year with its flaming red colour. Interestingly, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is more like a cheaper Galaxy Chromebook Lite (or FE to use Samsung parlance). This second iteration is almost half the price of the original – starting at $549 compared to the $999 of its predecessor. You still get that stunning red colour, however, you do lose out on the 4K AMOLED display. In its place, is an interesting Full HD QLED. While it certainly looks to have toned down the premium design, there seems to be plenty to grab the interest of those thinking of buying a well-built Chromebook.
Out before CES but garnering attention at the show nonetheless is this piece of home tech perfect for our lockdown pandemic times. Gardyn is a home gardening device designed to help you grow fresh leafy greens indoors with the now obligatory help of some artificial intelligence. At over 150cm tall there is no hiding this indoor power planter, but why should you? Make a worthy feature of it. It costs more than rival hydroponic gardens that grow plants without soil, but this model supposedly produces more food to justify that price premium. Seeds are housed in “yCubes” that look like Nespresso pods, and the vertical towers hold up to 30 plant varieties, including peppers, kale and tomatoes. The “AI” bit is Kelby, your “smart Gardyning assistant”, sigh, that notifies you if the plants need more or less water or light and when it’s time for them to be eaten. All you have to do is refill the water reservoir once every 30 days, apparently. Prices start at $899 and it ships in February.
Lenovo Lavie Mini
If you were blown away by the Alienware Concept UFO at CES 2020, Lenovo has something in 2021 to whet the appetite – even if it doesn’t quite shine as bright. The Lavie Mini is an ultra-mobile PC prototype built with entertainment and gaming in mind. You can choose to open up the device like a clamshell to use it like a very small laptop or fold it up and strap on some proprietary controllers to give a Nintendo Switch-like look. Continuing with the Switch theme, the Lavie Mini does indeed have a dock – allowing you to connect the device to your TV via HDMI and charge it. The specs make for interesting reading, with an 11th Gen Intel Core i7 mobile processor with Xe graphics, 16GB RAM and 256GB – a combo that would make this a stellar device for game streaming and even some basic gaming.
Lenovo Yoga AIO 7
On the other side of the size spectrum, Lenovo also revealed a new all-in-one PC – the Yoga AIO 7. The specs are strong all-round, from a 4K display, top of the line AMD mobile processor, Nvidia graphics and more. However, the party trick of this Lenovo machine is its rotating display. Lenovo has included its own casting hardware to make the Yoga 7 ideal for flinging over your energetic TikToks, instructional Reels and faux-motivational LinkedIn Stories. Being a PC rather than a TV, you may even be able to find some other uses for the rotatable hinge – from coding to internet long-reads.
Google Stadia coming to LG TVs
Google Stadia has only been around for around a year and a quarter but it already feels like it has a storied history. By that we, of course, mean plenty of dips and the odd high. In 2021, Stadia is starting off by making what could be a pivotal step in its future – heading to smart TVs. Currently Stadia requires either a Chromecast 4K, an Android phone or a PC/laptop, along with a plethora of unverified workarounds for other devices – including Google’s own Chromecast with Google TV.
In the second half of 2021, we’ll see this lineup expand to webOS-powered LG smart TVs, allowing you to access the service on your LG TV without the need for the above devices. It isn’t just Stadia hopping onto TVs either, Nvidia GeForce Now – a slightly different service offering to Stadia that gives you streaming access to your existing PC games – will also be debuting on LG sets this year.
Lora DiCarlo ‘warming’ sex toys
Notoriously, in 2019, CES incurred worldwide wrath for its decision to revoke an Innovations Award for a Lora DiCarlo sex toy, stating that products such as this “are immoral, obscene, indecent, profane, or not in keeping with CTA’s image will be disqualified”. Fortunately this ridiculous stance was quickly reversed and the award rightly reinstated. Lora DiCarlo, co-owned by Cara Delevigne, has returned to show this year with three new “warming” sex toys (Drift, Tilt and Sway, from £90) covered with a nylon-based thermal conductive polymer that heats to 40°C, just above body temp, for a “natural, sensual heat that feels like a warm partner”. And as all the three toys are non-phallic in design, hopefully CES won’t have any moral issues this time.
Kohler’s $16k smart bath, Toto Wellness Toilet & Ampere Shower Power
The smart world is coming for your bathroom in a serious way. Kohler is a company that knows how to play CES like a fiddle, and a case in point was its superbly ridiculous Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet from 2019 complete with surround sound speakers, smart lighting, a seat warmer and Alexa voice assistant all built in. Now for 2021 it has upped the ante with a new $15,998 Stillness Bath, available in October, that lets you use an app or your voice to fill it up to a specified level and pre-set temperature. Added extras include colour-changing lights, of course, voice-activated aromatherapy and even fog. Yes, fog.
Not quite as bonkers as the Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet is the new Toto Wellness toilet that has arrived to analyse your poo. After a “sitting”, the Wellness bog can send you a phone message advising on whether or not your diet seems unbalanced. It will then go on to recommend dietary tweaks and even recipes. Interested? You may need to cross your legs as Toto says the Wellness won’t make a splash in the residential market for “several years”.
What does fall into the genuinely useful and not crazy bathroom gadget category is Ampere’s new Shower Power. Available soon from just $79, this waterproof Bluetooth speaker uses your shower’s water flow to supply the power. The flow of water spins an internal impeller connected to a mini-generator. While not exactly being discreet, you get a choice of either black, white or chrome, and it is made to fit over the top of any fixed or detachable showerhead. Ampere claims that most can install it in less than a minute. That seems hard to believe but we hope it’s true.
Asus ROG Flow X13
Asus had a stellar year in 2020, particularly when it comes to the ROG Zephyrus G14 which scooped up many a gaming laptop award. The ROG Flow X13 is a different proposition altogether but no less eye catching. On first look, the mini marvel looks set to take on the likes of the Dell XPS 13 – and, with strong AMD components, it just might in some respects – but the real draw is flexibility and power. Alongside the new Asus laptop, you’ll be able to buy a proprietary external GPU, allowing you to turn this slim 2-in-1 into a solid gaming machine. It might cost you a pretty penny but if you’ve ever considered dipping your toe in the external GPU market and fancy a stellar ultrabook alongside, Asus may have finally nailed it.
Kensington Studio Dock
Recently acquired the impressive iPad Air or iPad Pro? If you’re planning on using it as a workstation, Kensington’s Studio Dock offers plenty of handy bells and whistles, all with similar looks to the super-expensive Pro Display XDR. Along with a helpful rotating hinge, the dock comes with a plethora of ports – including three USB-A ports, an ethernet port, HDMI 2.0, an SD card reader, a USB-C port for charging and, yes, a headphone jack. On top of that, the Studio Dock is truly a home for your whole Apple life, with two QI wireless charging points on the front of the dock as well as the option to add on an Apple Watch charger too.
If you’d prefer something with a few less frills and perhaps a touch more stylish, Satechi recently announced a minimalist Aluminium Desktop Stand, which can also be paired with its own Apple Watch charger.
ColdSnap countertop Ice Cream Maker
Fan of pod-based coffee? It has its flaws, but it’s a swift way to get a decent coffee at home. Now, think about that… but ice cream. That’s what ColdSnap is proposing with its countertop ice-cream maker. The machine uses rapid freezing to turn proprietary cans of cream into its tasty icy equivalent. Along with soft-serve ice cream, the machine can be used for smoothies, frozen yoghurt, frozen coffee and frozen cocktails. Like pod coffee, it’s unlikely to be the best-of-the-best in the ice-cream stakes, but it could be a pleasing middle ground when we are all indoors for more often. No word on pricing, but it likely won’t come cheap when it launches in the second quarter of 2021.
Fender Mustang Micro amp
This tiny new personal guitar amplifier uses tones taken from the brand’s Mustang GTX amps. Plug this Mustang Micro directly into your guitar, connect a pair of headphones and choose from 12 amp modes and 13 effects, so you’ll get the use of a wide range of clean and dirty tones. You can even play along to favourite tracks or videos using Bluetooth. Available in April, this will set you back £90.
MOFT, PopSocket & Anker MagSafe accessories
We’ve been waiting for more companies to come up with decent MagSafe accessories and thankfully three have come along at once. The $30 MOFT Snap-on Stand and Wallet for iPhone 12, above, uses the patented design that means you get three 60-degree viewing modes in portrait, landscape and a “Floating” mode (good for Zoom conference calls). The double-sided magnetic design means you can secure your iPhone 12 anywhere on a metallic surface. If no metal spots suit, MOFT’s optional extra Magnetic Sticky Pads should serve where magnets won’t work.
PopSocket also revealed its MagSafe PopGrip, above, an Apple-friendly version of its polarising PopSockets coming this spring. The good news here is unlike with PopSockets there is no need to stick the accessory to your phone, which also means you won’t stick it in the wrong place and you can easily take it off when you don’t want it, rather than being stuck with the thing permanently. Much better.
Lastly, Anker has some MagSafe skin in the game now, too, with a whole range announced at CES 2021 – including a magnetic wireless pad, magnetic PowerWave stand and, our pick, magnetic power banks. There are several power banks from which to choose that will attach to the back of an iPhone 12 and charge at up to 7.5W, with the top model offering a beefy 10,000mAh. Coming in February, with prices ranging from $38 to $52.
And on the crazier side…
Despite Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot dog being now available to buy, its state-of-the-art sentry capabilities and $75,000 price tag may be too much for most of us living in the ‘burbs. So how about a robot cat? Well, a robot cat with no head or legs… OK, it’s a robot cushion with a tail. Meet Petit Qoobo, a therapeutic robot that, when caressed, waves its tail gently. When rubbed, the tail “swings playfully”. And, occasionally, it wags just to say hello. The company claims this form of comforting communication “warms your heart the way animals do”. Apparently this new small model is also precisely the right weight and size to cuddle and has a tail that reacts to voices and sounds. It even features a subtle ‘heartbeat’. So if things are particularly bad right now and you are in need of some fuzzy love, this could be the answer. And the bonus is no need to empty a litter tray (but you will have to recharge your robot-cushion after eight hours of tail therapy).
Razer Project Brooklyn
A dream to many, an unnecessary extravagance to many more. Project Brooklyn is certainly a concept to draw the tech enthusiasts attention. The gaming chair looks like it would be a couch potato’s idea of heaven, with a tray that folds out for your keyboard and mouse or, even, some of those pivotal snacks to provide gamer fuel. The table certainly isn’t the most impressive folding aspect of the chair, with a 60-inch rollout curved OLED display that emerges from its peak to provide you with a wide-angle viewing scape. Adding to the gaming experience is built-in haptic feedback, adjustable and ergonomic seating and, of course, Razer’s signature Chroma RGB lighting. Project Brooklyn also cleverly hides away its range of cables, for sleekly connecting to your console or PC. If a concept like this ever does make it to market, expect it to break your bank and the one in the next street over.
GM Cadillac & Archer/Fiat Chrysler eVTOL air taxis
It wouldn’t be a modern CES really without some outlandish concepts for flying cars or passenger drones. General Motors has stepped up with its new Cadillac eVTOL, above, a fully autonomous air taxi. Powered by a 90kWh battery and four propellers, it would be supposedly capable of reaching speeds of up to 56mph. As well as being able to take off and land vertically, it also supports both air-to-air and air-to-ground communications, and, of course, self-flying tech so that users do nothing but sit and enjoy the ride. As for technical details GM provided little else than mentioned here, and, as is the case for most vapourware, would not commit to a production time frame.
Joining GM in the eVTOL flying taxi race is California-based Archer Aviation, which this week announced a partnership with Fiat Chrysler to manufacture its own electric flying cars. Archer says it wants to develop “the world’s first all-electric airline” using an aircraft powered by a 187kWh battery with a 60-mile range and top speed of up to 150mph. This six-prop teaser image of the aircraft, above, leaves a lot of guesswork to be made about the final design, but at least it seems to depart from the models currently being developed by Lilium, Volocopter, Joby and Hyundai.
Moflin AI pet robot
As shown with the Petit Qoobo, every CES is littered with a cornucopia of cute, if sometimes terrifying, robots – often paired with new fangled AI stuffed inside. The Moflin is a pet robot from Vanguard Industries that it touts as having ‘emotional capabilities’. The fluffy ball offers a fairly basic wriggling movement along with slight sounds – much like a Star Trek Tribble – which is all supposedly driven by a personality that learns and grows from its interactions with you. The AI pet robot is available to back on Kickstarter, where you can put down $400 (~£240) to get your own in June of this year.
ArcX Wearable Ring Joystick
ArcX is looking to bring convenience where voice assistants and physical or capacitive buttons on your headphones have failed – providing bluetooth control via a small joystick on a ring. The joystick should let you remotely do things like controlling your music, answering phone calls, taking photos and more. Aside from, of course, being able to wear it as a ring, the Wearable Ring Joystick can be paired with cases that allow you to position it more conveniently depending on your activity – such as attaching to your bike’s handlebars. You won’t have to worry about using this ring in the elements or for long periods, with IP67 certification and a standby time of up to 20 days. The ArcX Wearable Ring Joystick is set to launch in May for a price of €89 (~£80).
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