CES 2021: Wilder, weirder, bolder than ever
Flying cars, fluffy AI pets and size-changing phones amaze tech geeks across the worldValentina Spiridonova
The dust has settled after the conclusion of CES 2021, the world’s largest event for consumer technologies and a deserved candidate for one of the year’s most exciting events. Still hyped about it, we decided to share with you the technologies that struck us the most and continue to occupy our thoughts!
Each year, the forum shapes the industry trends for the following 12 months, provides a platform and a chance for lesser-known tech companies to outshine established leaders with their innovations, and affords tech geeks the opportunity to salivate over the most incredible gadgets.
This massive showcase of innovations traditionally takes place in Las Vegas. However, the 2021 edition could only be attended virtually, as has become the norm for everything else over the past year. Despite its limited format, however, CES 2021 proved to be the wildest one ever, featuring gadgets and technologies capable of defying the imagination of even the most revered sci-fi authors. So check out our favourite picks!
In the field of home appliances, the competition was fiercest between Korean manufacturers. Samsung demonstrated great smart refrigerators that can plan menus of meals for the entire week, give consumers recipes, recommend ingredients and even shop online. Meanwhile, company's latest refrigerator from its customizable brand Bespoke has the ability to change its size thanks to mobile panels and so fit any space.
However, the innovation award went to LG, which took up the gauntlet and responded with two amazing smart refrigerators part of the InstaView Door-in-Door series. The audience was able to see InstaView Door-in-Door Side-by-Side Refrigerator With UVnano, which, as the name suggests, is equipped with LED lights that kill bacteria. LG says its UVnano technology operates once every hour to remove "up to 99.9% of bacteria" such as E. coli, staph, and pseudomonas aeruginosa (which can cause pneumonia) on the refrigerator’s dispenser tap. You can also activate UVnano whenever you want with the press of a button. LG’s new UVnano-equipped refrigerator also sports a 23% larger InstaView glass panel than previous models, which you can tap twice to illuminate and see what's inside without letting cold air out. The Door-in-Door feature lets you quickly grab frequently accessed items without opening the whole fridge, another energy-saving feature.
The other smart fridge presented by LG at this year’s CES offers another particularly handy feature: the ability to open itself when you have your hands full. When you’re coming in with bags of groceries, you can simply say, “open the refrigerator door”.
Speaking of LG, the company totally blew everyone away in 2021. How? We will explain in detail shortly, but let us take a look back first.
In 2020 the biggest market successes in smartphones and tablets were foldable models like Samsung Galaxy Fold, Huawei X Mate, Motorola Razr and some tablets by Lenovo and Dell and the expectations were that the trend would continue on 2021. But LG had other ideas.
For years, LG was the producer with probably the most boring and conservative phones on the market. At last year’s edition of CES, LG finally decided to shake things up with LG Wing, a smartphone unlike any other on the market, which featured a mind-blowing swivel action. It was a testament to the company’s newfound willingness to get completely out of the box and promote new ways of designing and using smartphones.
What about this year? Well, this year LG showed that LG Wing was just the beginning of experimentation. On the second day of the exhibition forum, the company demonstrated the first-ever smartphone with expandable screen. The teaser for LG Rollable appeared at the very end of the tech giant’s presentation. The video clearly showed the phone screen’s ability to expand and shrink as if by magic (see the video here). Similar technology in smartphone design was also shown by a lesser-known Chinese electronics company called TCL, whose screen promises to include the capability to bend. And so, LG and TCL were able to successfully attract all the hype that Samsung had hoped to get on Thursday with the presentation of its latest flagship model.
It is no small consolation prize that Samsung still managed to stand out among the competition with its incredible robots with artificial intelligence, capable of turning any family into The Jetsons. What makes them so remarkable? For starters, one of the two presented robots can pour you a glass of wine and bring it to you as you take a well-deserved rest on the couch at the end of a long day. Unfortunately, it is still in a concept and the technology needs refinement, but that should not stop anyone from dreaming of owning one in the future.
Speaking of something you would love to own as soon as possible - meet Moflin! Created by Vanguard Industries with a successful Kickstarter campaign, Moflin is a super cute AI pet robot with "emotional capabilities", which looks like a fluffy gray guinea pig, with black beady eyes and soft fur.
If it's love at first sight, you'll be pleased to know that Moflin can learn to love you back... well, sort of. Vanguard Industries says that its unique algorithm allows Moflin to learn and grow, using built-in sensors to evaluate its surroundings. These sensors include accelerometers with gyroscopes, touch sensors, and microphones.
That means its capable of distinguishing between different people depending on how they interact with it, and can express its 'feelings' accordingly, through movements and unbearably cute sounds that were inspired by real animal noises. According to the company, each Moflin will develop an individual personality over time, depending on the environment and "how their owners treat them", with possible emotions including anxious, calm, happy, excited, and more – just like a real pet.
As for the TV sector, it was once again Samsung that impressed the audience with TVs like its 110-inch MICRO LED, whose screen can be split in four so that viewers do not miss anything on their favourite channels. Responding to viewers’ sports needs during the lockdowns, some of the company’s TVs will also be able to turn into home fitness instructors thanks to the new Health Smart Trainer feature.
Speaking of demolishing the competition and fulfilling dreams, the car industry also showed that “nothing is impossible”. Who among us has not dreamed of having a Cadillac parked in their garage? Now picture yourself literally flying over the city traffic with such car. That is the direction in which carmakers are thinking too.
At CES 2021, General Motors, which is responsible for brands like Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick and GMS unveiled a prototype of the first flying Cadillac, an autonomous vehicle at that! The luxury car will be able to take off vertically from every roof and reach a top speed of 89 km/h (55 mi/h). A drawback is that the vehicle can only seat one, so your better half will have to wait for you to come back down. But no worries, Dutch start-up PAL-V presented a FUNCTIONING flying car that not only can seat two people, but has a top speed twice as higher as the Cadillac one. It is powered by a gas engine and can cover a distance of maximum 500 km (310 mi) before needing a refuel. Just enough for a quick trip to the Black Sea if you live in Sofia.
As for healthcare products, the equivalent of the flying car there was Razer’s concept for a reusable face mask equipped with a medical-grade respirator and an in-built microphone and amplifier. Dubbed Project Hazel, the mask is waterproof, scratch-resistant, and is made from recyclable plastics, reducing its environmental impact further. Moreover, the company, a major hardware maker known for its computer mice and laptops, says the mask uses an N95 medical-grade respirator; detachable and rechargeable ventilators; and airflow regulators. The ventilators can be recharged and sanitised by putting them inside the wireless charging box, which features disinfecting UV lights. What is most unique here, however, is the mask’s transparent design, which allows people to see the wearer’s face, and its lights inside, which activate automatically in the dark. Wearers can also customise their look by activating two lighting zones with a choice of 16.8 million colours and a variety of dynamic lighting effects.
“The Project Hazel smart mask concept is intended to be functional, yet comfortable and useful for interacting with the world, while maintaining a sociable aesthetic,” Min-Liang Tan, Razer’s co-founder and CEO, said in the release.
In the PC sector, among the powerful laptops at CES 2021, we decided to highlight the new convertible notebook by HP - Dragonfly Max - for its built-in Tile tracker, its attractive blue design and the fact it is one of the only new laptops to include an upgraded 5-megapixel webcam with four wide-range microphones. In the age of Zoom, a lot of people will welcome those upgrades. Meanwhile, the 13.3-inch display on the Elite Dragonfly Max includes HP’s Eye Ease technology for reduced blue light, while the notebook features strong performance with its 11th-generation Intel Core processors (up to Core i7 vPro) and up to 32 GB of RAM.
Speaking of convertibles....Another laptop, considered mind-blowing, was undoubtedly Lenovo’s LAVIE MINI - a mini convertible concept PC that could be easily converted into super cool Nintendo Switch-esque portable gaming console. It features an 8-inch WUXGA (1920 x 1200) touch panel display, up to an 11th Gen Core-i7 mobile processor with Intel Iris Xe graphics, 256GB of storage, and 16GB of LPDDR4 memory. According to Lenovo, it can also handle high-quality PC Games, and just like the Switch, you can use the optional HDMI Dock to play games on a bigger display.
Lenovo’s biggest CES product announcement, however, was in the realm of augmented reality, with the launch of the ThinkReality A3, a new version of the company’s smart glasses. The ThinkReality A3 is aimed at enabling improved workflows and training - for instance by overlaying information atop the real-world view to assist with the task at hand. Being “one of the most advanced and versatile enterprise smart glasses to come to market,” the technology comes in several variants, including the ThinkReality A3 PC Edition, which tethers to a Lenovo ThinkPad laptop or mobile workstation and the ThinkReality A3 Industrial Edition, which tethers to certain Motorola smartphones, providing AR support for tasks in challenging work environments.
There are plenty of other interesting innovations to tell you about, but the last one we will cover in this particular article is geared towards the gentler half of humanity.
Finding that one perfect lipstick appropriate for any occasion and getting rid of a drawer-full of “contenders” for this title is a real hassle for every lady out there. Well, the fashion brand Yves Saint Laurent (YSL), part of the L’Oreal family, is on its way of solving that nagging problem for women. At CES 2021, the company presented Perso, a gadget that allows every woman to create the perfect shade of lipstick for herself.
In short, Perso is like a stylish miniature coffee machine with a small mirror. Under the cover, there are three slots for “capsules” containing different nuances. With one push of a button, the three colours are mixed and you get the unique lipstick of your dreams that you can apply with a brush that sticks to the gadget with a magnet. The company says that customers will be able to buy nuances of four basic colours - red, fuchsia, nude and orange - the combinations of which could create over 1,000 different lipsticks. One lipstick, a thousand possibilities - not bad at all, right?