The CES show floor doesn't open until Wednesday, but the conference kicked off tonight with CES Unveiled, a more intimate (aka small, dense, and noisy) event where an eclectic mixture of companies come to preview their new products. This is where you see some of the show's wackier announcements, like a self-watering pot for houseplants, an eerie robot projector, and a device that makes your chair vibrate while playing games. But it's also where you start to get the sense for what matters at CES. Here are three of the big categories that showed up:
Both Parrot and DJI were here to show off their new drones. Parrot unveiled an entirely new model that can take off, steer, and land all on its own; it's meant to make starting with a drone easier for amateurs. That's something we saw a lot of at CES last year, with companies unveiling basic autonomous flying skills that made drones easier to use. Qualcomm has already teased that we'll be seeing more along those lines, likely at its press conference Tuesday night.
On the other hand, DJI is still focusing on pros (and aspiring pros). Its big announcement is a cheaper model that shoots 4K video, making high quality video from drones even more accessible. That's something ProDrone is trying to do, too. It was at Unveiled showing a new camera mount for its Byrd series of drones that allows you to mount a number of popular consumer cameras and remotely control them after you take flight. If its promises hold up, that would be pretty impressive: pros who wanted to would be able to shoot with select cameras, like the A7S II, from up in the air, even zooming in and out as they want to. Camera tech is a huge deal for drones — what else are you flying them for? — and we're always going to be seeing new and improved ways to shoot.
Sure, you're sick of fitness trackers. You've probably bought and forgot about half a dozen by now. And there were plenty of those at Unveiled: a device from Vert that measures your jumping, a wearable from Gymwatch that measures your lifting, and a host of pedometers from Misfit and others. They're all adding more things they can track, but for the most part, they're the same trackers you saw last year.
One of the big differences this time around is that more companies had devices that are trying to actually improve and monitor your health. Omron brought its blood pressure monitoring tech into what essentially looks like a big smartwatch, letting you get a reading without putting on a big strap around your wrist. TempTraq was showing a patch for infants to monitor their temperature while sick. And ReliefBand was showing a bracelet that claims to reduce morning sickness in pregnant women by sending "gentle pulses" into the wearer's wrist. The usual caveats apply: there's no guarantee that the science behind these devices adds up — there might not be any science at all! — but they're at least trying to do more than count your steps or your heart rate.
Smart home products have always been everywhere. But increasingly, they're looking like things you'd actually want to use. A number of smart home products at Unveiled were new devices for Apple's HomeKit system. FirstAlert was showing an environmental sensor, a thermostat, and a prototype home camera; Kwikset had a new door lock; and Hunter was showing a connected ceiling fan.
Everything is getting connected, but not everything is useful
Like the ceiling fan, more and more niches of the home are being connected, too. FirstAlert also said that it will be showing a HomeKit-connected safe later in the week. Roost was showing a smartphone-controlled 9-volt battery for smoke detectors. Hydrao was demonstrating a connected shower head that can alert you when you're using too much water. And Smarter was showing three different kitchen sensors: a mat that can sense the weight of what's on it, a microphone that learns the sounds of your products and tells you what they're up to based on what it hears, and a camera that fits inside your fridge so that you can see what you have in stock. Not all of those things sound immensely useful, but without fail, we're seeing smart home smarts creep into every corner of the home. They're also a lot more interesting than another pair of colored lights.
And that's just day one. We're going to see a lot more in all of these categories throughout the week, with drones getting smarter, wearables attempting to do more with your health, and smart home products embedding themselves even deeper into your home. Of course, it's CES, so there'll be more of everything else, too. TVs, laptops, phones, cars. Just wait a few more hours.
Video by Miriam Nielsen.
CES 2016 CES is not about reality, it's about the future
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