Hoverboards, smart homes, space (!), and more from another major big day at CES 2016.
Jan 9, 2016Read Article >
You might know what Mahindra is if you live in the United States, but there's a pretty good chance that you don't. The massive conglomerate is a major car manufacturer in India, a big player in the tractor industry, and even fields a team in all-electric racing series Formula E. Mahindra has recently started making electric scooters, too, and so the company brought its latest one to CES to show it off.
Jan 9, 2016
It's no secret that the market is flush with terrible wearables — functional pieces that are a total eyesore. Even a lot of wearables that aren't ugly per se aren't exactly beautiful accessories that one would naturally pair with a nice outfit. Legendary designer Iris Apfel's WiseWear smart jewelry line is definitely in response to that problem.Read Article >
The line, which includes three different brass smart bracelets that come plated in your choice of 18-carat gold or palladium, really is cool-looking jewelry in its own right. If you didn't know it was a connected bracelet you wouldn't know it was a connected bracelet — you know?
Jan 9, 2016
It's been three years since we saw the Oculus Rift for the first time at CES — it won our Best in Show award in both 2013 and 2014. Now, it's on the cusp of seeing a final consumer release. We sat down with Oculus founder Palmer Luckey the day after Rift preorders opened, and for the first time in years, we didn't have to ask him about pricing and release dates. Instead, we got to hear his take on the state of VR at CES, the best way to interact with virtual worlds, the future of augmented reality, and why Oculus still isn't in competition with other headset makers.Read Article >
"I don't think there's going to be a lot of people who would have bought a high-end PC and a Rift that decide to buy a PlayStation VR headset instead. I think people who have PlayStation, honestly, that's almost certainly what they're going to choose," he says. "If they do invest everything in a Rift, it's because they want to have a higher quality experience and they're willing to pay for it. But I don't think there's a mass market of people who are necessarily willing to do that. It doesn't really become a competition until it becomes a zero-sum game." Instead, right now, it's "all of us together, against the public perception of virtual reality that's been built up over the decades."
Jan 9, 2016
Someday, in the hopefully very distant future, after many years of love, laughter, turmoil, and CES conventions, your soul will evacuate this mortal plane and you will cease to be what is considered alive. When that fateful day occurs, your loved ones will be tasked with finding a final resting place for the body you left behind. Right now the options aren't plentiful: there's the standard coffin or an urn, which haven't changed much in style over the years. But now, thanks to the magic of 3D printing, your final resting place can be much more creative and personalized.Read Article >
A company called Foreverence, which is showcasing at CES 2016, specializes in 3D-printed urns. But these don't look like your average antique-style vase or ornate wooden box. Thanks to their manufacturing, the urns can take the form of whatever the deceased might enjoy spending eternity in. Foreverence had a few examples of their products on the showroom floor, all of which were incredibly unique and personal. A replica of the Space Shuttle was made for a former NASA engineer. An urn that resembled a large travel book was made for a widower to commemorate his late wife.
At a certain point during my meeting with Tobii, I decide that the unassuming Swedish eye tracking company has some of the creepiest tech at CES. Putting on glasses fitted with tiny cameras, I look around a hotel suite — focusing in turn on the raised hand of Tobii Tech president Oscar Werner, the camera in front of me, a tablet, and a promotional pamphlet. As I read the pamphlet, I become keenly aware of the fact that these glasses can tell exactly how my eyes are moving. I run my them along the lines of text with exaggerated speed and motion. I'm reading fast! my eyes say. And paying attention! Once I'm done, I don't remember a word.Read Article >
Jan 8, 2016
Smart guns have been in the news this week, boosted by an executive action from President Obama calling for increased research into the field. But the technology to prevent guns from being used in the wrong hands isn’t new — researchers have been working on it for decades. Yet widespread adoption of smart guns have been rejected for a variety of reasons, especially over fear that any smart lock could be hacked.Read Article >
The heated political debate over the right to bear arms has certainly limited funding and development for smart gun locks, but it was still surprising to find out that at CES 2016 — the biggest consumer electronics show in the world — there was only one company that was demonstrating the technology.
Jan 8, 2016
Audio giant Harman brought a bunch of weird experimental products and ideas to CES this year, headlined by the bizarre Rinspeed Σtos concept car, which I expected to be the coolest thing at its booth. I was wrong.Read Article >
Tucked away in a corner of Harman's space was a JBL L16 Bluetooth speaker that had been retrofitted with a Leap Motion sensor and a large array of transmitters on top. When I placed my hand about a foot or two above the array, I could feel a tight, focused puff of air hitting it.
Jan 8, 2016
CES is a magical and strange place. Everywhere you look there are people who have spent years trying to get here, booths with thousands if not millions of dollars poured into their displays, and lots and lots of gadgets. Many of these gadgets are garbage, some of them are cool, but all of them represent an overwhelming mass of human work. Every now and then as you fight the crowds on show floor, you're struck by the knowledge that the sea of humanity you're wading through is deep.Read Article >
For all the shallowness of the spectacle, imagining the depth of human effort it takes to create it all can set you back on your heels.
Two big slabs of wrought aluminum wrap around my favorite pair of headphones here at CES 2016: the Technics EAH-T700s. I've spent this morning touring all the headphone makers' suites at The Venetian, exploring what the latest and greatest sounds like, but once I came upon this pair I just had to stop.Read Article >
If you wanted to build a smart home anytime in the last decade, you turned to one of two places: ZigBee or Z-Wave. Both are connectivity standards tailor made for the smart home, each connecting the hundreds of products approved for their systems. You’ve probably never heard of them, but you’ve definitely heard of their new competitors: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. As the niche smart home industry starts to grow, everyone wants a piece of it. And more established standards are coming for them.Read Article >
Jan 8, 2016
Here at CES 2016, we've seen a cornucopia of two-wheeled, self-balancing scooters. Of course, we have a name for those gadgets these days: hoverboards. Yes, we know, the actual device doesn't hover, but the rider looks as if they're floating as their rigid upright body soars across the floor. It makes sense, even if it's a silly co-opting of Back to the Future's levitating and physics-defying skateboard.Read Article >
Some people are still not okay with this. Every time we at The Verge publish an article or promote a video containing the word hoverboard in any fashion, a torrent of angry feedback rises up, apparently in defense of something that doesn't actually exist outside room-temperature superconductor research or one-off maglev experiments. "Still not a hoverboard." "Why are they called hoverboards? It doesn't float on air lol." "It has wheels! It doesn't hover! It's a rollerboard!"
Jan 8, 2016Read Article >
Listen, it's been a long week. Sometime you just want to build Lego robots for a bit. This week, Lego unveiled its second generation WeDo education kit, which includes all the pieces, motors, and sensors necessary for elementary-level students to build robots (and, subversively, learn about science and engineering along the way) — robots that are programmed using an intuitive drag-and-drop programming system for computers and tablets. Lego Education's Pamela Scifers stopped our CES lounge to give us a demo and let us play with toys. Enjoy.
Normally, the idea of powered exoskeletons evokes images of futuristic super soldiers, given massive boosts of strength and agility thanks to their motorized outerwear. That's definitely not the story for Genworth's R70i Aging Suit. The exoskeleton, which is being showcased at CES, is designed to make those wearing it feel as if they've aged 40 years. The suit adds on weight, restricts movement, and simulates a number of age-related conditions to give users a feel for the types of medical issues they might encounter as they grow older.Read Article >
Fortunately for me, I got to try it on.
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This week, we sat down with Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky for a chat at CES 2016. Pebble had a really busy year in 2015, launching three new watches, a new software platform, new software interface, and new fitness initiatives before the year was out. For 2016, we can expect even more activity from the company, but stay tuned to see just what that will be.
Jan 8, 2016
This was a big CES for Apple's CarPlay. iPhone owners will soon be able to plug into new Ford and Chrysler vehicles and get access Apple's slick in-car interface on their infotainment systems. But one potentially bigger surprise was left out of the show, according to a report from Car & Driver.Read Article >
Apparently Volkswagen had a demonstration of wireless CarPlay ready for CES, but Apple put a stop to it, perhaps because it wants to make a bigger splash with the launch of the technology (which Apple announced last June at WWDC) itself — or because the technology isn’t quite ready yet. One plausible theory is that there’s a concern with battery life: iOS has technically supported wireless CarPlay for some time, but all CarPlay-equipped vehicles currently require the user to physically plug the phone into the car (as does Android Auto).
Smart home products have been part of CES for well over a decade. But it wasn’t until recently — really, just these past two years — that smart home products and the Internet of Things have become a huge deal. So why is it only now catching on?Read Article >
There have been exciting smart home products before, like the Nest Thermostat, but it was’t until now that it’s felt like the smart home could be catching on. That’s because a few big companies are starting to build ecosystems — rather than product lines — to connect the devices you already have. They want the smart home to go mainstream, and they're doing that by making it really easy for consumers to buy in.
As a science reporter who specializes in space coverage, I've felt a tad out of place at CES. I'm not properly trained in the ways of covering smart fridges and hoverboards. What's the ideal way to do a hands on with a 360-degree action camera or a virtual reality headset? Beats me. Plus, the gadgets that claim to be backed by science don't seem have much research behind them at all. It's hard out here for a wayward space reporter.Read Article >
So imagine my complete and utter excitement when I found out that NASA actually has a booth at CES this year. It's the space agency's first time presenting, and they're showing off some of the technology they use on the International Space Station, as well as some of their concept ideas for the Journey to Mars. When I found that out, I all but sprinted to the booth. Finally, I was with my people. Check out how our time at the NASA booth went in the video above.
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Returning to CES after winning The Verge's Best in Show award at the 2015 convention, Gogoro is today a company with great momentum. It's a hugely ambitious project, requiring the setup of a dense network of battery-swapping stations to support all those adorable electric scooters, but year one of Gogoro's existence has proven an unlikely success. The company rolled out its service in scooter-obsessed Taipei, shipping over 4,000 vehicles, and finished off the year by announcing expansion plans for Amsterdam. Watch our interview above with Gogoro founder and CEO Horace Luke for an update on Gogoro's progress and its plans for 2016 and beyond.
Now that Oculus has officially opened preorders on the Rift, the question of the day is whether a potential buyer's computer can support it. The Rift, along with HTC's Vive, requires what's currently a $1,000 (or more) PC with a top-of-the-line graphics card, capable of rendering high resolutions and super-fast framerates. Gaming hardware company Nvidia, which makes many of those graphics cards, recently estimated that only 13 million PCs will fit the bill next year. But at CES, it introduced a seal of approval for the ones that do: Nvidia VR Ready.Read Article >
At CES, VR Ready is basically an excuse to show off some of the most fun experiences the Rift and Vive have to offer. After a quick introduction, I jumped straight into something I've wanted to try for a while: Everest, an incredibly detailed rendering of the world's tallest mountain. Made from 300,000 photos stitched into a complete virtual environment, it lets you climb ladders and cross deep ravines using the HTC Vive's motion controllers. It might be one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in virtual reality, and it's only possible on something with a lot of graphical power and the ability to walk around.
I haven't slept much this week, as is usually the case at CES, but I almost managed to catch a few winks in the unlikeliest of places yesterday evening: a crowded show floor. That's because I was testing out Hush, a product described by its creators as the "world's first smart earplugs." Hush consists of two wireless plugs that fit snugly into your ears and play masking sounds designed to help you get to sleep.Read Article >
Getting the right size is really important with Hush; I had to try a few sets of tips before I got a proper seal. But once I did, the effect was impressive. You can load various noises onto the earplugs from a smartphone app, like white and pink noise, binaural beats, and "heavenly" ethereal sounds, and with the pink noise in particular I found it pretty much impossible to hear anything around me unless it was loud and I was really listening for it. The sounds are stored on the earplugs themselves once loaded, which the company says helps preserve battery life for a full night of sleep. The plugs charge in a sleek little case that can also be used as an external battery for your phone.
If you know the name Blu, you probably know that it sells unlocked phones on Amazon and at Best Buy for budget prices. Most of Blu's phones retail for less than $250, so it's not surprising that they don't have the most premium design or finishes. The company is trying to change that perception with its new Vivo 5 and Vivo XL, two new phones that pair slick designs and upscale materials with Blu's traditionally low prices.Read Article >
The $199 Vivo 5 is a 5.5-inch smartphone with Android 5.1 Lollipop, a 720p Super AMOLED display, octacore MediaTek processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, 3,150mAh battery, and a 13-megapixel camera. Those specs are solidly mid-range, but still impressive for the Vivo 5's price. Perhaps even more surprising is the Vivo 5's slick design, slim, 6.9mm-thick frame, and metal finish, which are not common to see at this price level. Its design is very similar to Apple's iPhone 5 and 5S from 2013 and 2014.
Jan 8, 2016
“Are there booth babes?” interrupted a friend as I explained the experience of covering CES. I paused, not clear if the model-slash-actress types hired to hawk goods at CES truly deserve the sleight once reserved for scantily clad Playboy Bunnies. “I guess,” I sputtered.Read Article >
“Did you know that David Foster Wallace covered CES?” he added, incongruously.
I hadn't ridden a hoverboard — the increasingly popular self-balancing rideable that definitely doesn't hover — before today. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to; I can't skate for the life of me, and have a habit of falling off moving things at CES. But after spending some time with the upcoming new model from Swagway, one of the biggest hoverboard makers, I have a much better idea of why they exploded in popularity over the past year.Read Article >
Even if they really don't hover.
Attempting to preorder an Oculus Rift VR headset from the company's own website right now saddles you with an expected shipping window of June. But going through Dell's avenue — purchasing a Rift bundled together with either a Dell or Alienware Oculus Ready PC — might actually get you a Rift sooner. When I spoke with Alienware GM Frank Azor earlier today, he suggested that purchasers of such bundles would get their Rifts at the same time as people who initially preordered the headset: around the end of March or the beginning of April.Read Article >
In a later Q&A session here at CES, Azor and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey confirmed this suggestion, saying that some Alienware / Dell bundle purchasers are likely to receive their rigs before preorder buyers ordering through Oculus' site now. In short: if you're desperate to get ahold of a Rift as soon as you can, Dell's bundle deal could let you obtain one sooner than ordering from Oculus itself.