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CES 2020: more show than substance at this year’s concept-heavy event

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The 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has come to a close, and we have all you need to know about the good, bad, and weird gadgets and tech this year’s event had to offer. The overall theme was concepts, our staff determined when deliberating the annual Verge Awards at CES 2020, which meant a lot of show without a lot of substance:

This year, the things that stole attention at the show were not early looks at products that you and I will be able to actually use and buy over the next 12 months. Sure, there’s the occasional laptop and meat substitute that will be available for purchase in 2020. But for every one of those, there’s a rolling ball robot, virtual personal attendant, or entire vehicle that is never likely to ship.

Our Best in Show award went to Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 Fold, which — even though it’s on the expensive side and left us with a few questions — was the only foldable laptop with a confirmed shipping window and price tag. Most of the other laptops at this year’s CES were pretty boring, however, with little more than incremental updates on display. But there may be hope for the future with 5G modems and new screen technologies on the horizon.

We doled out awards for the most triumphant CES comeback (Lora DiCarlo), the most overhyped thing at this year’s show (Samsung’s Neon digital avatars), and the most concept (Sony’s Vision-S) as well. Of course, the best non-CES news that everyone at the show was talking about was Sonos’ lawsuit against Google, in which, it accuses the tech giant of patent infringement.

You can find the full list of the best of CES 2020 here.

  • Dan Seifert

    Jan 30, 2020

    Dan Seifert

    Ring adds privacy dashboard to app in response to security concerns

    Ring Video Doorbell 2
    Ring Video Doorbell 2
    Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

    Ring has announced that it is adding a new privacy dashboard to its mobile apps that will let Ring owners manage their connected devices, third-party services, and whether local police partnered with Ring can make requests to access video from the Ring cameras on the account. The company says that other privacy and security settings will be added to the dashboard in the future. This new Control Center is available now in both the iOS and Android versions of the Ring app.

    Ring has faced considerable criticism in recent weeks over its security and privacy practices. There have been reports of Ring cameras being “hacked” because owners reused passwords and logins that were obtained by bad hackers in data leaks from other services and didn’t have two-factor authentication set up. A Motherboard report detailed a host of other bad security practices in Ring’s systems, such as allowing multiple logins from various locations and IP addresses without informing the owners.

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  • This startup wants to put a tiny display on a contact lens

    A new Silicon Valley startup is trying to build the “world’s first true smart contact lens,” putting a screen right against your eye that can enhance your vision of the world. The startup, Mojo Vision, showed off a very early prototype in meetings at CES last week and is now ready to start talking about the product’s development.

    Mojo Vision hopes to first create a smart contact lens that can assist people with low vision by displaying enhanced overlays of the world, sharpening details or zooming in to help them see. But that reality seems to be a ways away. The prototype shown at CES included a green, monochromatic display that was wired to a large battery, and the company still needs to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration to eventually ship to consumers, particularly for its medical use cases.

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  • Becca Farsace

    Jan 14, 2020

    Becca Farsace

    Insta360’s One R shape-shifts between a 360 and an action camera

    This is the Insta360 One R. Like Insta360’s prior cameras, it’s capable of shooting 360 degrees of footage. But it’s also a standard 4K action camera. For someone on the fence about taking a full leap into buying a 360 camera, this is the perfect in-between device.

    The One R is made up of three components: the lens; the core, which houses the screen, power and record buttons, USB-C port, and microSD card slot; and the battery base. There are two ports on the core that coincide with prongs for the lens attachments and the battery just snaps onto the bottom. Once it’s all put together, it feels solid, compact, and complete. The Insta360 One R Twin Edition is available to purchase starting today for $479.99 and will come with one core, one battery, a 360 camera mod, and a 4K camera mod. Insta360 will also be selling just the 4K camera mod with one battery and one core for $299.99.

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  • Dieter Bohn

    Jan 13, 2020

    Dieter Bohn

    OnePlus confirms its next phone will jump to a 120Hz screen

    Speaking to us last week at CES, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau confirmed that the company’s next major phones — presumably the OnePlus 8 — will feature screens with a refresh rate of 120Hz. Lau is not one for subtlety, and claimed in a note to us sent later that it would be “the best smartphone display in 2020.” Having not seen it, we obviously can’t say if that claim is more than just bombast.

    OnePlus says that it worked with Samsung to develop the OLED screen, and that in addition it has done work on top of Android to improve animations (especially the core OS gestures) so they’ll look smoother at 120Hz.

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  • Sam Byford

    Jan 13, 2020

    Sam Byford

    Asus’ ROG Chakram mouse has an analog stick and wireless charging

    The last gadget I checked out at CES 2020 was Asus’ latest Republic of Gamers-branded mouse, which was announced last year and offers a pretty long, potentially compelling list of features. The ROG Chakram is designed for customizability and flexibility, and my overall impression was that most people could probably find a way to make it work for them.

    The most prominent addition, literally, is a little analog stick that protrudes from next to the thumb buttons. This is a full-on analog controller if you want it to be, similar in concept to the “hat” switches that used to be popular on joysticks; one common use case for those was looking around a flight simulator cockpit. You can also set the Chakram’s stick to work like a four-way directional input, which could be handy for things like selecting weapons in a shooter as you would with a D-pad on a controller.

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  • Nick Statt

    Jan 10, 2020

    Nick Statt

    How gaming PCs are competing with the PS5 and Xbox Series X

    Alienware’s Concept UFO marries the Nintendo Switch’s portability and modular controller design with more powerful internal components.
    Alienware’s Concept UFO marries the Nintendo Switch’s portability and modular controller design with more powerful internal components.
    Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

    Every January, PC gaming companies get a full week during CES to show us the latest and greatest in new processors, graphics cards, monitors, and everything else that’s been cooking for the last year or longer. Normally, the PC industry gets to do this without its console counterpart encroaching on its turf. It’s a place for discussions about totally unfettered gaming performance and the kinds of ludicrous hardware you could buy if money was no concern. But this year is a bit different. 

    A new console generation from Microsoft and Sony is arriving later this year, and that shift is poised to change everything about the gaming landscape whether you play in front of a TV or your computer monitor. New consoles will mean a huge step up in the production values game developers can squeeze out of baseline hardware.

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  • Sam Byford

    Jan 10, 2020

    Sam Byford

    This year’s monitors will be faster, brighter, and curvier than ever

    Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

    If there’s one product category that still often sees genuine technological advancements at CES, it’s screens — and these days, PC monitors in particular. As someone who enjoys looking at nice displays, I’m always down to check out some even nicer ones, and CES 2020 brought us some of the fastest, brightest, largest, and curviest monitors ever.

    The question, though, is when I’ll actually be moved to buy one. A couple years ago I wrote about how monitor shopping sucked through the lens of my quest to find one that checked off all my boxes. It’s harder than you might think! And I’m still pretty much happy with what I have.

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  • Chaim Gartenberg

    Jan 10, 2020

    Chaim Gartenberg

    Laptops were boring at CES, but there’s hope for the future

    Photography by Becca Farsace / The Verge

    CES 2020 was a boring year for laptops — at least, it was a boring year for laptops that will be real products that you can actually buy in 2020. The upgrades were incremental at best, and even the more interesting changes are reliant on unproven technology, like AMD’s new processors and 5G internet. 

    But despite the fact that the upcoming wave of 2020 laptops so far looks like it’s been upgraded even more incrementally than ever before, all is not lost. Among the minor spec boosts, CES 2020 also offered the first glimmers of what might come next for portable computers, with new screen technologies, wild new designs, and 5G modems. Those trends are important for the future of laptops, but we’re not quite in that future just yet.

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  • Jon Porter

    Jan 10, 2020

    Jon Porter

    The most important TVs of CES 2020 were finally for the masses

    Image: Vizio

    Each year’s CES is overrun by concept TVs that are destined to either remain prototypes for years to come or be released with such high price tags that they might as well not have come out at all. And look, I’m not going to try to claim that CES 2020 was much different. Samsung had a weird rotating 4K TV meant to show off vertical videos, 8K TVs were still just as pointless as ever, and LG Display showed up with another rollable TV that descends downward rather than rising upward.

    But if you look a little closer, you’ll see some real progress among the TVs people might actually buy. The more important story from each year’s show is in the often-overlooked midrange, and that happened in a big way at CES 2020. High-end technologies trickled down after years of being unaffordable or impractical for most people, while the slow emergence of the new HDMI 2.1 standard is beginning to open up a lot of functionality that was previously exclusive to niche sections of the market.

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  • Jan 10, 2020

    Verge Staff

    The Verge Awards at CES 2020: welcome to the land of the concept

    Illustration by Grayson Blackmon / The Verge

    Oh, what a difference 12 months makes. At last year’s CES, we found fewer concepts and more tangible products than ever before. Apparently this year, the exhibitors saw our reaction and felt they had to work overtime to correct it because if there was a theme to 2020’s CES, it was that CES is the land of the concept.

    This year, the things that stole attention at the show were not early looks at products that you and I will be able to actually use and buy over the next 12 months. Sure, there’s the occasional laptop and meat substitute that will be available for purchase in 2020. But for every one of those, there’s a rolling ball robot, virtual personal attendant, or entire vehicle that is never likely to ship.

    Read Article >
  • Ashley Carman

    Jan 10, 2020

    Ashley Carman

    The rules only sex tech companies have to follow at CES

    Sex tech is formally allowed on the CES show floor this year after years of banishment. While that finally puts sex tech companies on the same playing field as the tech giants, it doesn’t mean they’re treated identically: companies that show off sexual wellness products not only have to agree to follow CES’s standard contract and rules but also a separate sex toy addendum.

    The Verge obtained a copy of these rules, which haven’t been previously published in full. The rules restrict how products can be promoted, the language that can be used, and the imagery that can be shown.

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  • James Vincent

    Jan 10, 2020

    James Vincent

    Fewer propellers mean more battery-life for the Falcon bicopter drone

    The Falcon and the falconer.
    The Falcon and the falconer.
    Credit: Zero Zero Robotics

    When are two propellers better than four? When they give your drone extra battery life, greater portability, and reduce noise, claims Zero Zero Robotics. That’s the pitch for the company’s V-Coptr Falcon: a bicopter drone with an impressive flight time of 50 minutes — 20 minutes more than the comparable DJI Mavic 2.

    For years, four propellers have been standard for consumer drones, offering greater power and stability. But Zero Zero says its tilt-rotor design, which lets each propeller swivel independently, allows the Falcon to match four-prop rivals. Tilting the propellers improves the drone’s aerodynamic profile, says the company, reducing drag.

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  • Vjeran Pavic

    Jan 9, 2020

    Vjeran Pavic

    This folding 8K drone could rival DJI and Skydio

    It’s been a few years since I walked over to the drone section of the CES show floor, but Autel Robotics gave me a good reason to finally revisit it this year. The company announced a total of three drones — the EVO II, the EVO II Pro, and the EVO II Dual — but the first two models have some serious specs that just blew me away. 

    All three drones have the same body with different cameras. Let’s start with the EVO II. It takes 48-megapixel photos and claims to shoot 8K video — which would make it not only the first drone to do so, but one of the first consumer-grade 8K cameras, flying or not. The company says it’s native 10-bit 8K at 24 or 25 fps shot on a Sony IMX586 sensor, one designed for phones, and it was able to achieve 8K video because there’s more processing power and battery in drones compared to phones, as well as more room to cool those parts down.

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  • Roomba’s robot vacuum could grow arms in the near future

    Roomba 980

    iRobot, the maker of the popular robot vacuum Roomba, said it’s working on a version of the disc-shaped household helper that has arms. The company envisions a limbed version of the Roomba that’s able to help out with more complex tasks, like laundry, dishwashing, and food serving.

    Colin Angle, CEO of the Massachusetts-based company, revealed these plans to Bloomberg while at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Angle said iRobot wouldn’t start selling the enhanced Roomba for another five years, but he noted that a prototype version was being worked on at its lab.

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  • Jan 9, 2020

    Dani Deahl

    Roland made the Cybertruck of grand pianos

    Electronic instruments company Roland has unveiled a concept piano called the Facet, which is likely to turn heads as it makes appearances this year. The low poly (or as Roland says “evocative crystal-like”) design has a keyboard with a smart screen and a hollow cabinet that contains speakers instead of the usual hammers and strings. It’s a true concept product in that there are no plans for it to go on sale — Roland says they made it to show the piano’s future.

    Roland notes that the piano has been around for about 300 years with little change to its form in that entire time. The company wanted to poke into the limitations of the piano’s traditional design, and challenged designers to the task in 2015. The Facet is the result of that competition — with a futuristic, angular look that’s reminiscent of the design language in Tesla’s Cybertruck.

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  • Sam Byford

    Jan 9, 2020

    Sam Byford

    2020 might be the year of reasonably okay foldable PCs, maybe

    “We will bend it for you,” an Intel representative told Vjeran, The Verge’s video director, at our CES meeting. “Three times maximum.” This did not make me think that Intel is particularly confident in the durability of its foldable PC. 

    That’s fair enough, really. It’s only meant to be a reference design, as Intel isn’t a company that sells finished consumer electronics in the first place. But it’s an example of how this year’s CES has demonstrated the state of foldable screen technology. On one hand, the showings have convinced me that these products will be a big deal at some point. On the other, they’ve convinced me that that point is some way off. 

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  • Sean Hollister

    Jan 9, 2020

    Sean Hollister

    This is Intel’s first discrete graphics card in 20 years, but you can’t buy one

    Image: Intel

    Intel is trying once again to build its own graphics cards, after years and years of letting rivals like Nvidia and AMD decide the future of this key component of our PCs. Today at CES 2020, the company gave us our first pictures of the Intel DG1, the company’s first discrete graphics card in two decades — and gave some very loose hints as to where you’ll see its new Xe graphics architecture first.

    You should know that the PC industry had basically given up on Intel ever producing its own powerful desktop graphics cards after the company unceremoniously killed its Larrabee project 10 years ago last month. (It did offer the Intel i740 series back in 1998, so the DG1 isn’t technically the company’s first discrete GPU.)

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  • Sean O'Kane

    Jan 9, 2020

    Sean O'Kane

    Byton’s 48-inch screen might not be as distracting as it looks

    A car with a 48-inch screen on the dashboard sounds like a distracted driving nightmare, and to be honest, that could likely wind up being the case. But two years after Byton teased the idea in a concept car that debuted at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, the Chinese EV startup returned to CES and offered a chance to drive its electric SUV in an effort to prove that its headline-grabbing screen may not be as problematic as it seems.

    On Wednesday evening, I spent 15 or so minutes behind the wheel of the second preproduction unit of Byton’s car — the M-Byte SUV — driving around a parking lot next to Bally’s Casino. It wasn’t enough time to walk away with comprehensive feelings about how the car drove, and the interior and software were in too unfinished a state for me to gather any more than the most basic impressions.

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  • Natt Garun

    Jan 9, 2020

    Natt Garun

    There sure were a ton of Peloton wannabes at CES

    Image: Echelon

    The “Peloton effect” has been several years in the making. Ever since the cult-favorite $2,249 stationary bike that can live-stream classes debuted in 2014, companies have been trying to create their own renditions — whether that’s by making a cheaper version of the bike or implementing the same live-streamed boutique workout class concept into different types of exercise equipment. At CES 2020, it’s clear that we’ll continue to see more of these “entertrainment” products trying to convince the masses that working out is fun.

    While Peloton was nowhere to be found at CES this year (the company launched its $4,295 Tread treadmill at CES 2018 and showed it off again in 2019), there certainly was an abundance of workout equipment that looked strikingly similar. Echelon, which has been producing more affordable versions of Peloton since 2018, showcased its latest bike, the Smart Connect EX5S. Though it is Echelon’s fourth indoor bike, it’s the first with an attached HD touchscreen that makes it an all-in-one system rather than requiring you to mount your own phone or tablet to the front of the bike. At $1,639, it’s also a fraction of the Peloton’s cost.

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  • Ashley Carman

    Jan 9, 2020

    Ashley Carman

    The most promising AirPower alternative isn’t ready yet

    A new company called Aira thinks it can build what Apple couldn’t: a Qi-compatible wireless charging pad that allows people to charge multiple gadgets, regardless of how they’re placed on the mat. I got to see early demos of the tech at CES this week, and while I see the promise and feel relatively assured that the charging pads will eventually work, they aren’t ready for primetime just yet. The closest thing to AirPower still needs more work. (And before you get too excited, no, it can’t natively charge an Apple Watch.)

    Aira made its big debut at CES with multiple closed-door meetings to show off the tech. Aira isn’t making pads itself; for now, the tech is being licensed for use by Nomad, which also set up a floor booth to give demos of its Aira-powered Base Station Pro.

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  • Sam Byford

    Jan 9, 2020

    Sam Byford

    Panasonic’s VR glasses support HDR and look pretty steampunk

    The problem with VR headsets is that they still all look like VR headsets — glorified ski goggles that shut you off from the world. I’m not going to say Panasonic has solved the matter altogether with its own VR glasses at CES this year, but the project does represent something of an improvement. Basically, they’re regular-ish glasses with a dash of steampunk aviator style.

    The glasses — and they are glasses, rather than a headset — also offer technical improvements over other solutions in the market. The micro OLED panels, co-developed by Panasonic and Kopin, are extremely high resolution with almost no hint of the “screen-door effect” that plagues most VR hardware. They’re also the first VR glasses to support HDR, which was particularly impressive during a CG demo of the interior of a Japanese temple, with light realistically bouncing off golden decorations.

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  • Sean Hollister

    Jan 9, 2020

    Sean Hollister

    This real-life Transformer might be one of the coolest robot toys ever made

    I’ve always loved toys that have more than meets the eye. Hidden spring-loaded projectiles. Secret passages in my LEGO sets. And of course, Transformers toys. But while many of the best toys rely on a healthy imagination, it always felt like the Transformers were a little too slow for make-believe skirmishes and adventures; the good ones took far longer to turn into a robot than they did in the show.

    That’s why I’m sad I didn’t personally attend CES in Las Vegas this year — where you can see an unofficial Transformer toy that transforms from car to robot all by itself. You can literally say “Transform,” one of several voice commands, and the Robosen T9 will do so.

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  • Jay Peters

    Jan 9, 2020

    Jay Peters

    TiVo says its unreleased Roku and Apple TV apps are ‘on hold’

    Photo: TiVo

    Last year at CES, TiVo said it would be launching apps for Roku, Apple TV, and Fire TV sometime in 2019 that would let users watch live or recorded video without needing a separate TiVo Mini box. Now, a year later, TiVo still hasn’t released an app for any of those streaming devices, and you probably won’t see one soon. TiVo confirmed to TechHive that the Apple TV and Roku apps are “currently on hold,” and based on a TiVo’s executive comments, the Fire TV app doesn’t seem imminent, either.

    TechHive learned that the apps might be having some trouble in an interview at CES with Ted Malone, TiVo’s VP of consumer products and services. Malone actually originally characterized the Apple TV and Roku apps as “in limbo,” but a TiVo spokesperson followed up with TechHive to clarify that the apps are actually “on hold.” (Semantics!)

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  • Chaim Gartenberg

    Jan 8, 2020

    Chaim Gartenberg

    Samsung now thinks it sold either 400,000 or 500,000 Galaxy Folds, not sure

    Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

    A month after Samsung executive Young Sohn wrongly claimed the company had sold 1 million Galaxy Fold phones, it has returned with another sales estimate at CES 2020. “I think we’ve sold 400,000 to 500,000 Galaxy Fold smartphones,” Samsung co-CEO DJ Koh told Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

    Given that Koh runs Samsung’s entire mobile phone division, it’s likely that his number is closer to the mark when it comes to the actual number of Galaxy Folds sold so far. But Koh’s number is still frustratingly vague. Surely the co-CEO of Samsung has a better idea of how many of the company’s most cutting-edge and experimental phones were sold than “400,000 to 500,000”?

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  • Chaim Gartenberg

    Jan 8, 2020

    Chaim Gartenberg

    Samsung’s new external SSD has a built-in fingerprint reader for extra security

    When it comes to improving external SSDs, there are usually only two things that matter: making the drives faster and adding more storage. Samsung’s new T7 Touch external SSD, which was announced at CES 2020, is a bit more creative. It adds a built-in fingerprint reader to secure your files, in addition to the usual improvements to transfer feed.

    It’s a clever idea that gives you the option to protect your files with biometric security even if you’re using a laptop that doesn’t have a fingerprint reader. Samsung says that you can register up to four different fingerprints with the T7 Touch, meaning you’ll be able to easily share the drive with friends or teammates if you’d like.

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