CES: The Day Before The Show

CES: The Day Before The Show
By Charlie Fink

Every January the tech industry reveals the outlines for the year to come at the world’s biggest trade show, CES (they don’t want you to all it The Consumer Electronics show anymore), which attracts over 160,000 attendees. The show floor doesn’t open to the public until today, but there are a series of press events, keynotes, panels and satellite events like tonight’s “Start Up Night Downtown” at the Golden Spike.

Companies pay extra to get the press to see them first at CES Unveiled on Tuesday night, so this first taste is hardly definitive, and every exhibitor was on the hardware side, but the themes of the show to come were clearly in evidence: VR headsets, peripherals, 360 Video, wearables, robotics, drones and home AI.

VR Headsets

I was happy to see better VR headsets are on the way. Of particular interest was Lenovo’s yet to be named product which features front facing cameras, a much needed flip-up function, and weighs only 350 grams. They expect the new headset to retail for $300-$400. It will be introduced at the end of 2017.

The much needed flip up feature of Lenovo’s new headset.

AntVR of China has been making cheap (under $20) VR headsets for mobile phones for some time now. At CES Unveiled, they were giving demos of their new, high-end VR headset. At 500g it is also lighter than the Rift or Vive. Instead of room scale VR, with external body tracking, AntVR places the user on a tracking carpet. With the hand controllers, the whole deal will retail for $700. They expect it to reach the retail market within the next three months.

While the outline of the emerging AR ecosystem is still blurry, pieces seem to be coming together. Usens of California is introducing Fingo, an inside out mobile hand tracking solution that places your hand inside a virtual world. The Fingo module simply clips onto a headset, and then senses a user’s hands and fingers, accurately translating users’ movements to a virtual hand on-screen. With its own battery and processor, Fingo can turbo charge AR/VR applications on both advanced and low end VR headsets like Cardboard. Fingo was kind of a thing last year too. The development world seems to be lagging behind their technology. To jumpstart app development, the company is holding a $50,000 developer competition.

The Better To Immerse You With

Last night everyone was Tweeting about Cerevo’s VR Shoes which provided some funky foot feedback as you march through a virtual world. 3Drudder offers an $179 footboard to create a more convincing illusion than can be had with hand controllers. Immersive Robotics was showing off its solution for wireless VR, to better do acrobatics inside VR environments. E-skin from Xenoma has a $5,000 VR shirt that makes it easier for developers to input full body motion capture into games and other apps. You can see how someday a consumer version, perhaps in conjunction with wireless VR, would place you into the kind of real time computer generated world envisioned by the novel “Snowcrash”.

Hypersuit expects to introduce its VR flying rig in late 2017. Certain to be much photographed and talked about at CES, this novelty is more likely to be seen in public space applications than in the home.

Two Amazing 360 Video Cameras

Humaneyes, an Israeli company, showed off its incredibly impressive Vuze camera which combines 3D stereo images with 360 video. The Humaneyes technology uses mathematical algorithms to create unique projections and reconstruct multiple viewpoints which creates the effect of viewing a scene from different directions. And it works. It’s really 3D. Without glasses. And it’s here now for $800 at their web site, or high end camera shops like B&H in New York. I’d say that’s a lot, but in this case it’s a deal.

More accessible to your average user is Giroptic, a nifty little $249 camera that snaps onto your iPhone and takes incredible 360 video that can be streamed immediately on Facebook or YouTube, no headset required. It’s also available now on their web site.

If there’s anything else like Giroptic on the market, I haven’t heard of it.

In Case You Want A Home R2D2 Unit

Mayfield Robotics’ is taking pre-orders on its web site for the Q4 2017 introduction of its home AI Robot: Kuri. Think of an Amazon Echo designed by Pixar. It blinks, it makes cute sounds, navigates around obstacles in the home, and it recharges itself. At $699, it’s surprisingly low priced. Kuri is just so darn cute you can expect it to be featured in a lot of CES coverage.

Bluetooth this baby to your home AI, and let the good time roll.

Charlie Fink is an award winning producer and entrepreneur. His show “Who’s Your Baghdaddy?” opens in New York on April 6. Follow Charlie on Twitter @charliefink.