It's called the Consumer Electronics Show, but what happens in Vegas every January at the highly anticipated event doesn't always stay in the consumer sector.
Because technology advances at such an exponential pace, a lot of the gadgets and tech are ready immediately for industrial audiences, either in the office or on the factory floor. And with a little extra power here and some more durability there, the innovative robots, phones, drones, 3D printers, and devices marketed for mass-appeal can certainly be tweaked for more the robust requirements necessary to boost your productivity. And when they can't, they at least give your design engineers and product managers an idea of what the future holds.
The 2018 show was no different, with 3,900 exhibitors sprawled out over 2.75 million square feet vying for the tech world's attention. Some succeeded, some didn't, and some still have us scratching our heads as to why they tried.
It's 2018 and we don't have flying cars, but we do have a fully autonomous, battery powered helicopter. Envisioned by the German company Volocopter as an "Air Uber"—a vehicle to pick you up and fly you over congested roadways to your destination—the 2X has clear use cases for the ultra-rich and super impatient. If you're trying to get to get a technician to a remote location or survey a busted pipeline, the time saved may justify the high costs of a rental or outright owning one. As it evolves, we think the 18-rotor transport, which currently has 352-lb. capacity and 16-mile rage, could haul building materials or deliver equipment as well.
The Mirage Solo is called that because it's a standalone device that doesn't require wires or a smart device to view the virtual world contained in the headset. And because it leverages Google's Daydream's WorldSense, you're thrust right in that world, which responds to your body motion, without the need for external sensors. A separate Mirage camera allows for the capture of 180 deg video.
The gaming possibilities are endless, as are the training opportunities. Imagine having workers run through assembly procedures with a digitized product—still in the prototype phase—to optimize design, or interact with machinery before anything is even installed in the plant. You would never have an unprepared worker, or machine that doesn't live up to expectations, again.
They might look they were worn by Buddy Holly or someone coming out of the 3D movie, but make no mistake: the Vuzix Blade smartglasses are cutting edge. One of the knocks on past smartglasses, from the Vuzix300 to Google Glass, is the monocular display you must shift your focus to. Another consumer-oriented gripe is that they aren't very fashion forward. The Blade takes on both, providing a display for data, video, and images right on the lens, all while looking like a normal pair of (hipster) glasses. They also run Amazon's AI assistant Alexa, though in the plant you could replace her with an enterprise solution. You can reserve a dev kit version now ($495 deposit; total cost $2,000 + tax) to get a head start in the next killer industrial app.
Wi-Charge's product line, the RAYO, KIIK, and LIGHTS, wirelessly transfer power in an open environment, with a transmitter sending infrared beams to a receiver's photovoltaic cell. Meant for smartphones and other small devices, the Israel-based company says the number of receivers can be scaled up to increase power and coverage. Other wireless charging companies have developed systems for a plant's AGVs and AMRs, which this could be used for, as well as keeping "lick-and-stick" IoT sensors constantly charged.
Last year, LG Display launched an 18-in. display rolls up like a magazine, and this year they supersized that idea with a 65-in. version. Because of its size, it rolls into a housing like an upside-down projector screen. The portability and protective shell are key features for jobsites that often must be reconfigured and sometimes messy. The truly intriguing thought it when these become touch screens. Splay it out a table like you would blueprints and make running changes, or tap on a section get a real-time diagnostics on a piece of equipment.
Aw man, LG, you were on such a roll. Then, on stage to debut the company's smart home AI platform, ThinQ, the adorable little social robot that would act as an assistant/HMI, as well as provide a friendly digital disposition around the kitchen, decided to ignore David Vanderwaal, vice president of marketing, several times. Not very social of it. Adding insult to injury, Jibo, a very similar robot, won a CES Innovation Award. Hopefully we'll hear how this happens to learn what not to do in prepping a huge make-or-break demo.
The Power Outage
A biblical amount of rain fell onto Sin City, and ensuing deluge damaged a facility transformer at the Las Vegas Convention Center. This caused a two-hour blackout and rendered many of the electronics-based exhibits useless. At least exhibitors had a sense of humor about it:
My colleague got super excited and wanted to immediately drop $1,000 on this machine, which allegedly folds your clothes for you. (Only a mockup was displayed at CES, so who knows?) You stick a shirt into the conveyor and through the magic of automation, your clothes get magically folded. The company says it can fold an entire load in less than four minutes. It debuted last year with fragrance adding and de-wrinkling features, which were ditched to bring down the price.
Another more heavy-duty automatic clothes folder, the $16,000 Laundroid, also made an appearance.
FoldiMate won't ship until late 2019, so this concept may not be the final version, but what they are showing seems hard to use and susceptible to jams. This a problem office printers still deal with on a regular basis, and that's just paper. Think of what it will do to your favorite cardigan.
It's a nice idea and people obviously want one, judging by the thousands of pre-orders, but just seems like a lot of frustration for a device meant to make a task faster. And four minutes for a load seems a bit slow for the price and potential for a lot of maintenance. It's unnecessary because it will be obsolete in the next few years. Programmable robotic arms, like the ones from Moley Robotics, can already do several tasks in the kitchen, and could be taught to fold the clothes as well.