Coronavirus panic is expediting the demise of tech conventions

You know the scene: A man in a crisp suit stands on a dark, sterile stage at the head of a packed auditorium, surrounded by sleek screens. It's the year 2045 or 2060 or 3000, and the presenter delivers a sanctimonious speech about progress and humani...

Make authentic Japanese matcha like the ancient masters with just one button!

Gone are the days when you just picked between tea and coffee; now it is about matcha, kombucha, spirulina, and activated charcoal drinks! Yes, everything in my previous sentence is real – it is enough to fluster anyone going to a cafe and trying to order healthy. My mother rightfully said “Why to pay for it outside when you can make it at home?” which brings me to another CES 2020 innovation award honoree – the matcha tea maker for home.

This matcha maker is compact and sleek, making it perfect for homes, offices, any space with an outlet because it is portable. This matcha maker stays true to its Japanese roots and lets you enjoy an authentic cup every time by using freshly ground leaves from its ceramic mill for individual uses, just like the masters do. The movements of the traditional bamboo whisk are replicated by the magnetic whisker that mixes cold water with the tea for a frothy matcha-presso!

Matcha tea has been challenging coffee by providing lasting energy without jitters or caffeine crashes making it the hero for non-coffee drinkers. The all-in-one tea maker also comes with an aluminum canister to keep your leaves fresh and supports sustainable tea farming with eco-friendly packaging, they really mean green business in every sense. My personal tip on enjoying matcha is with steamed almond milk (oat milk if you have a nut allergy) for chilly days or with lemon sparkling water for summer – you will love it as matcha I do!

Designer: Cuzan Matcha

This self-cleaning, AI-enabled litter box auto-packs your cat’s waste for disposal!

At CES 2020, we saw just about every product evolve into a smarter version of itself. Let your imagination run wild with everyday items as you imagine each one of them transforms into part robots. One such product that stood out was this modular AI litter box by iKuddle that did a lot more than gather attention and was an Innovation Award Honoree at the world’s largest tech fest – let’s break it down, shall we?

I am going to reveal the best feature first because it truly takes care of the most annoying task when you have a pet – cleaning the litter box. Yes, this AI litter box is self-cleaning! After your cat leaves the box, iKuddle will separate the waste from clean litter, you can initiate this through your app and it will notify you once the cleaning is complete. After that, you can tap the auto-packing button on the app or the litter box and it will seal the waste in a small bag which you can discard at your convenience. This feature makes me feel like we have truly arrived in the new decade!

iKuddle’s litter box also has a deodorizing system with a fully enclosed carbon filter that works for 5 minutes after your cat leaves the box, eliminating 80%-90% of litter box odors. It also comes with a health app that uses the sensing system to monitor the frequency your cat uses the litter box. The data is collected and displayed as a bar chart on the app, letting you know if your cat is in good shape. This smart litter box is eco-conscious and reduces litter usage by 30% saving you time and money.

Unlike other self-cleaning litter boxes, this AI-enabled pet product has detachable components such as the scooper and litter box enclosure which makes it easy to maintain. It also has a plug-in charging cable with a battery that lasts up to two weeks so you can travel with your cat and be stress-free. iKuddle makes me want to get a cat just so I have a reason to buy a smart litter box for it!

Designer: iKuddle

This AI-enabled cooker preps meals, cooks and even cleans itself!

You could be a trained chef or a foodie trying to recreate a dish they had, we can all do better with an extra helping hand – especially in the kitchen! Say hello to CookingPal Julia, the smart all-in-one cooker that is going to be your new sous chef. Julia was unveiled at CES 2020 where she also won the Innovation Award in the home appliance category and we were all shook…or shall I say shaken and stirred?

It will be impossible to mess up a recipe with this Smart All-in-One Cooker, it is a countertop assistant that will assist you in preparing your meals quickly and efficiently. There is a step-by-step process and Julia is going to be there all along to guide you through chopping ingredients with exact, weight-based measurements. To make it easier, it also includes a scale that is accurate within five grams so say goodbye to fiddling with that set of measuring cups! Julia is truly a countertop kitchen assistant, she can cook, chop, blend, knead, boil, steam, grind, grate AND emulsify – she knows it all and does it all but you still get the credit.

Your cooking sidekick comes with her own 8-inch kitchen-proof smart display. You can select from one of the set recipes or switch to manual mode and customize it to your taste, the AI food recognition technology can also suggest recipes based on the ingredients you have in the fridge. You can also recruit Alexa or Google assistant into the kitchen team and have them work with Julia while you monitor it all on the CookingPal mobile app. Just when you think Julia cant be smarter, you’ll be delighted to know she is not only dishwasher safe but also has a self-cleaning mode where you just add in water and dish soap. Julia is spearheading the future of smart cooking!

Designer: CookingPal

Imagine if the Google Home smart-speaker charged your phone, and had audio drivers from Devialet

The future is truly in multitasking. It isn’t enough that your wireless charger charges only one device. It needs to charge three at a time… and your wristwatch? It should tell you the time, indicate your health, and also let you send and receive calls. In a world where all our products are designed to multitask, it seems like the smart-speaker is capable of a lot more than playing audio from the web on command. Meet the Soundform Elite. It’s a smart-speaker enabled with Google Assistant (and it looks a bit like the Google Nest Home too), as well as a wireless charging dock equipped with Belkin’s charging technology, and incredibly powerful audio drivers by none other than Devialet.

The partnership between Belkin and Devialet is interesting for a number of reasons. Belkin is famed for making some of the best charging cables, hubs, adapters, and extension boxes on the market, while Devialet still reigns as the most awarded audio company in the world. The companies announced their collaboration at CES this year, with the Soundform Elite, which happens to be Devialet’s second smart-speaker after its collab with Huawei. The Soundform Elite works just like any smart-speaker, albeit with a docking area for your phone. Equipped with a fast-charging 10W Qi charger, the Soundform Elite has the unique feature of being able to charge a wide variety of compatible Android phones as well as iPhones, making it a worthy pick for Apple enthusiasts too. Moreover, fitted with Devialet’s incredibly capable driver and woofer technology, the Soundform should easily outperform other speakers in its price category of $299.

The Soundform Elite comes in the classic Black and White color-schemes (much like the HomePod), and has a neat fabric clad around the outside which is practically a standard for smart-speakers now. It ships in Spring 2020, although it’s up for preorder on Belkin’s site.

Designers: Belkin & Devialet

Harman is redesigning its in-car audio systems specifically for electric vehicles

I bet you didn’t know this but car stereos can often be power guzzlers. A decent car audio setup can pull anywhere from 200 to 500 watts RMS of power depending on the number of speaker units, the size of the car, and the bass module. That isn’t really much of a concern when you’ve got a fuel-powered automobile but in an electric vehicle, any sort of efficiency can go a long way in making a car perform better. Harman (which got acquired by Samsung in late 2016) is looking to redesign its audio systems for EVs, to help provide its signature quality of sound, but with a smaller power footprint. Its redesigned system, called the ECOTECT, is aimed at helping provide cars with high-quality audio while weighing less and using as little power as possible.

Traditional audio systems usually have audio units at the base of each door (often with a separate tweeter near the window), along with smaller drivers lined at the top, followed by the woofer right at the back. Harman’s Ecotect follows the same philosophy, but puts two drivers under the gearbox in front, rather than the door, followed by smaller drivers on the A and B pillars, and a woofer at the back, providing the same sound but also cutting down the number of components required. “Ecotect features high-efficiency speakers, a proprietary Prodigy Booster amplifier and Power Manager 2.0 technology, all layered in via a unique architecture that leverages innovative speaker locations, sustainable materials and sophisticated signal processing to deliver premium audio and communications experiences with EV-optimized efficiency”, says the product team at Harman. The Ecotect also leverages the use of software to help provide audio that matches traditional in-car sound systems… much like how phone cameras use computational photography to compete with DSLRs. To add to it, Harman’s even built voice-sensing volume fading technologies into it to help reduce audio to enable conversations in the car, as well as HALOsonic Road Noise Cancellation, which dampens and minimizes road noise to make your cabin quieter and your music experience richer. Pretty neat, eh?

Designer: Harman

Bosch’s Virtual Sun Visor uses an LCD screen to cut the glare without cutting your view

Its animated-PowerPoint video editing aside, Bosch does make a pretty good point. We’ve innovated in every part of the car, except the sin visor. The visor, although designed with good intent, is often obstructive, as it reduces your visibility in its effort to shade your eyes. The fact that you can’t wear heavily tinted sun-glasses while driving (in most parts of the world) just further aggravates the matter because you’re faced with one of two issues when you’re driving with the sun shining right at you. Either ignore the horrible glare, or cut your vision in half by holding an opaque flap against the sunlight. Bosch’s solution to the problem is pretty simple and just as effective.

The Virtual Visor is a transparent plate that sits in front of you, allowing you to see the road ahead right through it. The visor does, however, come with a facial-sensing RGB camera that sits on your dashboard, tracking your face as you drive. When it begins sensing glare or an excess of brightness on your face, a part of the visor goes dark, thanks to an LCD film integrated into it. This hexagonal matrix of dark pixels shifts around as your face moves, casting a shadow on your eyes to cut the glare, while the rest of the visor remains transparent for you to see through. Bosch demonstrated the Virtual Visor as a very basic prototype promising major improvements to it. For now, the idea itself seems pretty impressive, and the prototype does a pretty neat job of tracking your face and providing a dark visor only to your eyes while 90% of the visor remains clear and transparent.

My initial thought would be that Bosch should integrate this right into windshields, rather than having it as a separate visor, but the guys at Bosch rightfully point out that LCD panels tend to go dark if and when they fail or break, which would in turn compromise the driver’s full view were the windscreen to instantly turn black if gravel, hail, or even a rock slightly cracked the glass. The Virtual Visor, however, only cuts a portion of your view if it fails, and can always be folded right back up. Another issue with the Virtual Visor is its facial tracking, which at the moment seems like it needs better calibration. The camera can sometimes fail to detect your face if you turn it to look sideways or back, and the LCD pixels sometimes prove to be a bit of a distraction as they move around right in front of you.

Bosch is promising to develop this technology further to help it reach customers soon. Under development since 2016, the Virtual Visor hopes to be miniaturized further, with the ability to even swivel sideways to cut glare from the side of the driver. I guess all we need to do is wait and ‘watch’.

Designer: Bosch

Panasonic’s VR glasses are living proof that virtual reality headsets can look ‘spectacular’

Now here’s a pair of VR glasses that don’t look like a toaster mounted on your face. Styled to resemble a wonderful pair of steampunk-style aviators, Panasonic has done for the VR headset industry what the Snap spectacles did for Google Glass (remember that?)

With an undeniably better form factor, and better image quality too, Panasonic’s VR glasses are classier and well, ‘glassier’ (as opposed to the massive ski-goggles that most VR headsets look like). Fitted with micro-OLED panels on the inside, the VR glasses can afford to be made smaller and have much better clarity too. In fact, unlike most VR headsets, you almost don’t notice the pixels in Panasonic’s product, allowing your VR world to be much more immersive because of its higher resolution. Panasonic also claims that they’re the first-ever VR glasses to support HDR, or a high dynamic range, allowing colors, saturation, brightness and contrast to all be incredibly lifelike. The glasses (they’re obviously not headsets) also come fitted with Panasonic’s own audio technology, using Technics drivers in those tiny earbuds to provide crystal clear audio.

As amazing as they look, Panasonic doesn’t plan on selling these to consumers (sad-face). They’re hoping that these glasses will see mostly commercial applications like VR sports and travel, but only once 5G networks are rolled out to be able to support high data-transfer speeds, especially given how high-resolution the video on these glasses are. I hope Panasonic changes their mind though. I’d definitely see myself lining up to own a pair of these beauts.

Designer: Panasonic