CES roundup: what happened to the excitement around ‘innovation’, robots, VR, and voice assistants?

What’s missing? Some sense of excitement. It may be your Editor’s back-to-work deluge after the holiday, but it’s hard not to have a sense of Déjà Vu All Over Again when reading the reporting from CES Las Vegas. So much of it seems lukewarm, a variant of what felt exciting, new, and transformative Back When. And so little of it seems to break through to a wider market. Let’s pick through and see what a Gimlet Eye might.

AARP’s Innovation Labs had yet another showcase of technologies from largely small companies from its own Hatchery and other accelerators with which it works. This year it highlighted VR developer partnerships with Rendever, which creates experiences for LTC residents, and VRHealth’s physical therapy at home. SanaHealth has a pulsed light/sound pain reduction device and the VoiceItt speech recognition device which translates the speech of the severely impaired into intelligible language.

Robots continue to seek a market, albeit tinier and we confess, occasionally more amusing.

  • Samsung’s Ballie robot, about the size of an orange, will roll through your home minding your pets, monitoring your safety, and interfacing with your smart devices and apps to make absolutely sure you get enough exercise and track your fitness. That is, if you don’t step on it, mistake it for a tennis ball, or your dog doesn’t mistake it for a chew toy.
  • The Charmin Rollbot will deliver a pre-loaded roll when you most need it, navigating through your home, although no capability of climbing stairs in its current concept.
  • The Misty II robot is yet again one of those tabletop robots which are developer toys. This one propels itself and has a camera, a microphone and 3D sensors, and could be repurposed for fall detection, companionship, or to bring you a hot towel.
  • The Lovot is a Japanese robot at its second CES which moves around, responds, is red and quite cuddly-looking (except for that weird thing on the top of its head). This ‘happiness robot’ will set you back over ¥299,000 ($2,700) when it finally hits the market.

Babies need both monitoring and changing, and combining the two may actually happen. P&G’s Pampers and Verily Life Sciences brought to CES the Lumi smart diaper with a connected HD video monitor plus an activity sensor in the diaper. It will detect baby’s sleep, feeding and diapering patterns. (But no changing by the Charmin Rollbot)

Voice assistants are getting more ubiquitous to find a way into the home. The war between Amazon Alexa (and siblings) and Google Assistant continues with new applications in cars (a/k/a computers on four wheels) to appliances and a host of third-party devices like garage door openers. A lot of this is ‘sneaky tech’ to get past the hard core of people who have already realized that both always-on Alexa and Assistant collect a lot of behavioral data which one does not necessarily want collected, and that many of these connected devices like Nest have been hijacked through compromised passwords.

More in Fierce Healthcare 7 Jan, 9 JanMobihealthnews

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