Another edition of the Consumer Electronics Show has come and gone, and as with most years, it was ground zero for a host of technically-but-not-really-smart things that have little practical value or actual chance of coming to market.
If you’ve ever had a hankering for internet-connected water bottles or fitness-tracking belts, CES was the show for you.
For everyone else, the pickings were a little more slim, but there were still some gadgets that are worth keeping an eye on as we forge into the new year. Here’s a handful that gave me reasons to be hopeful.
Now, it's got the latest Intel Core chips, what should be a more precise trackpad, LTE support, all the ports you could want (save an SD card slot), and a truckload of configuration options, including options for a fingerprint scanner, IR camera, NFC, and plenty more power. It even has an Ethernet port! And it all comes in a design that's neither thick nor heavy.
We'll have to test it for ourselves to be sure, and the whole thing will cost more than AUD$2,000 either way, but based on past experiences the X1 Yoga should be a wonderful mix of portability and productivity.
LG calls this the 'Wallpaper TV' -- and given that it measures just 2.6 millimetres thick, the nickname fits. LG has put out beautiful OLED TVs for the past few years, so there's little reason to think this 4K HDR set will be any different.
It's going to be obscenely expensive, though -- likely five figures -- and it can only be mounted to a wall. Fortunately, CES 2017 was the show where OLED TVs started to signify they're here to stay: Sony's new Bravia A-Series OLEDs, Samsung's QLEDs, and LG's standard OLEDs all looked wonderful as well.
And if you can't afford to drop thousands on the best of the best, TCL's newest P series of Roku TVs start at about $679 and promise better picture quality, 4K HDR support, and the same nifty Roku interface.
While the Rokus, Chromecasts, and Fire TVs of the world get more attention, Nvidia's Shield TV has spent the past two years as a powerhouse at the top of the media streamer market.
Now, it's been updated with a smaller design, a better game controller (which you can use to play games with Nvidia's limited but quietly improving GeForce Now service), and Google Assistant support, which lets you control smart home appliances as if it was a Google Home speaker. There's 4K and HDR10 support, too (just no Dolby Vision).
You'll still have to deal with Android TV's shortcomings, but given that the Shield will support Amazon Video, one of its biggest gaps has been filled. At about $300, it will likely be overkill for most, but it's taking the 'all-in-one' idea more seriously than any of its peers.
The Doppler Labs Here One continue to come off like a more technically advanced and less goofy-looking version of Apple's AirPods.
We've told you about these things before -- to sum, the Here One are a pair of truly wireless earphones that can also manipulate the sounds of the world around you. With a few taps and swipes in its app, you can activate noise-cancelling, layer streaming audio over the real world, or even make it so you can hear what's happening in one direction more clearly than others.
I was able to try a finalised design of the Here One at CES, and suffice it to say they shouldn't garner as many stares as the AirPods. They fit comfortably and sounded pretty solid as well -- though, at $400, they'd better.
We'll still have to test their Bluetooth quality and battery life -- the two things that have held almost all of these things up thus far -- but if everything holds, the Here One could kick off the 'hearable' onslaught in earnest.
Here's a fun one. The Sevenhugs Smart Remote is a universal remote for the Internet of Things. You pair it with your Sonos, Apple TV, Philips Hue lights, Xbox, Nest thermostat, or what have you, place a handful of discrete motion sensors around your living room, tell those sensors where your stuff is, then watch as the virtual controls on its 3.5-inch display change based on where it's pointed. Essentially, it melds the companion apps of various connected home devices into one gadget, with WiFi, Bluetooth, and an IR blaster all built in.
So, when you point at Hue lights, you get sliders to change their colour and intensity. When you point at a media streamer, you can adjust the volume or pick from a handful of app shortcuts. If you point somewhere with multiple gadgets, you can swipe through separate icons and change accordingly. You can also make it so pointing at a particular spot in your room calls a service like Uber.
Sevenhugs says it's got support for most of the major home devices and services already -- the PlayStation 4 is the big missing one, for now -- and that the battery should last two to three days on average. We can't say how accurate and smooth it is until we're able to use it ourselves (though it felt fine in a during a quick demo), and the device itself will cost a very pricey $400. But if you're all-in on the smart home, there's the potential for a delightful little accessory here.
Mohu has been making simple HDTV antennas for years, but the AirWave is its first stab at making them smarter. You don't actually wire it into your TV; instead, you download a companion app, connect it to your local WiFi network, then have the AirWave's tuner pump free over-the-air channels like Fox, CBS, and so on pumped over the internet and into the app. It will present what's on those channels in a tidy little channel guide, too.
You won't be able to watch those stations outside of your home network, but if don't want to be planted in front of the TV just to watch what's on, the AirWave should give you the freedom to move around. Mohu says it's working to build free online streaming channels into the app as well. Again, we can't confirm how reliable it will be -- worst case scenario, there's an Ethernet jack in the back. And again, it's going to be expensive -- expect it to cost a whopping $200 when it arrives. But the idea is sound for cord-cutters.