Every January more than 180,000 people show up at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to stroll around in a Future World. It’s where the world’s cutting-edge consumer technology goes on display, sometimes to great effect, other times to raised eyebrows.
But the show, which ends today, has become one of the best indicators of where technology is headed, and what trends and innovations are likely to become part of our daily lives in the years ahead.
This year’s big themes were not all that surprising. Artificial intelligence is everywhere; now every gadget is smart. Drones are getting bigger and better. Health tech is bursting with potential. And, TVs will be even fancier, including one with a screen that unrolls from a base when you want to watch something, then rolls back out of sight when you’re done.
CES 2019 also provided an opportunity to see how the war of the smart speakers is playing out. Both Amazon and Google made a point of showing how ubiquitous Alexa and Google Assistant are becoming as features of appliances and gadgets. Amazon still dominates the market, but Google hoped to impress the CES audience with the rollout of Google Assistant Interpreter Mode, which enables a person to converse in another language in close to real time, and Google Assistant Connect, which helps third-party hardware makers integrate the Assistant into their gadgets.
But the real charm of CES comes with discovering inventions that just might move us in new directions. Here are seven to remember:
A Diabetes Breathalyzer
There’s good news for the millions of people who have to regularly prick their fingers to test their blood sugar levels. AerBetic, Inc, a Birmingham, Alabama firm, has developed a wearable device called the AerBetic that can alert people with diabetes to potential problems.* Designed to be worn as a bracelet or pendant, it’s able detect, from exhaled breath, gases indicative of blood glucose levels and can then send a text to a smartphone if those levels have become dangerously high or low. AerBetic can also send patients regular reminders to check their blood sugar and also can forward information directly to caregivers. The goal is to use artificial intelligence to allow the device to adapt its sensors to the person wearing it.
* Editor's Note, January 23, 2019: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the maker of the AerBetic was a San Diego firm called AerNos, Inc, when, in fact, it is made by the Birmingham, Alabama-based AerBetic, Inc. The story has been edited to correct that fact.