Seven Unforgettable Inventions Unveiled at This Year’s CES

From a self-driving suitcase to a flying taxi, these concepts made a splash at the huge trade show in Las Vegas

smithsonianmag.com

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:

Riding High

It’s just a matter of time before Uber goes airborne. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of its partners, Bell Helicopters showed off what it’s calling the Nexus Air Taxi. A hybrid-electric propulsion aircraft that seats four passengers and a pilot, it uses six large tilting rotors to enable it to take off or land vertically from rooftops. The Nexus will have a range of 150 miles and a top speed of 150 mph. Augmented reality also may be part of the flying taxi experience, possibly through flight details or sightseeing info projected on to the windows. The Nexus is expected to make its pilot flight next year, with a goal of operating in several major cities by the mid-2020s. See for yourself.

* 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.

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