Innovative Spirit

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

smithsonian.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:

Plenty of Dough

In what could be yet another landmark in world domination, robots are now able to bake bread from scratch. Well, almost. Humans still need to provide the ingredients, but Breadbot can take it from there. It can bake 10 loaves an hour, including several different types—white, whole wheat, honey oat, sourdough and nine grain. The bread requires few preservatives because it’s meant to be purchased fresh. Breadbot, the creation of the Wilkinson Baking Company in Walla Walla, Washington, is designed for grocery chains and convenience stores, not home kitchens. Customers use a menu to punch in what kind of bread they want and six minutes later, it’s warming their hands. The robot has close to 100 sensors to ensure the proper weight, ingredient density and temperature, although love does not appear to be part of the process.

* 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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