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

The Nexus Air Taxi could have Uber airborne within a decade. (Bell Helicopters)
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:

Burgers Minus the Beef

In its ongoing quest to invent the ultimate meatless burger, California-based Impossible Foods unveiled its “Impossible Burger 2.0.”  The gluten-free burger is made from soy and potato protein, and its creators say it has even fewer calories than its predecessor and no cholesterol. What distinguishes the Impossible Burger from the typical veggie burger is that it’s made from a plant-based version of heme, a molecule found in blood and that, according to the Impossible Foods folks, makes it taste meatier and juicier. The new Impossible Burger will make its debut in grocery stores this summer.

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