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:

Now That's Some Loyal Luggage

Why lug a suitcase all over an airport when you can have one that moves along with you on its own. That’s the idea behind Ovis, luggage created by a Chinese company called Forward X Robotics. It comes equipped with cameras and uses facial recognition technology and a movement tracking algorithm to lock in on its owner and stick with her or him at a speed of six miles per hour. Ovis is even able to avoid collisions as it makes its way through crowds. To make sure it doesn’t stray, the suitcase comes with a smart wristband that vibrates if it gets more than six feet away. It also has two USB ports so it can serve as a charging station. But perhaps best of all, Ovis has embedded GPS, so you can always track it if it goes missing. The buddy bag is expected to go on the market within the next few months at a suggested retail price of $799.

* 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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