Welcome to the future. Or rather, the future normal. That’s what I expect to unfold today from the Consumer Electronics Show here is Las Vegas. CES 2023 is back with full global participation and much of the usual innovation we have all come to expect from the show. Thinner screens (and foldable now too!), lighter laptops, more connected devices for the home, AI-enabled everything, VR headsets and lots of automation in automobiles. Reporting from the trade show floor all week, here are some of my early picks for the most non-obvious inventions to watch and why they are so interesting.
1. CRDL Therapeutic Instrument
Sometimes the most interesting inventions defy description and are rife with contradictions. The CRDL was the perfect example … a device that is a therapeutic tool, magical instrument and art piece all in one. It was easily one of the most beautifully designed products at CES this year, and won an innovation award too. The mission of the product is also magical, as it uses tones and human-centered design to enable more meaningful connections between people with physical or cognitive impairments such as dementia, autism, mental disabilities or visual impairments by translating touch into sound. “Different types of touch will trigger different sounds that enhance the emotional experience, enabling people to connect naturally and spontaneously.” The only thing that is a miss with this product is the terrible name. Obviously, “CRDL” is supposed to stand for “cradle,” but it looks like “curdle” or like the keyboard shortcut CTRL and is unnecessarily confusing. Name aside, everything else about the CRDL was a winner.
2. German Bionic Exoskeleton Suits
What if physically demanding jobs could be done by more people and more safely too? Promising to “revolutionize workplace safety,” German Bionic is showcasing a new exoskeleton that can reduce pain and injury in physically demanding jobs. Combined with other concept exoskeletons that can even allow the physically disabled to walk, this idea of physical enhancement through exoskeletons is one that could take off this year.
3. Agrist Harvesting Robot
The idea of Agtech (Agricultural Technology) may not immediately seem like a natural fit at a show about consumer technology … and it certainly doesn’t get many headlines. Despite the tendency of popular media to ignore the space, there were lots of fascinating innovations coming for the sector that are worth sharing. AGRIST, a Japanese agritech startup, introduced an AI-powered harvesting robot “capable of automatically identifying and picking harvest-ready bell peppers with millimeter precision through thickly layered leaves.” It won a 2023 CES Innovation Award in the robotics category. Other popular innovations included John Deere’s self-driving tractor that was a hit from last year’s show, food made using a microbe that can only be found in the acidic volcano springs of Yellowstone park and a 3D printing robot that is quite literally the modern equivalent of a food replicator.
4. HOLON Autonomous Transport Vehicle
Automotive concepts regularly get some of the most early buzz at CES, and it’s easy to see why. The concept vehicles are beautiful, the claims are bold and the implementation is often tantalizingly close. The Holon electric people mover, for example, is a public transit option designed to hold 15 people at a time and plans to run a pilot program in Germany later this year with US implementation to follow in 2025. The first uses of this likely will include private institutions like campuses, airports and national parks. Another urban transport option that seemed to be generating buzz was the Squad Mobility Solar City Car for urban commuters.
5. Beeyonder Virtual Tours
Walking in front of the water fountain at the Bellagio hotel at night is a magical experience. So magical that on an average night, you’ll witness dozens of people live sharing the moment with a loved one who isn’t there with them. Usually, this type of streamed experience is one that only a family member or friend would take the time to offer. Aiming to package this type of moment for wider distribution, Beeyonder is a startup that hopes to “help expand the traditional definition of travel.” The company works with a curated group of real live tour guides who will take you on a journey through their beloved cities in an intimate personalized format that might actually be the next best thing to being there yourself.
6. OWO Haptic Shirt
If you want to get more futuristic with your tech, you’ll probably enjoy this idea from OWO, a company that has a haptic shirt that can “reproduce an infinite number of realistic physical sensations. And since each body is different you can calibrate the sensations to make your experience unique.” Gaming is the obvious first application for this technology, but as the tech gets better, we’ll likely see it used in training and development for a variety of industries, to enhance the experience at live music concerts or sporting events, as a new dimension for immersive movies and in the healthcare industry as well for rehabilitation or in other areas.
7. OVR Technology Scent Cartridges
Scents can immediately take you to a place and enhance an experience, but they have always been notoriously difficult to recreate in an intentional way that uses technology. The latest attempt, from a company called OVR Technology, is a wearable device called the ION3 which carries a cartridge that can product “thousands of digital scents.” An app allows the user to access the content library and even compose their own unique digital scents.
8. CAPNOS Zero Flavored Air Vape
When college student Brendan Wang wanted to quit vaping, he found it near impossible. After trying unsuccessfully to quit and studying why fear-based campaigns or other methods for quitting just weren’t working – he landed on the insight that in order to help people quit, he would have to build a product that could satisfy their “oral fixations.” After two years, he built the CAPNOS Zero, a product that works like a vape, but with pressurized flavored air. To date, the company has shipped more than 20,000 units and have 75% of their customers indicating that they quit (a success rate far higher than nicotine gum).
9. Zoundream: A Baby Cry Translator
Can you use deep learning and AI to decode what a baby wants when it cries? Several companies at CES seem to think so. Zoundream is a startup using AI and sound recognition to “decipher a baby’s needs, emotions, and physical status [by] processing the sound into a series of inner deep-learning models to extract the meaning of a baby cry.” This isn’t a quirky one-off concept either. A Taiwanese company called Q-bear is offering a product to similarly decode baby noises as well.
10. Nowatch (pronounced “now watch”)
This is the world’s first “awareable.” What is that made up word, you ask? An awearable, apparently, is a device the helps make you more aware of your surroundings, reminds you to breathe and be more mindful, and could help you live in the moment.
According to the marketing materials, “you can restore balance and wellbeing, in this moment and every moment for a life more fully lived.” The different combinations of stones you can pick for the front offered an added layer of customization.
11. Aska Flying Car
It wouldn’t be CES without at least one concept of a flying car. What made this one interesting was the intentional design so that it could fold and fit into a regular parking space. After all, no matter how long we might enjoy flying to and from work, eventually we’ll have to park our flying car somewhere, right?
12. Withings U-Scan Urinalysis Toilet
You might have seen some coverage about this one already because it stands out. The idea that your toilet could become enable to provide you useful healthcare and wellness data is unique but not farfetched. The ambition of this tiny device, though, is to help with everything from improving nutrition and hydration to information that could optimize menstrual cycles and help “relieve women of the mental load that comes with monthly hormonal fluctuations [with] U-Scan, the world’s first hormonal-based cycle sync guide.”
13. Project Leonardo Accessible Controller for PlayStation 5
Efforts to make gaming more inclusive can help create innovations that are useful in other sectors as well, and the new Playstation accessible controller seems like this a perfect example of this. Sony shares that the controller was “developed with key contributions from accessibility experts, community members, and game developers, Project Leonardo is our codename for a new highly customizable controller kit that works “out of the box” to help many players with disabilities play games more easily, more comfortably, and for longer periods.
14. Nuwa Smart Digital Pen
This might be a “magical new way to write digitally.” That’s a good tagline but this beautifully designed pen does indeed seem to offer something magical. You can write with it like a normal pen on normal paper (and the integrated camera system will digitize whatever you write as you write it). This might indeed be the “Pen of the future.”
15. Leadax Sustainable Flat Roofing
Before we get too deep into great gadgets, let’s not forget just how much tech there is at CES that is reinventing just about every sector. Leadax makes sustainable roofing by upcycling used plastic – a timely reminder that solving many environmental problems in the world might start with rethinking the roof above our heads.
16. L’Oreal Brow Magic
Getting the perfect eyebrows used to require professional services like microblading, but now you can do it all at home with the L’Oréal Brow Magic, which helps people “achieve a personalized eyebrow look at home based on their natural brow and facial features.” The product can also scan your face and makes recommendations for microblading, micro-shading, or filler effects. Along with this new product, the Hapta is a “handheld computerized smart makeup applicator,” designed for people with limited hand and arm movement to better apply makeup. Both are results of the beauty brand’s investment in an incubator lab model that seems to be paying off.
17. Largo.ai Next Generation Storytelling
“Combine your gut feeling with artificial intelligence.” That’s the pitch for this tool that is designed to assist anyone in the filmmaking business with everything from casting suggestions using AI to script analysis. As many people start to wrap their heads around the potential of game changing AI tools, we will see many more of these niche implementations designed for very specific creative audiences and built with the intention of augmenting their creativity instead of replacing any one function or task.
18. Samsung Home Appliances
The home appliances at CES are always a fun category and this year there were a bunch of innovations that turned some heads. Apart from every manufacturer creating more eco-friendly designs, Samsung had some ideas that really stood out, like a smart oven that uses AI to prevent overcooking and washing machines that remove microplastics from your clothing to protect our water ways.
19. Roland Piano with Drone Surround Sound
To debut their 50th Anniversary Concept Model Piano at CES 2023, Japanese music brand Roland shared a concept that includes drones with speakers hovering to create a surround sound effect. In the process, they introduced a new concept in immersive entertainment that many people haven’t really been thinking about … drones for sonic displays. We already see drone fireworks displays. What would it be like to program a bunch of drones that are carryings sounds of different types and create it all as a sort of moving symphony? The mental picture in my head for this seems pretty cool. I’d love to see someone do this in real life.
How can we help young and old smartphone users alike to adopt good habits with their phones? ChatLicense has an intriguing solution — an “online smartphone diploma game” that lets users click through a series of questions and scenarios to learn how to best use their smart phone. The aim is “helping a new generation to use screens responsibly and resiliently.” This is brilliant on multiple levels. It uses the notion of a diploma you can earn as an incentive for users to actually finish it. And they use gaming as an easier way to make important lessons that many smartphone users never learn more accessible.
21. The Ampere Traction Timer
This device goes in a different direction than ChatLicense to address a similar problem. The Ampere Traction Timer is a personal lockbox that you can put your phone into and then set a timer for an amount of time that you’ll force yourself to remain apart from your phone for. After the allocated time, you can regain access to your device. A perfect gift for that family member or friend who has a complete lack of self control when it comes to their phone
22. Ashirase Navigation Tool
Rather than relying on voice-based navigation, this smart tool uses vibrations to help a wearer know where to go and how to navigate to where they want to go. It’s a great way to avoid walking in a new place and being glued to your phone for directions, and also a useful tool for the visually impaired or others with disabilities.
23. Nourished x Neutrogena Skin360 Skinstacks
Skincare brand Neutrogena teamed up with 3D printer for health and wellness supplements Nourished to create a series of daily skin-nutrient gummies they are calling Skinstacks. If you can get past the weird name, this concept of 3D printing customized wellness supplements based on an assessment of your skin type is an intriguing one to consider for all kinds of other categories of supplements that people typically get. When coupled with smart apps or health monitoring tools, the possibilities for this are huge.
24. Candela “Flying” Boat
The videos of this so-called “flying” boat have gone viral this week. From Swedish brand Candela, this is known as a hydrofoiling electric boat and minimizes pollution and wake while also riding above the waves for a more comfortable ride. Already being described as “the future of mobility,” the boats are generating a lot of buzz at the show.
25. Holo Industries Haptic Touchless Screens
The company behind the pioneering tech of holographic screens has been experimenting with adding a feedback response to a holographic screen. What does this mean? As they describe it, “for the first time, users can not only see a holograph —they can touch it, pinch, scroll, spin and manipulate any image in mid-air.” In other words, you can feel like you’re interacting with a real screen even though it’s just a floating hologram in midair. It’s no wonder they describe it as a “watershed moment for Human-Machine Interaction.”
How Were The Innovations On This List Selected?
Based on early reviews, interviews and research from the trade show floor here in Las Vegas for CES 2023, these technologies and products were the ones that stood out to us as fascinating, unusual and game changing. Our aim in selecting these was to offer a cross section of the fascinating ideas spread across the convention this week. For more, check out my playlist of video demos from CES 2023 >>