A pet collar that communicates whether a dog is happy or sad. A robot suitcase. A pair of jeans that gives directions.
These are all real things that real people can supposedly really purchase one day,on show at this year’s CES, the annual electronics show in Las Vegas.
Almost all of the major electronics brands – Sony, Samsung, LG and the like – are present at CES, but the real fun is exploring the smaller stalls. There are products for almost everything people could ever need. And plenty of products for things people would never need.
“Feel your pet’s mood,” says a sign at the Kyon pet tracker stall, above a picture of a rubber collar with LED text saying “moody”.
The Pet Tracker, which costs $249 and will be available in April, “learns the dog’s behaviours and translates them into mood”, said Nick Christakis, international sales associate at Kyon.
It also, Kyon says, stops your dog from barking, stops it from getting in a fight, and – if you want – flashes up a message that says: “I love you.” It will also, as the name suggests, track your pet’s location using GPS.
Christakis showed the Guardian a picture of a cat wearing the Pet Tracker at CES. The cat, who was attending the electronics show with its female owner, was called Nicholas. Christakis said Nicholas had enjoyed wearing the collar.
At times it was difficult to tell at CES whether something was a fancy new invention or not. At one point a suitcase rolled through a crowd of people, as if the owner had accidentally let it scoot away.
It turned out it was Cowarobot, “the world’s first robotic suitcase”, and it was following its owner around the convention center.
Irving Hall, sales and marketing director at the Shanghai-based Cowarobot, was the person being tailed. The upright suitcase has the now standard four wheels, one in each corner. But it also has two motorized wheels between them and a camera and a laser to follow its owner. It also comes with an electronic tracking bracelet, Hall said, as the camera doesn’t work very well outdoors. That seems like it might be a drawback.
The Guardian wondered how you would prevent the suitcase from losing its owner and following someone else off around an airport – a little like the plot of Home Alone 2 – but Hall said the Cowarobot could be “trained to detect you”.
The Cowarobot raised $554,646 through an Indiegogo campaign, and is selling for $699 on the crowd-funding website. Once it hits the mass market – sometime in spring 2017 – Hall said “we might bump [the price] to around seven, seven something”.
Elsewhere at CES, the Spinali vibrating jeans caught the Guardian’s attention. The pants connect with a mapping app on a phone, and the left leg vibrates when you need to turn left and vice versa. Someone can even text you their location and the jeans will march you off towards them.
Then there’s the Hubble Hugo, a camera which monitors your face to discern your mood (Hubble says it will be useful for monitoring a baby). And who could forget the Griffin Bluetooth toaster, which is a toaster with Bluetooth built into it, so one can set the toast level from a smartphone app instead of turning a knob.
Playbrush, originally funded through Kickstarter, looked like fun. It’s a little rubber device that fits onto the end of a regular toothbrush then connects with a game on a smartphone app.
There are a few different games, but the best one features a little character in the middle of the screen. The character is armed with some sort of stun gun and is being assailed by green “tooth monsters”.
Brushing the teeth on the left side of the mouth causes the character to blast the tooth monsters attacking from the left, and so on.
The game lasts two minutes, and at the end the tooth-brusher is presented with a score. Through the app a user can compare their score with others “worldwide”, said Lucanus Polagnoli, an investor in Playbrush. The less competitive can just compete against “classmates or parents”.
Polagnoli said his four-year-old son was quite taken with the game. At bedtime “he wants to do it”, Polagnoli said. “He says: ‘Can I play the game?’”
The toothbrush game is already on sale for $30 in the US, with a big advertising push planned for the end of the year.
In the meantime, Playbrush is about to release a new feature on its app which will alert parents when their child has properly brushed their teeth.
“As long as they don’t cheat,” Polagnoli said, “and do it outside their mouth.”