There had been a time when the International CES trade show was considered to be waning, when technology companies chose to launch products and technologies on their own terms and in their own events. Even Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) pulled out as keynote presenter after 12 years, signalling what could possibly be the end of an era for consumer electronics.
But with the Internet-of-Things and mobility on the rise, hardware and consumer electronics have become in vogue again. This year, CES continues to give a nod to startups from around the world that aim to catch the attention of potential partners, investors, media and users, with interest in hardware, software, platforms and other technologies that aim to catch on with mass appeal.
If you’re attending CES in Las Vegas this coming week, or perhaps simply observing the keynotes and presentations from online sources, you will want to note that the Eureka Park Marketplace — the event’s official startup-centric exhibit — is now 59% larger in terms of floor space compared with 2014. This year also features a concentrated exhibit from Israel and France, which have quite a big representation of up-and-coming tech firms, compared with other countries. In total, there will be at least 370 startup companies showcasing their wares at CES this year at Eureka Park alone. This does not count events run in the sidelines, as well as startups sponsored by the academe and other organizations that will vie for exhibition space through startup competitions.
Here are a few startups that might be of interest:
Virtuix Omni. This VR startup first caught attention at CES last year as a viable companion to VR goggles like the Oculus Rift. The Omni is a platform that enables users to “walk” around a virtual environment through special shoes and a slippery surface. At CES this year, Virtuix is launching what will be the final or release version of the Omni, which should hopefully be available to consumers who want that full-on VR experience.
Be warned, though: using the Omni involves being strapped into the contraption with a diaper-like harness, which may be uncomfortable or even embarrassing. But we can see the multitude of applications here, including from gaming to military/situational training or even virtual tours.
Butterfleye. Connected homes have been yet another highlight of the previous year’s CES, and the trend seems to be continuing this year. According to Butterfleye, Dropcam was just the beginning of consumer-grade (and often also SME-oriented) Internet-connected cameras. Butterfleye ups the ante with what it considers an intelligent algorithm, combining several sensors (infrared, thermal, motion, light, sound, WiFi) to activate. It is also wireless and cordless, enabling users to situate the device anywhere at the home or office. We only hope it won’t be used by unscrupulous individuals for spying.
Carbon Flyer. Launched as an Indiegogo project, the Carbon Flyer is a $190 crash-proof drone built from carbon-fiber and designed with a low-drag, high-speed delta-wing shape. The drone is controlled by smartphone via Bluetooth. This poses range questions, of course. And even if the drone itself is resistant to crashes, we can’t guarantee it won’t cause trouble for stuff it crashes into.
Connected Cycle. Not everyone drives or rides a car to work, school or to get around town. For avid cyclists, Connected Cycle incorporates smart features into any bike through a custom pedal, which automatically records speed, routes, elevation and calories burnt. It even alerts users if one’s bike is stolen, and users can track the whereabouts of the bike through a smartphone app.
Empire Robotics. One inherent advantage of humans over other beings is our use of opposable thumbs, which enables us to handle objects and tools (not to mention use touchscreen smartphones). Robots may not be that articulate, though, given differences in how the human hand and skin grips even odd-shaped objects. Empire Robotics wants to change this by incorporating a ball-like device called the VersaBall, which offers a flexible and secure grip for objects of various sizes.
FlyKly. FlyKly’s Smart Wheel converts any bike into a pedal-assisted electric bike which gives a boost up to 25 Km/h for 40 miles on a single charge. The trick is to replace the rear wheel with FlyKly’s wheel, which also comes with a smartphone app for location, performance and charge tracking. Now if only FlyKly can design a similar wheel that can convert any car or motorcycle into a hybrid.
Genisyss. If it sounds like the title of an upcoming SciFi film with futuristic/time travel themes, it’s somewhat close. This startup has developed a “DNA capsule” that essentially stores your DNA information into a thumb drive sized devices, in which you can store samples of your DNA. Perhaps one day, when scientists discover how to clone human beings or parts (which comes with big moral repercussions, of course), these tools might come in handy.
Know Roaming. For frequent travelers, roaming can be expensive, and switching to a local prepaid SIM is a better option to save on costs (and sometimes to get better service). But switching SIMs can be an inconvenience, and not all phones support dual SIM setups. Know Roaming is an add-on sticker that goes on top of your existing SIM in a one-time application. It will then determine whether you’re at your home country or network, or roaming, and will use either your default network or its own prepaid roaming network accordingly.
My Brain Tech. Noting how stressful life can be, this startup has designed a product called Melomind, which helps get rid of stress through a mix of sounds and other stimulus. We reckon the helmet can also be tweaked to magnify your telekinetic powers and prevent telepaths from accessing your thoughts. Kidding, of course.
PetCube. There are connected cars, connected homes, connected devices, and now connected pets. PetCube is a device that lets users monitor their pets and even talk to them remotely. It also comes with a laser pointer that helps you keep kitty engaged.
Umoove. This startup has developed precise facial and eye tracking technology with the use of any camera, mobile devices included. According to the company, applications include gaming and other fields that require the study of eye and facial movements (including advertising and marketing, of course).
These companies and technologies are just a drop in the bucket amongst startups and established firms that will have a presence at the International CES this week. From the sampling, there is an indication that the Internet of Things and connected devices will continue to have a strong following. The question, however, is which technologies will actually gain traction and get good execution after CES.
Stay tuned for more as VR World covers the event on the ground.