When 175,000 people and 4,500 tech companies descend on Las Vegas for the world's largest technology conference, CES, it gets a little exhausting trying to keep up. There is certainly no shortage of inspiring new ideas and trendsetting new gadgets, but there's also plenty of strange and absurd technology to make you wonder.
With that in mind, here are the five most strange and interesting things I encountered this week:
Most Interesting: Ballie
At one point during the Samsung keynote as the company's CEO spoke, a small, grapefruit-size ball-shaped robot joined him onstage, as pictured above. The pitch was that what we really need in our lives is a robotic life companion who follows us around, captures our lives in photo or video, and activates the Roomba when the dog spills a box of cereal on the floor.
Those are actual examples given as to why you might want to add "Ballie" to your home. It was definitely interesting, but somehow I'm not sure the world is quite ready. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but that's why we bought a labradoodle.
Most Overhyped: Neon
Creating the first artificial human is quite the ambitious goal, and Neon (which is backed by Samsung's Star Labs) thinks it has it figured out. At least, that's the impression the company gave from its press release and preview. In reality, it's just a little strange. While the company says that the goal isn't to create visual versions of Alexa or Siri, the truth is that's probably where we're heading.
It's also conceivable that someday you'll be greeted by something that resembles one of these A.I.-powered digital beings when you walk in the bank. For now, though, it's mostly just interesting, but not quite there.
Most Tested: Zero Gravity and Massage Chairs
Most of the massage chairs I've seen are usually at a Sharper Image store in the mall. That is, until this week. That's because the people who attend CES are apparently very stressed. There were massage chairs everywhere, including the latest from companies like HumanTouch and D.Core, who are now everyone's favorite stop on the show floor.
I didn't get the opportunity to sit in a chair, which is fine since I'm not overly eager to sit in a chair after about 1,000 other people have lain there to de-stress. But as I walked past the various booths with rows of chairs, it was clear that all those stressed-out tech insiders had finally found a place to lie back and relax. Which is why these might be the most tested-out products at CES this year.
Most Absurd: Charmin RollBot
Can you spare a square? Charmin's CES displayed robot, "RollBot", that can be summoned by a smartphone and carries a spare roll to its owner (Photo Credit: James Titcom). pic.twitter.com/wxmDkwCZFL-- Margot Sandy (@MargotSandyNPD) January 8, 2020
Running out of toilet paper while you're, well, in need of toilet paper is apparently a problem ripe for disruption. Enter the Charmin RollBot, a robot that has one purpose--to deliver you a new roll in your moment of need. Truthfully, you won't see these for sale any time soon, or ever for that matter. Definitely absurd.
Most Extravagant: Smart Faucets and Espresso Machines
Moen and Kohler both introduced models that are Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa capable, meaning you can activate them with just your voice. There's nothing a kitchen needs in 2020 more than a voice-activated smart faucet. Of course, as the "smart home" becomes more and more connected, companies are going to continue integrating the technology into basically everything.
Considering you generally still have to be standing at a sink to use a faucet, are we really at a point where we need voice control of those? Useful, but still kind of absurd, and definitely extravagant.
Of course, CES is all about getting a look at what's next. Some of these things will likely never end up in your home, but it's certainly interesting--if not entertaining--to imagine where technology is headed. Plus, as entrepreneurs, it's inspiring to see what happens when people bring their ideas to life, no matter how absurd or strange they may seem to the rest of us.