There's no escape from tech that keeps you alive, awake and wired

From flying cars to wireless televisions to diagnostic urinals, the greatest gizmo show on earth reminded the world that technology will rule our lives even if some of us are luddites

By Chidanand Rajghatta

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Published: Wed 11 Jan 2023, 9:39 PM

Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic, the famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once said. Nowhere does the magic unfold better than at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where the likes of David Copperfield, Penn and Teller, and Siegfried and Roy have plied their wares for years. Returning to near-normalcy after being disrupted during the Covid years, CES 2023 unfurled a dazzling array of technology, apps, devices, gadgets and gee-gaws to electrify Bob Dylan's fantasy of a "fish that walks and a dog that talks."

From flying cars to wireless televisions to diagnostic urinals, the greatest gizmo show on earth reminded the world that technology will rule our lives even if some of us are luddites. Particularly if we remain luddites. Years ago, Walter Lippmann said humankind "cannot endow even the best machine with initiative; the jolliest steamroller will not plant flowers." Well, on current form displayed at CES, the steamroller will jolly well not only plant flowers, but also see it to fruition and on to the market, with the operative words being "smart"-everything and artificial intelligence.

Of course, many of the devices and displays are still at the conceptual or trial stage and some may not see the light of day. Others will flop, in keeping with the critique that technology is humankind's ability to complicate simplicity. There will be as many devices that will be considered useless as useful. But even if some of the advances are authenticated and brought to market, the world would have taken another step towards tech manna.

In keeping with our continued thrall of automotive vehicles, there was the promise of flying cars from the French company ASKA, a four-seater electric vehicle that its creators say can travel by road and up to 400 km BY AIR on a single charge, and an electric car from the Dutch start-up Lightyear that promises 800km on the road on solar power delivered by a tip-to-tail array of solar panels that line the hood, roof, and trunk. BMW, which came to CES 2022 with an iX Flow concept car that could change colors and even display, extended it this year by bringing emotions into play with an i Vision Dee concept, with “Dee” standing for “Digital Emotional Experience” which uses the cars invisible controls and hidden buttons for a mood enhancement. From the east, Sony and Honda have collaborated to produce Afeela, which promises a driving and interior experience connected to over 40 sensors, while LG showed off a 57-inch LCD panel designed to span the width of a car’s dashboard.

Size, power and clarity too are what dominated the TV market with ever larger and sharper screens from the likes of Samsung, LG, TCL going up to 110 inches and 8k displays, including screens that can be snapped together. Notwithstanding the danger of falling off the wall if the batteries run out, Displace, an in-home entertainment start-up, rolled out the "world's first wireless television" that you can stick to the wall and also combine 55-inch screens to produce ever larger displays.

Similar visual display pyrotechnics animated the laptop world with Samsung rolling out a prototype tablet with a foldable 10.5-inch display you can extend to 12.4 inches and another with a 13- to 14-inch screen that slides out from both sides to become 17.3 inches. Lenovo rolled out its YogaBook 9i featuring TWO 13.3-inch touchscreen displays, allowing you to have two monitors for enhanced productivity. It also includes a stylus for writing on the screen, a Bluetooth keyboard for typing, and a folding kickstand which allows you to use the laptop's monitors in a top-and-bottom or side-by-side configuration.

Some of the most useful advances though came in the area of healthcare and medicine, often sans frills. ViraWarn, a re-usable breathalyser test from Opteev Technologies that can detect Covid, RSV, and the flu and is undergoing clinical trials; Evie, a smart ring from Movano focused on women’s health that can monitor heart rate and variability, menstrual and ovulation cycles, sleep stages, skin temperature, and oxygen saturation; Lingo, a biowearable from Abbott that has a sensor the size of a quarter to be worn on your body to measure activity in your body; and in-home urine tests from Vivoo and Withings, including a device that can be dropped into the toilet to make health assessments.

If the outsized role of technology in our lives keeps you wired and awake, consider the Citizen CZ Smart wearable that uses AI to combat fatigue and decide ideal times for the wearer to sleep and wake, or Nose Metal's motion pillow that self-adjusts to increase airflow to your nose and throats based on inputs from a wireless monitor. And sleep well. There is no escape from technology.

- The writer is a senior journalist based in Washington.


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