Forget TVs or VR, even phones! CES 2017 brings forth some pleasant quirks | tech$news | Hindustan Times
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Forget TVs or VR, even phones! CES 2017 brings forth some pleasant quirks

tech Updated: Jan 05, 2017 19:27 IST
A showgoer uses two smartphones before the Nvidia keynote address at CES in Las Vegas, January 4, 2017.

A showgoer uses two smartphones before the Nvidia keynote address at CES in Las Vegas, January 4, 2017. (REUTERS)

You can step out of the awe-zone for a while and forget TVs, smartphones or virtual reality. Because this year there have been some pleasant quirks at the show. Some of them range from wrapped text gifting boxes to innovative e-commerce solutions. Here are some of them:

Ah l’amour

One of the most whimsical gadgets at CES is the Lovebox, a device that doesn’t have much further use than wrapping up a text message like a present.

The wooden box plugs into an outlet and connects to Wi-Fi. A heart on the outside spins if you get a message. It will keep spinning until you open the lid. A digital screen then displays the message, ideally a message of love.

You decide who can send you love notes through the Lovebox mobile app. Messages are limited to 160 characters. You can reply with a digital heart by rotating the heart on the box.

The box comes from the French startup. It launched in France over Christmas and is due to hit the United States in June.

True love, of course, comes at a price: $120 for one box or $220 for two.

Fridge Cam

Nest and other home security systems let you spy on your home if something seems awry. Now you can spy on your groceries.

British company Smarter is launching the Fridge Cam, a small round camera for your fridge. It takes a picture every time you close your fridge door, so you can see if you need bread or sundries if you’re at the store. It also uses visual recognition tools to alert you if you need to replace something. You can sign up for automatic reorders via the app, and it can alert you when products are due to expire.

Similar technology is already built into smart refrigerators, but those are pricey — Samsung’s Family Hub starts at $5,600. Smarter’s Barnaby Sellars says you can instead “spend $149 and turn your refrigerator smart.”

The product is among those being demonstrated at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas this week.

GAP -- reinventing e-commerce

Gap is testing a smartphone app that will let customers try on clothes without stepping foot in a dressing room. Gap’s DressingRoom app uses avatars to help people understand how products will fit. People can then buy what fits online.

Gap calls this augmented reality, a technology that involves overlaying virtual images — such as clothing — on top of a real-life image. But in this case, the choices are limited to five pre-determined body types, rather than the actual photo of the potential buyer. The AR part is just the ability to physically walk around the avatar to see how clothing looks from various directions.

The app will come out this month, but will work only with phones sporting Google’s Tango augmented-reality technology — namely Lenovo’s Phab2 Pro and Asus’ just-announced ZenFone AR. The clothing chain, which also operates Banana Republic and Old Navy stores, unveiled the app Wednesday at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas.

Wayfair, Home Depot and other retailers have been embracing virtual reality and augmented reality to help shoppers figure out ways to decorate homes. But clothing retailers have been slow to embrace the technology. The question is whether it will be something more than just a gimmick.

The move by Gap comes as shoppers spend less on clothing and more on experiences like beauty treatments. When customers do buy clothes, they’re increasingly going online. Gap has also been struggling with a lack of compelling clothing, resulting in a long-standing sales slump.

Faraday Future

A startup carmaker, Faraday Future, is promising again to have electric cars roll off a new $1 billion assembly line in southern Nevada in 2018.

Faraday showed off a prototype at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas. Tuesday’s demonstration had the company’s four-door, 1,050-horsepower FF 91 model clocking 0-to-60 mph in just under 2.4 seconds.

Faraday Future officials say the car’s battery allows a travel range of up to 378 miles, and a modular design will allow for a faster rollout of future models.

Company executive Nick Sampson didn’t say when construction would resume at the factory site, where work was suspended in November. Nevada pledged up to $335 million worth of incentives to attract Gardena, California-based Faraday Future to North Las Vegas.

Carnival

Carnival, the operator of such cruise lines as Princess, Holland America and Carnival, is unveiling new concierge technology designed to help crew members anticipate and respond to passengers’ needs.

A waiter, for instance, could bring a guest’s favourite cocktail before she asks, or someone could remind a lounging guest that a yoga class is about to start. Carnival hopes to boost loyalty and ultimately sales.

The development comes as the leisure-cruise industry plays catch-up with travel peers like hotels and airlines, which now let you unlock rooms with a smartwatch or fly with a boarding pass on your phone. Carnival is announcing the system on Wednesday at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas. It’s scheduled to debut on the Regal Princess cruise ship in November.

Comcast

Comcast is hoping to make Wi-Fi in the home faster through an updated router — the machine that serves as data traffic cops for Wi-Fi networks.

Although home internet speeds have gotten faster, laptops and phones on Wi-Fi might still feel sluggish because older routers can’t transmit data as fast.

Comcast’s updated router costs $10 a month and comes with a modem. It’s the same price as before. Customers can still buy their own equipment and save money over time. Comcast is also offering extenders to help Wi-Fi work all over a house, though the company wouldn’t say what it might charge.

Eero, Starry, Google and Luma are among the companies that have fancy new router systems, but they start at more than $100 and run as much as $500.

Fewer than 5 million Comcast customers, mostly those on the most expensive internet packages, will get the new high-powered router this year. The company says it could take years to reach the bulk of its more than 24 million customers.

Another 10 million customers with the company’s existing routers will get a software update by March to make it easier to set up parental controls and install “smart” thermostats and other internet-connected appliances. These features also come with the new routers.