*This story originally aired/ran in USA Today 01/07/2020*
In the age of oversharing, the last thing I want is a smart, connected sensor on my skivvies. I mean, I’m already worried about my smart home speakers, connected TV and mobile devices eavesdropping on my every word. Can’t my privates be the one thing I keep … private?
Not if Myant’s new Skiin wearables take off. The high-tech textile company is showing off a new line of connected apparel – underwear, bras, shirts and sleep masks – at CES this week in Las Vegas. Company president and founder Tony Chahine gave us an exclusive look ahead of the show.
“The whole point is that tech should morph around the human, not the other way around,” Chahine explained when I immediately started cracking jokes about all the intimate details “smart” panties could uncover. “This is more about making tech less obtrusive, less of a hassle. Most of us put underwear on every single day, why not have our tech embedded in something we already wear?”
Myriad new privacy issues aside (for now), the undergarments actually make sense. They feature a tiny sensor-laden “pod,” about the size of an Apple Watch (40mm) with actuators knitted into the material.
The bras, panties, briefs and boxers can track and monitor basic vitals, such as heart and breath rate, stress levels, temperature, sleep, exercise and more. Like other wearables, it can beam that information to an app, and you can share insights with loved ones or medical professionals.
Chahine says eventually people could use Skiin clothes to track more serious conditions such as Alzheimer’s, driver fatigue or even fertility issues. “This is a revolutionary new interface between the human body and all of our needs,” he says. It’s expected to launch sometime this spring, in the $250-$300 price range.
The Star Trek Tricorder comes to life
If you’re a fan of Star Trek, you’ll love the MedWand, the closest gadget to a Tricorder that I’ve ever seen. The small scanner puts 10 medical diagnostic devices in the palm of your hand so that a doctor can examine you through a computer, no matter where you are in the world.
Hold the device to your chest and it listens to your heart or lungs. Pass it back and forth across your forehead, without even touching your skin, and it takes your temperature. It can measure blood oxygen level, scan your skin or peer at your tonsils when you open up and say “ah.”
“This is the future of health care,” Dr. Samir Qamar, CEO of MedWand, told me. “There will come a time when you get sick, you’ll have this sitting next to your computer, make an appointment online, and the doctor can examine you without you ever having to leave your house.”
The MedWand is expected to cost $399 when it comes out in the United States in mid-2020.
Intel’s folding laptop a glimpse of the future
If you think folding phones are cool, wait until you see Intel’s 17-inch foldable OLED prototype 2-in-1 laptop they’re calling “Horseshoe Bend.”
Both Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold and Dell’s Concept Ori – also unveiled at CES today – use Intel’s technology in their latest folding screens, but the company’s own “FOLED” concept goes even further into the future.
When flat, it’s one seamless HD touchscreen. Fold it in half and it curves into a laptop, with a screen still where the traditional keyboard would be. You can swipe in one motion from the top screen to the bottom, watching a video on the top and scrolling through the internet on the bottom. Or you can turn the bottom half into a traditional-looking touchscreen keyboard. Bend it out to one large screen again and pop-out a Surface-style kickstand on the bottom and it’s like a giant tablet.
Why would we ever want or need this? That’s a question I asked all of the Intel execs we spoke with today. The answer? This is what consumers keep asking for – a device that morphs like a transformer to meet the exact kind of work they’re doing at the moment. I expect we’ll see this kind of gadget within the next two years.
Inupathy: It’s like a mood ring for your dog
On this theme of putting sensors everywhere, and I mean e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e, Japanese-based Langualess showed us the Inupathy smart harness – which is kind of like a mood ring for dogs.
The device is an oval-shaped disc sporting a heart rate monitor, onboard processor and LED display that slips into the harness you clip around your dog’s chest. The device monitors, records and analyzes your dog’s emotional states, using an algorithm based on how a dogs’ heart rate spikes when they’re stressed or anxious. The gadget sends a corresponding color via LED lights: rainbow for happy, green for relaxed, beige for interested, pink for excited and purple for stressed. Pair it with an app to get additional insights into your pups’ mood.
I thought this was just fun fiction until a woman walked up with her guide dog and we were able to try it out, unrehearsed, in real-time. Sure enough, Inupathy turned beige when she issued a command, lit up like a double-rainbow when she praised him and showed green as all get-out when he was just chilling by her side.
The company doesn’t know when they’ll ship product to America yet, but it’s on sale in Japan for about 3,980 yen, which is just under $37.
Stranded with no toilet paper? Rollbot to the rescue
We’ve seen dozens of cute and quirky robots throughout the years at this show, but finally, there’s one that’s practical, too. Charmin’s prototype Rollbot pairs with Bluetooth on your smartphone, so the next time you’re “stranded on the toilet bowl,” but just happen to have your smartphone handy (because everyone uses the smartphone on the commode these days, right?), you can call Rollbot to the rescue. The little bear-faced bot balances on two wheels and delivers a fresh roll of TP to your side.
No word yet on how he wrestles a roll out of a package or up a flight of stairs, and there are no opposable thumbs to open a door. But we can all dream, right?
Bridgestone reinvents the wheel
Well, it’s 2020 and finally, someone has reinvented the wheel. Bridgestone created a puncture-proof tire made from recyclable resins and rubbers they’re calling the “Advanced Air Free” tire. You read that right. The fact there’s no air in it means it can’t go flat. The idea is to use it on a variety of vehicles, including next-generation bikes. The company says it puts tire tread on a unique structure of super strong and highly durable spokes that offer extended/uninterrupted mobility. That means the tires can last longer, is better for the planet, and if you think of it in terms of someone in an electric scooter or wheelchair…it gets even more poignant.