This is the year of the Robot Revolution. I’ve already run across more robots at CES, the Consumer Electronic Show, than I’ve ever seen here before. Some will help you tackle travel, others will get you where you’re going, and one, well, one of them just wants a little love.
Lovot is the anti-robot. It doesn’t dominate a daily task with superhuman strength or skills, and it’s not even really meant to be helpful. What it is, however, is a fluffy, fabric-covered mechanical companion with the smarts of a toddler and the charm to match. It scurries over to you when you call it and begs to be held. It responds to touch and loves to be cuddled, and will even doze off if you caress it for long enough.
It’s all strangely soothing, which I suppose is the whole point, but this adorable little bot is also equipped with some high-tech hardware. It can recognize and understand up to 1,000 different voices, and it’s easy to see how this mechanical “pet” could become a part of the family. But, at a pre-order price of expected to run about $3,000 when it hits the U.S. market in 2020, it’ll have to be a wealthy family.
The Ovis Suitcase from ForwardX Robotics is a bit more on the practical side of things and falls into my “I wish I had this before I left for CES” category. It’s a suitcase built for anyone who has ever run through an airport with their arms full, because this genius piece of luggage actually follows you around.
Imagine if self-driving car technology were applied to a suitcase that could drive itself. That’s essentially what ForwardX created, and the suitcase has built-in “eyes” that scan its surroundings, navigates around obstacles, and always keeps its owner in sight. A quickly-activated manual mode makes tackling stairs or an escalator a breeze. A wearable band alerts the owner if the robot gets hung up and falls behind. ForwardX hopes to have the Ovis Suitcase available at retail by mid-2019 at a still pretty steep price of $799.
From a suitcase that drives itself to a car that… well, doesn’t have to “drive” at all, Hyundai showed off an entirely new kind of concept vehicle. It’s a car with legs, and it’s called the Elevate.
The vehicle has a van-like cabin perched atop four robotic legs attached to wheels. The jointed legs allow the Elevate to “drive, walk, or even climb over the most treacherous terrain,” Hyundai says. The company is calling it the first-ever “Ultimate Mobility Vehicle,” or UMV for short. Hyundai says it’s perfect for emergency responders, who have a need to “go anywhere.” It’s still just a concept, and we’re a long way from seeing a “walking car” on a road or in a disaster area, but it’s a bold vision of what’s to come.
Of course, it wasn’t all robots that caught my eye. There are a few other gadgets that are sure to generate a lot of buzz, like the VOLO Beauty Go hair dryer which claims to dry your hair faster and with less fuss than the blower that’s already sitting on your bathroom counter.
It ditches traditional heating technology in favor of infrared light that, VOLO claims, dries your hair “from the inside out.” On top of that, it’s entirely cordless thanks to a built-in lithium-ion battery that recharges when placed back on its stand. VOLO says it’s the first salon-quality cordless blow dryer around, and it’s now available to pre-order via Kickstarter starting at $275.
While we’re on the topic of beauty, there’s one more high-tech item that really threw me for a loop, and it’s not even really a gadget at all. It’s a pair of “indestructible” pantyhose from a startup called Sheertex.
Creating a pair of pantyhose that won’t tear at the most inopportune moment sounds about as hard as inventing the light bulb, but Sheertex has done it by creating an entirely new kind of knit. The material is a patent-pending blend of some of the strongest fibers, including ballistic-grade material normally used in bullet-resistant vests.
I put the nylons through a serious torture test to see these if these “untearable” hose could stand up to everyday stresses and then some. It was really impressive. The material fights back against tears and pokes, and even stands up when it’s caught in the metal teeth of a zipper.
Outside of attacking them with a butcher knife, they’re going to stand up to just about whatever you throw at them. At a price of $99, they’re not cheap, but if you don’t have to repeatedly replace traditional nylons for a while you might end up saving money in the long run.
*This article originally ran in print for USA Today January 8th, 2019*