A wristband that will help you say "no" to junk food. A machine that will mix drinks for you.
These were among the gadgets showcased this week at the CES technology conference in Las Vegas.
The four-day show, which opened Tuesday, is a place for companies to unveil their products and services for the coming year, though Apple, Google and other tech giants often hold their own announcement events. Streaming services and surveillance technologies are among the hot topics this year.
Here are some highlights from the show:
A London startup believes it can help you make healthier diet choices at the grocery store — using your own DNA.
DnaNudge collects your DNA through a cheek swab and sends data related to nutrition to a wristband.
Have a genetic predisposition to high blood pressure? Maybe the wristband will tell you to stay away from salty snacks. You scan the barcode on a product, and the wristband turns red or green to indicate whether it may be good for you.
A few services have popped up to map DNA in the hopes of helping people make better diet choices, though some scientists say genetic makeup is just one of many factors in living a healthy lifestyle.
Currently, DnaNudge does cheek swabs only in person in London, but it's working on a mail order service. The company says it destroys all DNA records after giving you the wristband.
No need to shake or stir. These machines will mix cocktails for you.
They're like Keurig coffee machines, but for booze. Drop in a pod filled with ingredients, slide in a glass, and less than a minute later, you'll have a martini or a Moscow mule.
In fact, one of the gizmos is made by Keurig. Drinkworks by Keurig sells for $299 and can make cosmopolitans and fizzy drinks, such as vodka sodas. Each pod makes one cocktail and costs about $4.
Another robotic bartender, the $350 Bartesian, sells pods for $2.50 each, but they don't have alcohol. Instead, you fill canisters with your own whiskey, vodka, gin and tequila. The pods mix in juices, herbs and other flavorings. A touch screen on the Bartesian lets you choose how stiff you want your drink. There's even an option for alcohol-free "mocktails."
Both machines sit on a counter or table at home. The companies hope to target those who like to host parties but don't want to stock a bar, don't know how to make drinks or would rather push a button than spend time putting together a mojito.
"We do all that for you," Drinkworks CEO Nathaniel Davis said. "And then allow you to spend time with your guests."
HERE TODAY, HACK TOMORROW
Some people go to CES to glimpse the future of consumer technology. Others are looking for the future of what's going to get hacked.
Cybersecurity firm McAfee says it uncovered security flaws in two gadgets on display.
One is an internet-connected device for opening garage doors. McAfee's threat research team says the MyQ Hub made by Illinois-based Chamberlain Group could be hacked by jamming the radio frequency signals while the garage is being remotely closed. That could lead it to open instead. Chamberlain says it's fixing its app to prevent this, but chances of a real-world hack occurring are "extremely low" and based on an unlikely chain of events.
McAfee says it also discovered a flaw in British startup McClear's "smart ring," which uses near-field communication wireless technology for unlocking doors. McAfee researchers demonstrated how hackers could easily clone the ring and gain access to a user's home. McClear didn't immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Tuesday.
PRIVACY BY VOICE
Google is adding a privacy "undo" feature to its Assistant voice technology.
Just tell Assistant to disregard something if you happen to notice the device was listening when it wasn't supposed to. By saying "Hey Google, that wasn't for you," Assistant will delete whatever you just said. Although Assistant is supposed to send voice commands out for processing only when it hears "Hey" or "OK, Google," it can mishear other conversations as the trigger word.
Another new feature will let you use your voice to ask Google about your own privacy settings.
The new features supplement privacy controls Google rolled out last year to let people delete their voice recording histories with voice commands. That came after pushback that Google and other companies were using human transcribers rather than just machines to listen to some audio recordings.
Assistant will also debut new tools such as household notes, which lets people leave virtual notes with voice commands for other members in their families. The notes will show up on Google's smart Nest Hub displays as reminders.
A ROBOTIC FRIEND
Samsung's idea for your new robot friend is a simple ball that rolls along beside you. Its name: Ballie.
The technology within Ballie is anything but simple. The artificial intelligence companion has a camera that can record and send video. Ballie can communicate with other smart devices around the house.
In its keynote at CES, Samsung showed the bright yellow ball — about the size of a baseball — rolling behind H.S. Kim, CEO of the company's consumer electronics division. It kept its distance from Kim when asked to, and a video showed Ballie as a companion to pets at home alone.
"It's a vision of technology as an all-around personal life companion," Kim said.
Ballie's unveiling was part of Samsung's efforts to show how AI can offer conveniences, peace of mind — and in this case, companionship.
Samsung didn't say when Ballie would go on sale or how much it would cost. Samsung's chief research scientist, Sebastian Seung, said Ballie would come with strict privacy standards, but didn't offer details.
The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft has returned to Earth after being released from the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday, bringing multiple scientific samples and gears.
The spacecraft left the space station at 5:05 a.m. U.S. Eastern Time, starting its 5-hour journey home. It splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at about 10:41 a.m., approximately 200 miles (320 kilometers) southwest of Long Beach, California, according to U.S. space agency NASA. A recovery ship is expected to retrieve the capsule from the sea.
SpaceX, NASA's cargo provider, launched the spacecraft on Dec. 5 in 2019 in a resupply mission to the ISS.
The spacecraft carried over 1,600 kg of experimental materials and other cargo back from the space station. Among them is a faulty battery charge-discharge unit, which failed to activate following an installation of new lithium-ion batteries on the space station's truss in October 2019.
Another experiment back home is a test examining the effects of spaceflight on tiny aquatic animals, called rotifers, which are found highly resistant to radiation on Earth. Also, results of how a naturally occurring protein deal with radiation during long-duration spaceflight missions have been returned.
Dragon does not burn up on reentry and so is best suited to ferrying material that needs examination, not disposal.
The 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the world's premier consumer electronics show, is just around the corner. It runs from Jan. 7 to 10, but features a two-day preshow chock full of revealing corporate presentations and press conferences hosted by the big boys of the industry on Jan. 5 and 6th.
CES is considered the largest and most influential tech trade event on the planet, where the entire technology ecosystem from top-tier giants to emerging start ups come together to do business and cross-pollinate ideas and innovations.
The convention boasts over 4,500 exhibitors, developers, manufacturers, and suppliers specializing in consumer tech hardware, software, content, and delivery systems.
Besides the many deals transacted there, its main claim to fame is as the world's premier showcase for unveiling cutting-edge technology and next-generation innovations by the industry's top pioneers and trend-setters that will go on to reshape the consumer experience.
Here are some of the top trends and innovations anticipated at this year's show.
Mega-screen, 8K, OLED TV's and much more. As streaming giants lure more viewers out of the cinemas and back to their living room couches, big-screen TVs are surging in market share, leading to some fierce competition between TCL, LG, Samsung, and Sony, with other manufacturers, like Vizio and Hisense, expected to weigh in too.
8K TV prices are still beyond most consumers' reach at about 3,500 U.S. dollars, though Chinese multinational, TCL, now the 2nd best-selling TV brand in the world, is applying downward price pressure to make these TV's more affordable.
Additional innovations will continue to be developed, such as MicroLED, rollable OLEDs, and Dual LCDs, but are not likely to be affordable in volume for some time.
5G is "the big enchilada" - the Holy Grail that many of the major electronics firms are pursuing. We expect to see significant advances in speed, efficiency and reliability of 5G this year that will impact virtually all sectors, most notably, communications, entertainment and digital health. Near-term, we will likely see more laptops equipped with mobile broadband capability to provide 5G hotspot access, as needed, until real 5G networks are fully deployed.
"Immersion" is the buzzword for AR and VR as they come of age. Players want to feel and interact as much as possible with their cyber-realities. This year manufacturers and developers will be moving beyond goggles alone, to cyber shoes, gloves, chairs, full-body cybersuits, and more, that will enable players or workers to feel, as well as see and hear, the breezes, the bullets, the punches, while they fend off zombies, storm the castle or otherwise be present in the virtual worlds they choose to inhabit.
Nothing inflames the imagination as much as robots and this year, building on the surge in products last year, they will be coming in all shapes, sizes and species as they continue to become more sophisticated and technologically complex.
From workplace robots to home vacuums to kitty companions, there will be something for everyone seeking cybernetic products.
In counterpoint to the Terminator's malevolent Skynet, CES 2020 will also be addressing how robots can help humans, save lives, preserve the environment, explore outer space, find technical glitches in key equipment, enhance health care and recovery and be a friend.
Wearable tech is exploding and we will see lots of innovation in fitness, fashion, social-sensing, health and communication. Wearable tech devices will include sleep monitors, smart fabric, fitness sensors, and much, much more.
Augmented Reality is also moving from workplace apps to innovative consumer apps in things like next-generation wearable tech-heavy glasses.
SMART HOMES, IOT KITCHEN APPLIANCES
CES's cutting-edge entrepreneurs will be invading the kitchen with dozens of cool ways to increase the functionality of our cooking spaces. As the heart of the home, people spend a lot of time in the kitchen and time-saving devices have dominated kitchen design trends since the bad ole 1800s.
This year, we expect to see many time and cost-saving IoT WiFi-connected kitchen devices from refrigerators to ovens to pantries to coffee makers, that track the stock in your cupboards, generate grocery lists, order groceries delivered online, scan your labels for healthy recipes, generate healthier alternatives and self-run your oven.
FOLDABLE SCREENS, DUAL SCREEN DISPLAYS
Foldable phones are in the lead, but foldable computers and dual screen laptops are on the way too. These are still in the development stage, but are ramping up to be a hot commodity by year's end of 2020 and 2021, as flex-screen technology enables screens to be seamlessly doubled or even tripled in size by unfolding them.
Lenovo, Microsoft and Asus all have foldable projects in the works that could come sooner than expected.
REMOTE HEALTH MONITORING
Healthcare providers are seeking to free themselves from the constraints of wearable tech and have been exploring AI tech and computer vision devices that could enable more remote sensing of health conditions.
They could use data on patients or user movements, breathing rates, sounds and more. This is anticipated to be especially useful for things like baby monitors that can be accessed remotely via WiFi.
The battle between online and console games is likely to continue to heat up, as the shift toward mobile and cloud-gaming continues, supported by devices from Google, Apple and Microsoft that do not need consoles for good gameplay and can be accessed across multiple devices.
The convenience and ease-of-use of cloud or mobile-based gaming continues to entice more consumers into the gaming world, a trend that is not likely to slow down. New CPUs and GPUs could also be in the offing, with speculations that AMD, Intel and Nvidia may be making announcements this year at CES.
As the world grows smaller and more connected, it was only a matter of time before the "Universal Translator" in Star Trek, the instantaneous translation device, became commercially viable.
Now, there are multiple devices targeting this category and we are likely to see some stunning new ones unveiled this year, like Longogo's 100 language translator that does not require a smartphone connection.
With global climate change playing havoc with weather systems around the globe, with urban space becoming prohibitively expensive and consumer trends for local produce growing, agriculture is increasingly turning to indoor modular farming solutions that give them local options, reliability and control.
At CES 2020, we are expected to see indoor modules that can control humidity, temperature, water, fertilizer, CO2 levels and quality control all with the touch of a button.
Guess who's getting used to working with robots in their everyday lives? The very same warehouse workers once predicted to be losing their jobs to mechanical replacements .
But doing your job side-by-side with robots isn't easy. According to their makers, the machines should take on the most mundane and physically strenuous tasks. In reality, they're also creating new forms of stress and strain in the form of injuries and the unease of working in close quarters with mobile half-ton devices that direct themselves.
"They weigh a lot," Amazon worker Amanda Taillon said during the pre-Christmas rush at a company warehouse in Connecticut. Nearby, a fleet of 6-foot-tall roving robot shelves zipped around behind a chain-link fence.
Taillon's job is to enter a cage and tame Amazon's wheeled warehouse robots for long enough to pick up a fallen toy or relieve a traffic jam. She straps on a light-up utility belt that works like a superhero's force field, commanding the nearest robots to abruptly halt and the others to slow down or adjust their routes.
"When you're out there, and you can hear them moving around, but you can't see them, it's like, 'Where are they going to come from?'," she said. "It's a little nerve-racking at first."
Amazon and its rivals are increasingly requiring warehouse employees to get used to working with robots. The company now has more than 200,000 robotic vehicles it calls "drives" that are moving goods through its delivery-fulfillment centers around the U.S. That's double the number it had last year and up from 15,000 units in 2014.
Its rivals have taken notice, and many are adding their own robots in a race to speed up productivity and bring down costs.
Without these fast-moving pods, robotic arms and other forms of warehouse automation, retailers say they wouldn't be able to fulfill consumer demand for packages that can land on doorsteps the day after you order them online.
But while fears that robots will replace human workers haven't come to fruition, there are growing concerns that keeping up with the pace of the latest artificial intelligence technology is taking a toll on human workers' health, safety and morale.
Warehouses powered by robotics and AI software are leading to human burnout by adding more work and upping the pressure on workers to speed up their performance, said Beth Gutelius, who studies urban economic development at the University of Illinois at Chicago and has interviewed warehouse operators around the U.S.
It's not that workers aren't getting trained on how to work with robots safely. "The problem is it becomes very difficult to do so when the productivity standards are set so high," she said.
Much of the boom in warehouse robotics has its roots in Amazon's $775 million purchase of Massachusetts startup Kiva Systems in 2012. The tech giant re-branded it as Amazon Robotics and transformed it into an in-house laboratory that for seven years has been designing and building Amazon's robot armada.
Amazon's Kiva purchase "set the tone for all the other retailers to stand up and pay attention," said Jim Liefer, CEO of San Francisco startup Kindred AI, which makes an artificially intelligent robotic arm that grasps and sorts items for retailers such as The Gap.
A rush of venture capital and private sector investment in warehouse robotics spiked to $1.5 billion a year in 2015 and has remained high ever since, said Rian Whitton, a robotics analyst at ABI Research.
Canadian e-commerce company Shopify spent $450 million this fall to buy Massachusetts-based startup 6 River Systems, which makes an autonomous cart nicknamed Chuck that can follow workers around a warehouse. Other mobile robot startups are partnering with delivery giants such as FedEx and DHL or retailers such as Walmart.
Amazon this year bought another warehouse robotics startup, Colorado-based Canvas Technology, which builds wheeled robots guided by computer vision. Such robots would be more fully autonomous than Amazon's current fleet of caged-off vehicles, which have to follow bar codes and previously mapped routes within warehouses.
The tech giant is also still rolling out new models descended from the Kiva line, including the Pegasus, a squarish vehicle with a conveyor belt on top that can be found working the early-morning shift at a warehouse in the Phoenix suburb of Goodyear, Arizona. A crisscrossing fleet of robots carries packaged items across the floor and drops them into chutes based on the zip code of their final destination.
All of this is transforming warehouse work in a way that the head of Amazon Robotics says can "extend human capability" by shifting people to what they are best at: problem-solving, common sense and thinking on their feet.
"The efficiencies we gain from our associates and robotics working together harmoniously — what I like to call a symphony of humans and machines working together — allows us to pass along a lower cost to our customer," said Tye Brady, Amazon Robotics' chief technologist.
Brady said worker safety remains the top priority and ergonomic design is engineered into the systems at the beginning of the design stage. Gutelius, the University of Illinois researcher, said that the aspiration for symphonic human-machine operations is not always working out in practice.
"It sounds quite lovely, but I rarely hear from a worker's perspective that that's what it feels like," she said.
Gutelius co-authored a report published this fall that found new warehouse technology could contribute to wage stagnation, higher turnover and poorer quality work experiences because of the way AI software can monitor and micro-manage workers' behaviors.
A recent journalistic investigation of injury rates at Amazon warehouses from The Center for Investigative Reporting's Reveal found that robotic warehouses reported more injuries than those without.
Reveal looked at records from 28 Amazon warehouses in 16 states and found that the overall rate of serious injuries was more than double the warehousing industry average. Amazon has countered it's misleading to compare its rate with rivals because of the company's "aggressive stance on recording injuries no matter how big or small."
The Reveal report also found a correlation between robots and safety problems, such as in Tracy, California, where the serious injury rate nearly quadrupled in the four years after robots were introduced.
Melonee Wise, CEO of California-based Fetch Robotics, which sells its autonomous robotic carts to retailers and other clients, credits Amazon's Kiva acquisition for propelling innovation in the industry.
But she said that Amazon's system forces workers to do "un-ergonomic moves" such as reaching up high or crouching down to pick out and stow inventory into the shelves-on-wheels.
"They have robots that live in cages," she said. "Our robots are designed to work safely around people, which is a very large distinction between the two systems."
Amazon hasn't disclosed how its safety record at robot-powered warehouses compares to those without. But company officials remain optimistic that Amazon workers are adapting to the new technology.
At a visit with a reporter earlier in December to the warehouse in North Haven, Connecticut, Brady was explaining the workings of a powerful robotic arm called a "palletizer" when crates it was stacking on a pallet started tumbling over. Unfazed by the temporary malfunction, he watched as an employee disabled the machine, discovered an apparent structural weakness in the pallet, adjusted the stack of crates and let the robot get back to work.
"His ability to problem-solve that was like this," Brady said, enthusiastically snapping his fingers. "What I love about that is it's humans and machines working together."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday unveiled prototypes of a domestically produced electric car, putting him closer to fulfilling a long-held dream of building Turkey's first "national" automobile.
Erdogan showcased the SUV and sedan models of the car, known for now as TOGG after a consortium of Turkish companies that will produce them, at a ceremony in Gebze, in Turkey's northwestern industrial heartland.
The president was scheduled to test drive a car across a suspension bridge over the Gulf of Izmit. He offered to put his name down on a possible list for advance orders. The Turkish vehicles are expected to hit the market in 2022.
"We are witnessing a historic day, realizing a 60-year dream," Erdogan said. "I know that our people is impatiently waiting for the day they can own this car."
The Turkish leader has long pushed industrialists to build a domestic automobile as part of his vision for making Turkey an economic powerhouse.
The vehicle is being produced by a consortium of five Turkish companies called the Automobile Initiative Group of Turkey, or TOGG, in cooperation with the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges.
Turkish media reports said the car was designed by Italy's Pininfarina design company, which has created models for Ferrari and California-based electric car maker Karma.
Erdogan said the cars would be produced in a factory to be built on former military-owned land in the province of Bursa. The factory, scheduled to be completed in 2021, is expected to employ 4,300 people.
TOGG cheif executive Gurcan Karakas said Turkey hopes to produce five different models of the car within 15 years.
The TOGG is Turkey's second effort to produce a Turkish-made automobile. During the 1960s, a group of Turkish engineers built prototypes of a car called Devrim, or Revolution in English,. The project was later abandoned.
Several foreign brands, including Ford and Toyota, are assembled in Turkey.