Whether it was the uplifting iHeartRadio sessions with pop stars Billie Eilish and Dua Lipa or my avatar falling down the elevator shaft of P&G’s LifeLab in an endless loop, the first all-digital CES was like a glitch in the matrix. As entertaining as it was surreal and beaming with optimism for all of the possibilities ahead.
Featuring a live anchor desk hosted by KTLA’s Rich DeMuro and YouTubers Justine Ezarik (iJustine), Naomi Kyle and Brian Tong, with over 100 hours of programming viewable through February 15, CES 2021 from bed was the most relaxing way to explore the world’s largest tech show which last year hosted 170,000 people across nearly 3 million square feet of exhibitor space. The new digital platform is sure to be a welcome companion when the physical show returns to Las Vegas on January 5-8, 2022.
Although there were no robots to play ping pong with, CES 2021 did present a showcase of intelligent machines to help us live our best pandemic lives. Full of whimsy and personality, here are the ones that stole the show.
Samsung’s cinematic pre-show press conference presented an array of robotic companions known as cobots. These included Bot Care, a personal assistant that can read emotions, and Bot Handy, a robotic arm on wheels that can chop and dice, serve up drinks and do the dishes. Although both still in development, coming to market the first half of 2021 is JetBot 90 AI+, an autonomous vacuum with camera, LiDAR and 3D sensors that can clean as well as surveil.
Other key announcements included Samsung’s Solar Cell TV remote which can get a two year charge off indoor light and an upcycling update that now includes instructions on how to turn Galaxy phones into pet monitors and all of its TV eco-packaging into animal shaped furniture.
To prove AI is core, LG had an artificial Instagram influencer @reahkeem introduce its new CLOi UV-C robot. As part of LG’s commitment to combating Covid-19 through technological innovation, this robot comes equipped with LiDAR sensors and ultraviolet light to autonomously navigate and disinfect high traffic environments like hotel rooms, restaurants, public restrooms and airports. Expected to ship this April upon FDA approval.
Other eye-catching products included LG’s PuriCare air purifying mask, a PuriCare personal-sized air purifier to take on the go, and LG’s Smart Mirror with thermal scan which can call your doctor if it detects fever. LG also has opened up its ThinQ platform for third party app development and announced integration with meal kit service Tovala with LG’s line of connected kitchen appliances.
Softbank Robotics America’s marketing chief Kass Dawson was on-screen discussing robots coming to the rescue. He talked about the U.S. deployment of Softbank’s autonomous cleaning robot, Whiz, and humanoid, Pepper. Both gained notoriety as the duo greeted guests and sanitized spaces in Tokyo’s coronavirus hotels at the start of the pandemic.
Even Verizon had a robot to show off as it introduced the Verizon 5G Lab partnership with Ghost Robotics, a seed startup based in Philadelphia developing tele-operated Q-UGVs (Quadrupedal Unmanned Ground Vehicles) for U.S. military and homeland security operations.
Sony drew an audible gasp across social media when it unveiled its Airpeak Drone with breathtaking footage of the imperial black quadcopter soaring through snowscapes chasing after Sony’s Vision S concept car with a Sony Alpha camera. Airpeak marks Sony’s first foray into drones and is expected to target professional cinematographers. Street date not yet announced.
The most stunning reveal was that of GM’s Cadillac Halo flying taxi. CNBC reported that news of GM entering the eVTOL (electrical vertical takeoff and landing) space along with the announcement of GM’s new all-electric Brightdrop logistics division and EV600 vans spurred a market rally that pushed the company to a $70 billion market cap. CNBC also reported that the autonomous vehicle was being designed to hold one passenger and travel 56 mph between rooftops.
Lastly, Bosch announced an AIoT apprenticeship to assist with hiring 17,000 associates for projects like Astrobotic’s Cube Rover, an ultralight, rechargeable, autonomous off-planet robot being developed for intelligent navigation and wireless charging on the moon. Shoebox-sized and weighing in at five pounds, the miniaturized vehicle can scout solo or convoy and can carry its own lunar payload. Funded by a $5.8 million grant from NASA, Bosch is working in partnership with Astrobotic, WiBotic and the University of Washington. Prototype targeting mid-2023.