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8 January 2016

Best of CES 2016: the annual “why is this a product?” tech show

Which products were on show at the annual tech extravaganza in Las Vegas?

By Emad Ahmed

The annual CES show in Las Vegas never fails to demonstrate the many ways humans use their precious brain power. Technology companies from all ends of the spectrum (and globe) come together to show off their latest services, products and concepts. The wacky laptops and incredible TV heaven/hell (delete as appropriate) which are brilliant exercises in technological decadence.

Wacky technological decadence aside, there is some true innovation and technical genius on display (pun intended) each year in Las Vegas. The best I’ve come across is Fisher-Price’s toy caterpillar called Code-a-Pillar (yes, you read that correctly), which aims to help kids in the world of computer programming.

Here’s a list of some of the most notable products to come out of this year’s event:

Samsung’s continued war against refrigerators

For some years now, tech giants have been obsessed with cramming computing bits into everyday objects and appliances, somehow making them “smart” and therefore automatically deeming them better than their bog-standard brethren. Enter yet another boring appliance with computing stuffed inside: a fridge.

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Yes, apparently a giant TV screen is needed to add calendars and photos to your fridge (something you can already do with these things called magnets and paper), which also allows you to see what’s happening inside the fridge without carrying out the hideously strenuous task of opening the doors. Fridge people, please stop.

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Fitbit unveils a hideous watch

Never mind the fact the Fitbit Blaze looks horrendous, but smartwatches are still a fad. Sales of the devices haven’t exploded the same way smartphones and other computing products did soon after introduction. Over the past two-three years, I’ve seen only two people in the wild wearing these things. But wait, this is Fitbit, it’s also a fitness device. Except, they’re not always accurate or reliable, especially when you look at the product reviews for this category as a whole.

What’s also interesting is the Federal Trade Commission’s chair Edith Ramirez admitting to wearing a basic pedometer out of privacy fears, as health trackers track very sensitive and personal information by their very nature. And if you’ve ever been annoyed by someone checking their phone during a polite conversation, it’s still always ruder for someone to check their watch. Fitbit’s latest attempt was met by a dive in the stock price.

Oral sex simulator for women 

The Fiera is a self-described “wearable” designed to increase blood flow to the female genitals through suction. The company behind this endeavour, Nuelle, has carried out an independent test with post-menopausal women who validated the effects of the device – but the overall sample size was 12. Nuelle aims to confirm the Fiera’s effectiveness in a peer-reviewed science journal, which would be a huge badge of approval for the device.

Sony’s new turntable

Analogue will never die. Well, not yet. And Sony is catering to this market of vinyl record customers and enthusiasts. What’s interesting about this device are the computing guts hidden beneath the clean look. The turntable can connect to a computer and allow for the conversion of vinyl sound to digital audio, and also enables editing through bundled software.

PowerPoint will haunt your commute

Harman designs audio and entertainment system for cars. And now it wants to kill that enjoyment by bringing Microsoft Office’s suit into the mix. While Sweden is leading the way by showing us that a six-hour workday is possible without bringing an end to corporate-based civilisation, Harman wants to make sure work never leaves you, even when you’re scrambling out of the office on a Friday evening. Look forward to Microsoft’s Clippy haunting your dreams with helpful suggestions.

A smoke detector detector

D-Link is a well-established networking company from the hotspot of Taiwan. However, its latest product is quite the head-scratcher. It’s basically a smoke alarm detector. (Yes, you read that correctly too.) It’s a small plug that detects your fire/smoke alarm making a sound, and can send you a text when such an event occurs. Call me old-fashioned but I prefer the old method of a neighbour calling me up and saying “OMFG YOUR FRIGGING HOUSE IS ON FIRE”. Anyway, look forward to not seeing this on a shelf near you.