Every year in January there is a massive conference in Las Vegas called CES, or the Consumer Electronics Show. This is an opportunity for companies to showcase their latest in tech gadgets. Big trends for this year include wearables, health tech and ‘smart’ home products. There is also an entire area of the show dedicated to technology for kids and parents, as well as a set of awards called the KAPIs (Kids At Play Interactive).
Most of the products are awesome, but let’s be honest, there is also a lot of weird shit in there. Below is a summary of this year’s hits and misses for kids and parents. [Prices in USD and availability are included when known].
Great Products for Kids
Many of these are KAPI award winners but all are sure to delight kids, young and old.
- Fisher Price’s Code-a-pillar If you are in to electronic toys, this one is a great way to teach young kids to code and keep them busy. The Code-a-pillar is a modular design with body pieces that each represent a different command for the toy (forward, turn, stop). Kids assemble the pieces and start the sequence. Then they can reassemble in any pattern they like. [$50, available in June]
- Lego’s WeDo This small robot set was originally designed for school use but is priced low enough for personal use. It comes as a basic body with add-ons. An app controls the programming. Plus it’s Lego so you can build on it. [$160, available now at Lego Education Store]
- Zing’s Stikbot Winner of the KAPI Creativity Award. I am a big fan of this one. Remember those stop motion films we did as kids? This allows kids to do the same thing with their own devices. You can purchase one Stikbot or a whole set. The app lets you shoot a stop motion movie with them and then later add in backgrounds and music. [starting at $8, available at Amazon and Toys R Us]
- Mattel’s View-Master Winner of KAPI Best Product for Older Children. The easiest way to foray in to Virtual Reality (VR) without breaking the bank. The Mattel View-Master will actually allow you to turn any smart phone in to a VR device. It is based on the Google Cardboard platform, which I have used and it works surprisingly well. [$30, available now from Mattel]
- WonderWorkshops’ Dot and Dash Winner of KAPI Best Hardware. This was the robot toy of the show. Dot is a camera and Dash is a moving robot with wheels. You can buy them separately or in packs. They use sensors and lights. Kids can program them to do almost anything, except maybe their homework. [starts at $50, available now from Amazon and direct from Wonder Workshop]
Great Products for Parents
Parenting is the hardest job in the world, but these tech tools are all designed to make the job easier, and safer.
- 4Moms Self Installing Car Seat Who would think installing a baby seat in a car would be so difficult? If you’ve done it correctly, you know it is. This new car seat for infants will self install in the right way and monitor itself to make sure it stays that way. [$500, available in June]
- First Alert Baby Monitor First Alert has a series of smart home monitors including cameras and sensors for security and safety. Their new camera has functionality that allows you to monitor someone’s breathing and alerts you when it changes or falls outside a given threshold. They will be marketing this camera as a baby monitor for parents worried about their baby’s breathing. Honestly, if this works, it would be great beyond babies and for anyone with respiratory issues including carbon monoxide poisoning. [unknown release price and date]
- Diet Sensor CES Innovation Award winner. This is what science fiction is made of. The new DietSensor is a small device (about the size of a credit card but thicker) that ‘reads’ the molecular cells of your food, looks them up in a database in the cloud and returns the information to your device. More simply, you point the laser device at your broccoli and it tells you how many calories, carbs and fat it has. It is being marketed for diabetics and people on controlled diets. As the tech evolves, I am hoping it will be able to let you know what allergens are in the food as well. Not yet, but it’s a start. [unknown price, available mid-2016]
- Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator Several companies have made versions of a ‘smart fridge’ in the last few years but this one looks like it may actually work. It includes a screen on the outside and cameras on the inside. Next time you are at the grocery store and are wondering if you need milk, you can log in and check pictures of your fridge’s interior. Better, you can use the external screen to tie in to grocery delivery so that when you notice the milk is low, you just hit one button and it automatically orders it for your next pre-set delivery date. The screen also has a family calendar and other useful apps. [$5000, available in spring]
- Fitbit Blaze – For all the fans of the FitBit who wished it was also a watch, your wish has been granted. [$250, available from FitBit and other retailers online]
Great Products to mock at your next dinner party
You either love these or hate them but these products really make me wonder what these companies were thinking.
- Sen.se’s “Mother” Monitor She sees you when you’re sleeping, she sees when you’re awake. The new “Mother” sensor comes with 4 motion cookies (you can buy more) that you can affix to anything in your house from your kid’s toothbrush, to your coffee machine to the front door. Basically it’s like having a nagging mother around. “Did you water your plants?”. “”Are you sure you about that coffee? You’ve had 4 today”. Though it sounds neat to be able to monitor everything, there are way less invasive and less creepy ways to do it. [$300, available from their website]
- First Response Bluetooth Pregnancy Test This one was clearly designed by someone who never used a pregnancy test. Pregnancy tests already worked, no app needed. The features are so mind-blowingly awful that it got its own blog post here. [$20, available spring 2016]
- Laundroid Many people have a pile of clean laundry somewhere in their house that needs folding. Why not introduce a 6ft tall and 3 ft wide machine to do it for you? Because that’s silly, that’s why. The Laundroid takes your pile of clean and unfolded laundry and folds it all for you… at several minutes per piece. [Assume expensive, not available yet]
- CleverPet Treat Dispenser Do you remember the electronic game Simon? Think this.. for dogs and cats. Now I have 2 dogs so I value having them entertained during the day but buying an electronic device that dispenses treats when they succeed at a game seems odd to me. What happens when they run out of treats? What if the device runs out of batteries? Hell, what if your pet is not clever enough to solve it? Another product solving a problem that doesn't exist. I’ll stick with Kongs. [price unknown, later 2016]
- SensorWake alarm This product was one of the most talked about products at CES. Rather than waking up to the sounds of an alarm clock, SensorWake offers you a sensory experience like no other. You can wake up to the smell of coffee, chocolate, mint, croissants, seaside or jungle. My question is, has anyone actually tested that a smell would wake you from sleep? Even if you smell it every day? Not to worry, if you don’t wake to the smell, an alarm will sound after 3 minutes anyway. Yup, now you get to pay a premium for scent cartridges and an alarm that’s just like the free one you probably already have. [$89 US, pre-order now on their website for June delivery]
The future looks bright... and a little weird.
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