The show floor of this gargantuan trade show doesn’t officially open until Tuesday, but for journalists, the festivities began Sunday night with an event called “CES Unveiled” at which scores of companies presented their current and future (sometimes wishful thinking) products to hundreds, perhaps thousands of journalists in a room that never has enough room. Many of the products I saw will be available later this year. Some are still trying to get funding and may never get off the ground. Some may become superstars, others never heard from again. It’s tough to guess which ones will make it. We did see several that we think are worthy of some attention.
We first saw Whill at CES three years ago, where it basically turned the notion of a wheelchair upside down. At CES Unveiled the company showed off a new model, the Ci that takes the revolutionary concept of what they term “an Assistive Personal Mobility Device,” a step further with a sleek machine with pretty amazing capabilities, portability, and bears little resemblance to your father’s wheelchair. It breaks down into three pieces, each weighing between 30 and 40 pounds, so it’s transportable. It will run ten miles on a single Lithium-Ion battery charge.
What’s really interesting is how cool looking it is. It doesn’t have that old school wheelchair kind of impression. Nor does it look like one of those senior putt-putts that people hop on. It has a modernistic, “hey I’m on a fun ride kind of impression.”
From the earlier version, Whill brought over its “Omni-Wheel”. Each wheel is self-powered and designed for traction on hills or even rough outdoor terrain. And each wheel can turn independently, allowing it to have a very tight turning radius. It’s built to navigate tight doorways and confined spaces indoors while also handling the outdoors.
The Whill Ci is also connected, with a smartphone app, and GPS tracking, so if the user gets stuck he can easily be located and rescued. Price is $3999, which, all things considered, is pretty reasonable. You can find out more at their website.
The Robotic Aflac Duck – This turns out to be one cool great product. But unlike almost anything else at CES not only is this not for sale, but it will likely never be for sale. This robotic AFLAC Duck officially called My Special Aflac Duck is a charity project, underwritten by the insurance company. The intent is to give one to every child who suffers from cancer in the US. It was designed by Sproutel, a startup toy company specializing in robotic toys. Aflac is working with hospitals to pay for and distribute the duck, which costs about $200 to make. The toy is specifically designed to be a comfort to kids going through chemotherapy and comes complete with its own chemo port, where the child can do a mock infusion. It makes soothing noises (unlike the television version) and will cuddle when the child holds it close. You can find out more about the project here.
Moodo The Smart-Home Fragrance Box – This is a bit like the Keurig coffee capsule system, only this is for aromatherapy. It comes with twelve different fragrances. Among them, you’ll find Lavender, Sandalwood, Precious Spices, and Midnight Thrill. The capsules each last for seven hours, though you can mix and mingle them to create custom aromas. You can use an app to change them because people get used a single smell and stop noticing until you change it. The plug-in version is $189. A version with rechargeable batteries is $209. The devices and the spice capsules are available on their website, https://moodo.co/
Helite Hip’Air – The first wearable airbag hip protector. It’s designed to protect anyone who is prone to falling, especially seniors, from often devastating hip fractures. You wear it around your waist. And if you take a fall, it will automatically pop open, the way an airbag does inside a car. When a fall is detected, both airbags deploy automatically before you hit the ground. It can be adjusted to any of four sizes. It uses a rechargeable battery that lasts for a week between charges. The system comes with a gas generator, an electronic falls detector, and the two airbags. Unlike your car, these airbags are reusable. It’s from a French company and expected to be available in the U.S. later this year. Price is $790. You can get more information at http://www.hip-air.com/en/