CES 2019News

Strolling luggage, singing robots, smart tractors — just another day at CES

Imagine being stalked by … luggage. Self-rolling luggage.

Can it be arrested for slowly trailing you with sinister intentions, keeping just a pace or two behind you? Will it be charged with Aggravated Baggage Harassment? Or is it just flirting so you’ll buy it a cocktail at the airport bar?

Concoct any scenario you like as you gaze at luggage remotely roaming the exhibitor floor at CES 2019 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, where all things are possible, even probable, and someday soon (if not already), available.

“Look, it’s a carry-on you don’t have to carry!” raves the rep at the “ForwardX” artificial intelligence (AI) booth as the computer vision-guided luggage follows obediently behind him in a demonstration. However, an onlooker adds a caveat: “Yeah, as long as it doesn’t go to the wrong gate!”

‘It’s cool to see artificial intelligence being used in an actual, real industrial application, in this case, agriculture.’ – CES attendee Cliff Sharples
As is customary at these shows, the promoters promote. And the naysayers? They … nay. “The problem is it doesn’t carry much, it’s mostly motors and batteries,” says attendee Jerry Norton, on his 36th tour of CES. “It’s only 15 pounds, I can carry that myself!”

Looking around CES is to be blinded by the future. Overwhelmed by a sensory tsunami. Reminded that today is already yesterday, tomorrow can’t wait to dawn, and next century feels a week away.

And it’s also to be slightly unnerved by the head-spinning rush of it all, set to a cacophonous soundtrack of international languages and dialects, as if The World Itself has dropped in on Las Vegas in one massive invasion. Which, in fact — with 155 countries represented — it has.

Where to begin? Let’s start with everywhere and go from there. Realistically, though, you can’t go everywhere here. Not even a portion of a fraction of everywhere.

Pacific Northwest’s BreadBot, which can produce 10 loaves an hour with no human intervention, is seen during the first day of CES Tuesday, January 8, 2019, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau)

After all, we’re talking approximately 4,500 exhibitors spread out over around 2.9 million square feet of space at a dozen venues around town, mingling amid 18,000 fellow minglers. It’s enough to drive you straight to that Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop stand (all the way over there?)  for a turkey sub and a nap.

And yet, at the Convention Center’s South Hall, we power on through a labyrinth to end all labyrinths, gliding past the JD.com booth sporting the Chinese e-commerce company’s latest in drone delivery technology. Want it fast and futuristically cool, even at the most remote villages on Earth? Get it from this red and white, four-propeller, half-electric/half-gas-propelled thingamabob that resembles an overgrown model airplane with a FedEx fetish.     

What else ya got? What else ya got?  Well, we won’t get to them all, but there’s the smart mirrors, the sleep-tracking headsets, the 3D holograms and the smart breast pumps. 

Right this way, though, through the DisplayLink XR booth, where screens of animated goons menace us in a game called Gorn, a violent, gladiator-style contest showing off the joys of wireless virtual reality. Bystanders chortle as curious gamers in masklike wireless headsets try it out, their hand controllers waving their way through glorious destruction unfolding on pristine video monitors, bashing and pummeling giant gnomes. … Phew.  Wireless VR without compromising visual quality. Bravo, you little beasties.

And onto … a mechanical spider-shaped creature playing ping-pong. And doing pretty darn well for a robotic arachnid swinging a little felt paddle, its blue sensors flashing in competitive fury against a human representative of Japanese electronics company Omron.

What else ya got? Well, the bottomless inventory of upcoming and already-here goodies includes air taxis, the kitchen countertop touchscreen computer, the “cascading robots” (don’t ask because we can’t explain it) for driverless vehicles and new automotive intuitive controls.

We, however, have made a quick pass right past the Z-Wave smart home automation area with its myriad button controls (those flood sensors could come in handy after our fleeting but sometimes furious rain bursts) and over to UBTECH Robotics.

Behold the “intelligent companion” known as the “Alpha Mini,” and its big bro, the Walker Intelligent Humanoid Service Robot.

Once again, the naysayers take on the yea-sayers. “The battery issues are a problem,” says attendee Kyle Gilbert, here from Edinburg, Texas. “It’s two or three hours and then you have to recharge. And if you recharge them a certain amount of times, they stop working. Some take all day to recharge.”

Batteries, shmatteries, right, Bridgett Rode from Chicago? “I’m just in awe,” she enthuses. “It’s going up the steps, it’s getting interpersonal with people, it’s drawing things for people. It’s like, really? How is this happening? It’s amazing where this country is going.”

What else ya got? Well, there’s the 108-inch TriChroma laser TV, the pocket-size recorder/transcriber, the TV that can be rolled up like a yoga mat, and the “Impossible Burger 2.0,” a plant-based meat substitute that, we’re promised, “tastes like the real thing.”

A John Deere S770 combine is seen on display during the first day of CES Tuesday, January 8, 2019, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau)

Now, though — WHOA! — what is that thing?  There, in the booth of first-year exhibitor John Deere? A smart tractor? Artificial intelligence tailor-made for farmers? Twenty tons’ worth? And priced at the steal-it bargain of a half-million bucks?

“It’s a combine/harvester,” says Deere rep Sona Raziabeegum. “We’ve built so much smarts into this puppy — sensors, cameras, you name it.” How does it work, Sona? “It captures the ambient environment of every single plant so the farmer has the information he needs as he’s making decisions. It measures the quality of the grain. The camera knows when to adjust the rotor speeds. And unlike other things that are visionary at CES, this is out on the market today. This was an opportunity to scream it from the rooftops!”

No screaming necessary, as Cliff Sharples of Mercy Island, Wash., is already impressed. “I think it’s incredible,” he says. “It’s cool to see artificial intelligence being used in an actual, real industrial application, in this case, agriculture.” 

What else ya got? Well, any interest in a foldable smartphone? A bio-hybrid bicycle? A skincare system that corrects hyper-pigmentation? A face recognition engine? Go explore!

Meanwhile, we’ll mosey over to the AvatarMind company booth, where we’re tempted to cozy up to the iPal, an AI humanoid robot geared toward children, offering more abilities — educational, motivational, or just pal-around-able — than you can shake a computer chip at. Right now, it’s singing to us — a charming little ditty known as “Old McDonald Had a Farm,” complete with adorable animation on its screen-bearing chest.

“Every year it’s bigger and better, it’s unbelievable,” says Philadelphia attendee David Gintis. “The companies are spending more and more money. Bigger and better technologies are taking over the world. It’s scary but it’s cool at the same time.”

A mini robot from UBTECH Robotics is seen during the first day of CES Tuesday, January 8, 2019, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau)

Robotics, how do we love thee, let us — or Bridgett Rode, again — count the ways. “There’s one over there that will take your coffee order!” she says. “And then there’s a retail one, so if you’re looking for something in a store, it will help you find it. And the screen on the clothing — there’s a screen on a shirt and one on his (HIS?) hat. Whatever you want to film, like if you’re at a game and want to broadcast it, it’s right there!”

What else ya got? More or less a million other things, if you keep roaming around those floors with the double yellow lines to keep the massive foot traffic flowing.

 Just don’t trip over the strolling luggage. It might have the pedestrian right of way.


To offer feedback on this story or suggestions for future stories on Las Vegas Newswire, contact Managing Editor Steve Bornfeld at SBornfeld@lvcva.com.








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by Steve Bornfeld/Las Vegas Newswire

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