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Glitz & Gadgets: A Dispatch from CES in Las Vegas

Excerpted from the January 13, 2023 edition of Sree's Sunday Note.

Las Vegas — When 2022 ended with the deaths of soccer star Pele, journalism icon Barbara Walters and retired Pope Benedict, you could be excused if you went into your New Year’s Eve party with a heavy heart.

As we glide into 2023, however, we thought we’d step away from our usual updates on politics and journalism and start the year with some rose-colored optimism in the form of a trip to Las Vegas for CES to see some of the glitzy new gadgets and innovative technologies that may (or may not) make it into your wish list soon.

While attendance figures aren’t in yet, it’s clear that CES 2023 has restored the vibe and energy to a mega-show that stumbled over the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. CES 2021 was all virtual while CES 2022 was lightly attended as thousands opted to tune in virtually instead.

As usual, CES, formerly known as the Consumer Electronic Show, was rife with new inventions and concepts, but CES 2023 also offered many examples of old technologies like solar panels and wireless cameras put to clever new uses.

For example, the solar-powered Urbanista Phoenix Bluetooth wireless earphones can stay charged just by keeping their carrying case exposed to the sun or other light source.

A small, but efficient Exeger Powerfoyle solar panel embedded on one side of the case keeps the built-in battery charged so the earphones get charged when they’re inside. Need to charge at night? Yes, the case can also be charged via cable.

The Bird Buddy smart bird feeder puts its 5-megapixel wireless camera to very good use to capture images, 720p videos and the sounds of feathered visitors—and occasional furry ones.

Bird Buddy’s weatherproof 5-megapixel camera sends its feed to a mobile app which uses artificial intelligence to identify birds and catalog them. A new Bird Buddy version for sugar-water-loving hummingbirds was also showcased at the company’s CES booth.

While the Cone of Silence from the old Get Smart TV series never made it to market, the Skyted sound-absorbing mask offers a way to keep private conversations away from nearby ears. The unit uses the same noise-absorbing resonator technology used to quiet down jet engines, thus leaving little for anyone nearby to hear.

A built-in Bluetooth microphone lets users carry on phone calls or teleconferences private. A company representative said a colorful version would be made for gamers, who have a reputation for loud trash talking, while a more sedate-looking version would be offered for business users.

At the huge Sony booth at the rear of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s Central Hall, Sony Honda Mobility showed off a prototype of the AFEELA (pictured at the top of this edition), an electric car it hopes to get into production by 2025 and deliver to customers in 2026. According to the company, created last year via a collaboration between Sony Group Corp. and Honda Motor Co., the prototype at CES included 25 cameras inside and out. A thin external Media Bar display can show various types of information, including news and weather, and can otherwise interact with people around it.

In the “that thing does what?” category at CES was the colorful MoodUP refrigerator from LG, which features large LED panels on its doors that can change color with the aid of an app.

Built in Bluetooth wireless speakers can stream music or other audio from a smartphone or tablet. A motion sensor can detect if someone approaches and turn on the door panels, thus adding night light to the unit’s many features.

Food tech was a major category at CES 2023 with many products commanding a corner of the massive Venetian Expo convention center. While Brava Glass looks like a beefy microwave oven, the sophisticated unit cooks food using only light, a design that’s not only fast, but energy efficient, according to the company.

In addition to looking through the front glass door, a built in heatproof camera lets users monitor cooking progress via a small, top-mounted monitor or on a smartphone app. The intensity of the light can be adjusted by zone, thus allowing food on the same tray to be cooked at different temperatures.

No, CES 2023 was not the pedestrian and traffic nightmare of previous years, but one thing was sure: the “gee whiz” factor was back. Like the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, CES is never short of hopes and dreams. And that’s a good thing.

My tech tips appear regularly in Sree's Sunday Note.

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