If it's weird and wonderful tech you're after, you can always rely on CES – the biggest annual tech trade show of the year – which takes place in Las Vegas every January.
It’s almost a dead cert that you’ll come away from trawling the stalls at CES with a sense of wonder; amongst the 8K TVsand flagship laptops, the show’s also known as the stage from which some of the world’s weirdest and wackiest new inventions are debuted.
So, what’s new this year? Interactive wood, a walking car, smart nappies, and so much more besides. In fact, there’s been so much on show this week that it’d take a lifetime to go everything, so instead, here are some of our favoruite new products and concepts from the slightly more bonkers side of tech…
New tech’s always made of polished glass and brushed aluminium, right? Nope, not as far as Mui Lab’s concerned. The Japanese company has designed an interactive display made of one of the most natural materials in the world; wood. And we don’t just mean the frame. Mui uses hidden LEDs to display weather information, the time and date, and text messages across what would otherwise appear to be a basic plank of pine. You can also use it to control your lights and thermostat, or control music by connecting it to home audio setups.
Mui launched on Kickstarter back in October 2018, exceeding its $100,000 target to the point where it’s now being shown in the flesh, so to speak. It’ll go on sale later this year, and will look right at home in any Scandi-style abode.
Ring Door View Cam
Ring, Amazon’s home security company, has added another video doorbell to its range with the Ring Door View Cam. But what’s great about this particular one is its design; it’s built to replace the peephole that’s already in your door. That makes it perfect for anyone who doesn’t fancy poking extra holes in their doors or frames, and it’s also got a nifty sensor that notifies you of any movement to the door itself – say if someone knocks on the door rather than rings the bell.
Sure, cars with wheels are OK, but wouldn’t they be better if they had legs? Hyundai clearly thinks so, and has gone about trying to prove it with its Elevate concept, a walking car that can mimic the gait of both reptiles and mammals.
Now, these cars aren’t your everyday runabout; Hyundai sees these vehicles as a way of traversing difficult terrain, for use in scenarios like the aftermath of an earthquake. While it does have wheels for regular travel, activate the robotic legs and you’ve got yourself a walking, climbing, even jumping machine, suited more for emergency rescues than the school run.
It’s finally here: a foldable smartphone! While it was first announced late last year, the FlexPai has made a public appearance for hands-on reviews at CES 2019, proving that the foldable phone is now an actual thing – and not just the stuff of conceptual mock-ups.
It can be used either folded or unfolded, meaning that in one mode it’s a smartphone, and in another it’s a tablet, offering the best of both worlds. This phone/tablet hybrid is available to buy now in China, but there’s no mention of a UK release just yet.
Household chores are necessary, but they’re boring and time-consuming, which is why there are oodles of companies out there looking to provide you with gadgets to deal with life’s most tedious tasks. Fed up with folding clothes, for example? Say hello to the FoldiMate.
Feed your clean clothes into the FoldiMate and it’ll fold them neatly for you in under five minutes. Sound like your dream machine? There are two big downsides: one is that the machine is a monster in terms of space, and the other is that it’ll set you back a cool $1,000 (£783), so you’ll need a lot of spare room and even more spare cash set aside before you take the plunge. It’s still in prototype phase, too, but should be available later this year.
We’ve had airbags in our cars for decades now, and they’re essential for minimising severe injury in the event of a crash. So why stop with just cars? At CES, Helite’s offering something similar for cyclists with its B’Safe smart airbag. The B’Safe looks like your usual high-vis reflective vest, but sensors embedded throughout detect shocks and inflate the jacket to protect your fall. B’Safe uses a concealed CO2 cartridge that can balloon the jacket in just 80 milliseconds, creating a cushion of air to three vital parts of the body: the thorax, the back, and the neck.
Any parent will know the relentless hassle of changing a baby’s nappy. It’s got to be done, but if there’s something – anything – that can help with the task, then surely that’s a good thing, right? South Korean company Monit seems to think so, and thinks tech is the answer.
The Monit Diaper Sensor is a cookie-sized, sensor-filled disc that clips on to the outside of a nappy. From there, it’ll detect both number ones and number twos, rendering the old ‘sniff’ test a thing of the past. It can also track your baby’s toilet patterns throughout the day (because who doesn’t love data?), and connect to your phone via Bluetooth to alert you when there’s any activity.
LG OLED TV R
The large black box that sits in the corner of your living room has gone through a lot of changes over the decades, but one thing remains the same: it’s still a big black box that’s always on show. Or it was, until the advent of LG’s rollable Signature Series OLED TV R. Thanks to the natural flexibility of OLED displays, LG’s gorgeous new TV can be rolled up into its own base when not in use, unfurling without a crack in sight when it’s time to watch your favourite show.
The 65-inch 4K screen can be used either in Full View for regular TV viewing, Line View – where only part of the screen pops up to show the time, weather information, or display music details – or concealed completely. It’s going to be crazy expensive at launch, but it’s an awesome sign of things to come.
Novus Electric Motorcycle
German electric motorcycle company Novus showcased a new electric motorbike at CES this week, but it looks like it’s come straight from the future. It’s got skinny wheels, a super slim carbon fibre frame, and a hub-mounted motor that, when combined, make it look like a cross between a dirt-bike and a Tron Light Cycle.
As you’d expect from such cutting-edge tech, the Novus Electric Motorcycle is far from cheap. It’s an eye-watering $39,500 (just over £30,000), but for that you get innovation in spades, a top speed of 96.5 km/h, and a range of 96 km on a single charge. Which is more than we can say for our ageing pushbikes.
Love mobile gaming? Check out our roundup of what’s coming up this year.