Anything goes at International CES, the world’s largest consumer electronics show. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
LAS VEGAS — Walk the halls of the massive International CES trade show and you’ll be bombarded by an outrageous number of pitches for products with radical new features.
You can glimpse the shiny happy future of consumer electronics at the show, although some of the innovations on display are clearly destined for the dustbin of gadget history.
At the biggest booths, reps for big companies like Sony and Samsung — but, sadly, not Apple — talk up the latest additions to their product lines. At smaller booths, inventors show off prototypes for products that may not ever roll off an assembly line. There’s a nonstop blitz of “world’s first” products.
It’s impossible to see everything, but it’s a blast trying. Here are Cult of Mac’s picks for the best of CES 2015, from Lightning-enabled headphones and massive TVs to drones and self-adjusting belts.
The Activité Pop is a smartwatch for people who don’t like smartwatches. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
LAS VEGAS — The problem with the state of smartwatches, beyond the sucky software, is that they’re all ugly. The Apple Watch might very well be the first wearable that not only works, but looks good too, although we won’t know for sure until the finished product is on our wrists this spring.
There were dozens and dozens of smartwatches displayed on the sprawling show floor at International CES last week, but the only one that looked good enough to adorn my wrist was the new Withings Activité Pop.
It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of fancier watches like the Samsung Galaxy Gear, but it’s not your average dumb watch either. And for now, just a smidgen smarter is smart enough.
This post is brought to you by Withings, creator of the Withings Aura smart sleep system.
Every morning when you wake up, do you hit the snooze button? You’re not the only one. According to a Withings sleep survey, over half Americans do. And even more Brits. A lot of people even think about smashing their alarm.
A lack of overall sleep and an abrupt awakening when your alarm clock or smartphone goes off in the morning are causing a lot of people to feel tired and unrested throughout the day, affecting their well-being and productivity.
Most people would prefer not to wake up to the sound of a loud noise, and rather let their internal body clock pull them out of sleep naturally in the morning. Now French connected health company Withings has developed the Aura, a cleverly designed sleep system that is set to provide a smooth wake-up experience and put an end to the snooze button.
Who needs to go out outside this week? Not us: We have headphones, a home-monitoring video camera, a robot to clean the floors and a keyboard that sleeps on your desk, all ready to play with your iDevices. Determined to leave the house? Take the GoPro PowerPole with you and then offload the footage to a new wireless, battery-powered hard drive from Western Digital.
Forget fiddling with those little magnetic iPhone lenses – the Sony QX1 puts proper E-mount Sony lenses onto your iPhone or iPad. It’s actually a tiny camera that clips onto your iDevice, complete with 20.1 MP sensor and even a pop-up flash, and works in concert with the iPhone via Wi-Fi and a companion app. $400
You could buy these new B&W cans and never switch them on, they look that good. But they should sound good too, with huge drivers that “work like those in a hi-fi speaker” (whatever that means), a sweet padded headband and some shiny silver parts on the outside. The Series 2 even comes with a detachable cable with an inline mic for your iPhone. $300
Now you can buy the best paper notebook anywhere in the world – almost. The Baron Fig Confidant notebook now ships internationally, so anyone can enjoy its superior design, from the cloth-bound cover to the clever dot-grid paper to the fold-flat design that stays open on the table to the slightly wider aspect ratio for more comfy writing and sketching. And still just $16.
Dyson’s first robot vacuum cleaner uses a panoramic cyclops eye up on top of the mercifully muted body to map out your rooms to the millimeter. A full-width brush teases dust out of carpets, and the cyclone separates dirt and dust. It runs for up to half an hour before returning to its dock to recharge, and you can even remote control it from iOS and Android apps. $TBA
It’s called the PowerPole, but that’s not even the best thing about it. The PowerPole takes the useless space inside telescopic 17-30-inch GoPro mount and fills it with batteries, enough for eight continuous hours of shooting. The aluminum pole also has a pair of USB ports for charging other gear. $119
The Logitech K480 is a different take on keyboards for mobile. It sits on your desk, waiting for your devices to dock in its slot, and then performs double duty as a stand and as a Bluetooth keyboard. A twisting knob selects between three paired devices, and the K480 has keys for Windows and Mac. The slot is big enough for a tablet and a phone together and it runs on a pair of AAA batteries. $50
The only way the Shutter Button could be more minimal is if it ditched the fashion stylings and came in plain silver. It’s a Bluetooth remote shutter release for iOS and other devices, and it works by masquerading as a volume switch. Therefore, no companion app is required – any camera, even the built-in one, can work with it as long as the app allows you to take a photo using the iPhone’s own volume switch. From $29.
This 1TB/2TB USB 3.0 drive packs a Wi-Fi radio and an SD card slot, making it the most useful pocket hard drive, like, ever. It works with your Mac of course, but also your iPad and iPhone. You can connect up to eight devices, use it as an Internet-sharing Wi-Fi hub and even stream movies to your iPad. The battery lasts six hours for video (20 hours on standby) and you can back up photos direct to the drive using the SD card slot. From $180.
Withings has long been able to track your body with its smart scales and health monitors. Now it tracks your home with this Internet-connected camera. The Home records 1080p video and can alert you to movement via the iPhone app. It works as a security camera, but also as a life-cam, with a timeline mode that lets you make a video diary. It even monitors the air quality inside your home, and works as a baby monitor. If it made breakfast too, I’d marry it. $220
When Facebook snapped up virtual-reality company Oculus VR this week, it got us wondering what other interesting startups Apple might want to buy before Mark Zuckerberg can get his hands on them.
While Oculus is most well known for its Rift gaming headset, Zuckerberg sees a far more wide-ranging application for the company’s VR tech, envisioning it as a futuristic communications platform. “One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people,” he said in his post about the acquisition.
That’s the kind of big thinking Steve Jobs brought to the table when he talked about the way the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad would change the way people interact with technology. While Apple rarely dips into its $150 billion cash hoard to buy other hardware firms, here are seven awesome companies whose technology could help Cupertino enhance and improve its existing devices — as well as build entirely new ones.
If you’ve ever had trouble falling asleep, or you’ve felt crappy waking up, it might be worth your while to check out the Withings Aura, the new app-enabled sleep machine from the folks that brought you other fitness gadgets like the Wi-Fi Body Scale and the Pulse.
The Aura, then, uses special light colors and wavelengths along with special music programs and a mattress sensor to measure your sleep and program the ideal go to sleep and wake up experience. According to the company, it will track your movement in bed and wake you up at a time that’s best for your personal sleep cycle.
The Withings Aura should release this coming spring, and retail for $299 at your favorite retail outlet, like Best Buy or Apple.
Withings isn’t content with looking after your body throughout every waking hour of your life. Now it wants to make like some kind of Inception-style doctor and keep an eye on your dreams with the help of the Aura.
Connected gadgets are the hotness in tech right now. It seems like everyone is trying to track your activity during the day and your sweet sweet R.E.M.’s during the dark of night.
Pulse by Withings Category: Fitness Works With: iPhone, iPod Touch Price: $100
Withings, makers of the Smart Scale and other connected tech., is now ready to join the world of fitness tracking with their new Pulse—a teensy little thing—which tracks your daily steps, pulse, sleep, and with its built-in sensors, even the altitudes you traverse. But there’s more to the story here than basic tracking; with historic data available on its touch-enabled screen and astute iOS integration via the Withings app, the Pulse is a talented first offering from Withings, and an easy fitness tracker to recommend.
At this point, Withings has to be the most complete biometric suite in existence outside of a hospital or Langley. The outfit began with a scale (which also measures body-fat percentage), added a separate blood pressure cuff and then snuck an air-quality sensor and a pulse meter into their scale.
The latest addition is the a wearable activity tracker that adds a feature unique, at this point, to activity trackers: a pulse meter (which explains why they’ve named it the Pulse).