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Each year in January, Las Vegas is transformed from entertainment mecca to tech central when the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) descends on the desert casino town.
Equal parts hype, hysteria, vaporware and actual products, regular attendees know that many of the gadgets on display at the various convention halls will never actually become, well, real products.
From prototypes to devices close to appearing on shelves in your local Best Buy, here’s what we thought was hot for travelers — and what you absolutely should not spend your money on — at CES in 2019.
Roll-Up Television Screens
It wouldn’t be CES without really big, really expensive televisions. The big guys like LG and Samsung are always there with plenty of new TV tech, and you’ll also find off-brands like HiSense showing off 8K televisions that look astonishingly good. But every year, one or two products stand apart from the rest.
In addition to The Wall by Samsung (a massive 219-inch screen that allows for multiple panels to be placed together for custom sizes) LG is working on “roll-up” televisions. They debuted last year, and may be available to consumers in the US as soon as this year. The picture quality is awesome, but far more impressive is watching the screen disappear when you’re done binging Netflix. OK, so you probably won’t be packing your roll-up television in your suitcase. But this product was too cool not to mention. No word yet on how much this television product will cost, but it certainly won’t be cheap.
Multi-Tasking Suitcases (Again)
At every CES, someone tries to reinvent the suitcase, and this year was no different. Turn your suitcase into a scooter? There’s a company for that. (That one feels a bit like vaporware since they wouldn’t even let us stand on it to test it out.)
Another iteration of the Modobag appeared this year. This little number will set you back about $1,500. Somehow, Modobag found enough funding to come back to CES for the third year in a row by my count. New this year is an easier to eject battery because, apparently, “That’s important to customers.” This suitcase also doubles as a scooter, but you’ll be lucky if you don’t tip over and break a bone (or two) before the battery dies.
Then there’s the Ovis by ForwardX, another entry into the autonomous suitcase space. (We got to play with a prototype last year in the TPG office.) Rather than follow you, this suitcase is meant to roll alongside you. In theory, it sounds cool. Or maybe just creepy. But in practice, Ovis suitcases would likely create more congestion in concourses that could already be wider. And we can definitely envision a collision or two. Also, Ovis weighs about 10 pounds, so it won’t be a great fit as cabin baggage when flying some of the stingier low-cost carriers.
Charging Bands With Flexible Batteries
Artenix puzzled us for a few minutes until we watched a video on their website. They’ve got some fairly stylish smartwatch bands, but the inside is what sets them apart. Each one contains a flexible battery with an element to charge your Apple Watch. With the swappable nature of the bands, you could in theory never take your Apple Watch off again. (If that seems like too much, it at least won’t die the next time you go on vacation and forget your charger at home.)
A Travel Adapter That’s Actually Universal
We’ve seen hundreds of chargers and travel adapters, so I doubted whether or not the Nomadplug could really innovate in this space. The product is still a prototype at the moment, but with a few small tweaks, we could see this being a pretty useful gadget for travelers. It claims to work in every country, including places such as South Africa that are rarely included in universal adapters. It’s not Earth-shattering, but the team did a solid job of incorporating a lot of configurations in a single, sleek device.
Digital Luggage Tags
Though it’s really just a concept at the moment, ViewTag caught my eye at CES. Part digital luggage tag, part luggage tracking device, ViewTag’s goal is to keep your suitcase heading in the right direction. The creators envision airlines having a secure key to access the information on your tag, while travelers can track their luggage at all times using a companion app.
Sleek New Earbuds
We’re not telling you to ditch your Bose or Sony headphones just yet. We’re just saying there are more options for travelers hitting the market every day. At CES, Jabra had all their newest earbuds and headphones available for visitors to test. The new Elite Active 65t earbuds (from $170) offered a very comfortable fit and don’t protrude as far as competitors on the market. The resulting look is less Herman Munster, and the sound quality is exceptional. Plus, you can customize all the levels, including bass and treble, using the partner app. Personally, I found the sound to be superior to the BeatsX.
A Nearly Indestructible Backpack
Backpacks don’t usually excite us too much at CES. But, when Targus offered to let me smash their new prototype with a hammer, I was all in favor! The new composite material in their SafePort XD30 line is pretty incredible. When used in a backpack, it’s at once soft enough to cushion your delicate devices, and also hard enough to keep them from shattering if you drop your bag.
Super Smart Wallets
Volterman brings technology to your wallet with a built-in power supply and a Wi-Fi hotspot. The collection also boasts GPS tracking and a feature that takes a picture of whoever opens your wallet — a function that’s useful in the event that it’s ever lost or stolen. (The pictures can be sent to you, along with the GPS location.) The wallet is lighter than you would expect, weighing in at just about four ounces, and is perfect for travelers with a stack of premium travel rewards credit cards.
Luxury Smart Yachts
Furrion made a big splash at last year’s CES with a tractor-trailer “mini-RV” that came equipped with a hot tub and a helicopter (as well as a place to land the helicopter). It was so incredibly over-the-top (there’s simply no other word for it) that this year, when the company debuted Adonis — a luxury yacht with a virtual concierge named Angel — no one was too surprised. So if you’re done with smart cars, high-speed trains, helicopters, first class suites and private jets, there’s always the trailblazing realm of smart yachts. No word on whether anyone has actually tried to order one of these beasts or if Furrion is even really in the market to sell them.
A Suitcase-Carrying Robot
Forget suitcases that carry themselves. LG’s admittedly kind of cute robot, the CLOi GuideBot, wants to carry your bags for you the next time you fly. There’s definitely an opportunity for CLOi to assist travelers who may have trouble navigating airports for any number of reasons. And if lugging around a suitcase is just your absolute least favorite part of travel, CLOi may very well be a dream come true for you, too. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how many post-apocalyptic sci-fi flicks you’ve seen), we’re many years away from a deployment of airport-roaming CLOi GuideBots.
Know before you go.
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