CES is the biggest technology trade show in the world. The show, which just wrapped up last week, takes place each January in Las Vegas and is the place where all the big tech companies show off their latest bright, shiny gadgets. The devices, each company promises, will make our lives easier, more connected, better. Sure, it may be hard to understand why exactly we need an internet-connected plant or “smart” toilet paper. But, the manufacturers tell us, in the future everyone will be smart wiping and you don’t want to feel left out do you?
The truth is that oftentimes those gut reservations are entirely valid. While the smart refrigerator attracted a lot of buzz at this year’s CES, convincing people why that is a practical thing is a challenge. But each year there are still standouts at CES, technology and devices that are more than marketing B.S. and actually deliver on the promise of improving our lives, or at least making them a lot cooler.
Instead of just chasing the waterfall of constant announcements and releases, we decided to take a breath and let it all sink in so that we could identify those truly difference-making products that you won’t make you feel embarrassed about owning a year from now.
KODAK SUPER 8 CAMERA
Film is not dead. In fact, many of the products revealed at CES this year had a retro appeal that reflected the depth and beauty of analog. Nowhere was this more apparent than Kodak reintroducing the Super 8 camera. J.J. Abrams used 8mm film camera to make movies as a kid and Kodak is now equipping a new generation of filmmakers to discover the richness of the format. Legendary designer Yves Behar worked on the new Super 8, which has modern updates such as an integrated microphone, a viewfinder, and connectivity options. After a user buys the film and shoots it, he simply sends it back to Kodak who will process and scan it at no additional charge. After that it’s ready to be edited on any desktop software.
NIKON KEYMISSION 360 CAMERA
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the Super 8 is Nikon’s Keymission 360. While Nikon may be new to the action cam game, coming in behind GoPro and Sony, the company has mad some of the best cameras in the world for a long time so, you know, it has that going for it. Like it or not, immersive, 360-degree video is coming sooner than you think as virtual reality devices like the Oculus Rift enter the market. The Keymission 360 has dual lenses and sensors that shoot in 4K Ultra HD to create a single 360-degree video or image. Waterproof and shockproof, it’s also burly enough to take a beating.
EHANG 184 MANNED DRONE
If we’re being honest, the majority of drones are used for shooting videos of the roofs of people’s homes and not much else. Amazon has discussed using the devices to transport goods to people quicker, but what if they could actually transport people? The Ehang 184 is the closest thing we’ve seen to a Jetsons-esque flying car. It can fly one passenger at an altitude of up to 500 meters and has a hover time of 23. The passenger simply enters a destination on a touchscreen using Google Maps and the drone takes him there. The rotors even fold up so that it is not much bigger than a car. Sure, there are mountains of regulatory hurdles to overcome before you start commuting with one of these on a daily basis, but it sure is fun to imagine the possibilities.
TECHNICS SL-1200GAE TURNTABLE
The SL-1200 turntable is as much a godfather of hip-hop as any rapper. Discontinued a few years back, Technics is bringing it back. The SL-1200GAE is a limited edition version that is coming out for the 50th anniversary of the of the SL-1200. It incorporates the iconic direct-drive system that is beloved by DJs the world over with new features designed to make it more appealing to audiophiles as well. The reinterpreted SL-1200GAE has a coreless direct-drive motor that reduces tiny sound vibrations to preserve the sound quality of recordings. There is also a highly sensitive tonearm to improve the dampening qualities and a brass-top turntable platter that looks and sounds incredible.
BRAGI DASH EARPHONES
The Bragi Dash earphones are one of the few products at CES that are actually available to consumers now. A 2014 Kickstarter campaign was wildly successful but was followed by prolonged delays. The Dash earphones are finally shipping to those early backers and what they are receiving are truly wireless earphones. There is no cable that connects the right to the left. Instead the two earphones communicate with each other using Near Field Magnetic Induction similar to the technology used in hearing aids. (The earphones still talk to your phone via Bluetooth.) There are a lot of other useful innovations as well. You can accept or decline a call by nodding your head and, perhaps most importantly, you can allow ambient noise to enter by swiping one of the earphones so you don’t have to deal with taking them in and out every time someone tries to talk to you.
CHEVY BOLT EV
Since we are going to have to wait awhile before those manned drones become everyday transportation options and since we’re not bajillionaires, the Chevy Bolt EV is an awesome option. There is no shortage of talk of “Tesla killers,” but the Bolt doesn’t try to be that. Instead it lives up to that old car dealer slogan, “a good car at a great price.” The Bolt can travel more than 200 miles on a single charge and costs around $30,000 after a sizable tax deduction. Even at that price, the car is feature rich. There is a large 10.2-inch touchscreen that is easy to navigate. The standard rearview camera display is also paired with a bird’s eye view that makes parallel parking easier than ever. You can even choose to have the rearview camera displayed on your rearview mirror while driving for a wider and less obstructed view.