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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

CES 2020 Tuesday Liveblog: E Ink Laptops, Robots, a Boat, and More

Welcome to our CES 2020 liveblog! The WIRED crew is on the ground here in Las Vegas to touch, test, prod, and fondle all of the latest rolling robots, folding phones, and talking fridges. This liveblog is the place where we'll report all of our findings. We'll have videos, photos, written dispatches, and of course some lulz.

Tuesday is the first day of the week when CES is in full swing. The expo hall opens to the public, the much-hyped internet privacy panel is taking place, and Ivanka Trump will be dropping in for a visit to talk about the future of work.

We're on Pacific Standard Time here in Las Vegas, so expect updates to start rolling in around 11 am eastern, or 8 am out west. Refresh the page every once in a while and you'll see the newest piece of news appear at the top of the page.

Update: Day 2 of CES has ended. You can read all our liveblogs and articles from every CES day below.

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Bend It Like a Bracelet

This hundred-dollar headset has mixed reviews across the ‘net so far, but I didn’t check it out for the sound, noise cancelling, water resistance, or call clarity. Nope. I heard it could bend like a pipe cleaner, and that it did. These are the most flexible headphones I've ever seen.

Forget folding phones and trendy, delicate gadgets! I want more tech that I can treat terribly. The ProComm 2 look durable enough to wear as a bracelet, cram in my pocket, stuff in a purse of any size, or wind around my backpack strap, and that's worth something.

The ToughTested ProComm 2 earbuds are available at Cabelas for $100.

—Louryn Strampe

Big Cats

They want treats please send help.

—Michael Calore

A Better Digital Print

Digital photo frames aren’t new, but Lenovo’s Smart Frame wants to become something more. The screen doesn’t look like a screen, making anything it displays look like a physical print. The companion app lets you cycle through photos and art, or connect it to services like Google Photos to automatically pull photos from your cloud library. You can pop the the 21.5-inch screen on an easel, leaning against a wall, or mount it. If you go for the latter option, the mounting system is intuitive, allowing you to easily rotate the frame to a horizontal orientation.

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Where it stands out is with its microphone and speakers. Lenovo said these components don’t do anything at the moment, but the company hopes it can add Google Assistant or Alexa via an update down the road, turning the Smart Frame into a massive smart display. It costs $399 and comes out in August.

—Julian Chokkattu

A Power-Filled Fanny Pack

I am the last person you’d see wearing a fanny pack, but I can’t deny I’ve seen these pouches more often now since the early aughts. But a fanny pack in 2020 has to do more than just hold your belongings, right? Look to Ampere’s Side Pocket fanny pack—it can wirelessly charge your smartphone! There’s a hidden 13,400 mAh power bank integrated into the bag, so all you need to do is place your phone into a specific pocket, and voila, you can wirelessly juice up.

Need more power faster? There’s a USB-A and USB-C port on the power bank so you can always connect with a cable for faster charging. The bag itself is waterproof, and there’s enough room to store, well, whatever it is people put inside fanny packs.

The Side Pocket is available now for $118. (If you're pro-fanny, be sure to check out our picks for the Best Fanny Packs.)

—Julian Chokkattu

Hyundai and Uber Made a Flying Taxi

Forty-nine feet. That’s the wingspan of the air taxi that Hyundai and Uber hung from the rafters today at CES. There are four rotors used for lift and four tilt-rotors used to maneuver, all electrically driven. Piloted by one person and able to swallow four passengers, it‘ll take them up to 180 mph or, at a more economical speed, 62 miles. Normal cruising speed is 150 mph.

I looked, but there wasn’t a way to peek inside the cabin, if this concept even had an interior—but the fuselage is 5.25 feet wide. That’s a foot-and-a-half wider than a cramped Cessna light airplane cabin where you sit thigh-to-thigh, but about a foot narrower than a Jeep. Its flyover noise will be less than 55 decibels—about as loud as a refrigerator.

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Hyundai and Uber envision you hailing one of these as early as 2030, but is light on details of how we’ll get there in a short 10 years.

—Matt Jancer

Runner's Headphones

The upcoming Soul Blade could be the ultimate runners’ headphones. (This is CES, a show built around hype, so "could" is the important word!) They’ve got a built-in heart rate monitor, cadence sensor, and can even tell you when your head angle doesn’t seem right, all via a very comprehensive mobile app. Once you track your run, they'll give you usable feedback: They told the PR person demoing them that he runs with his legs too far apart. Maybe I do too? I'll have to wait until later this year to take them for a spin.

—Parker Hall

CES Becomes a Boat Show

Today, Brunswick revealed what it's saying is the first boat to ever launch at CES. And yes, the SLX-R 400E is a beautiful, 40-foot yacht that seats up to 22 people, with a high-performance racing motor. But what’s really CES-worthy is CEO David Foulke’s insight that boats are just one more high-tech personal mobility vehicle, alongside the rest of CES’s electric scooters, pod transporters, and underwater drones.

The SLX-R also has a new Future Helm, which is a virtual dashboard that can be controlled with voice commands or gestures, without taking your hands off the wheel. You can auto-dock your vessel, or ask it where the nearest lakeside McDonald’s is. It’s accompanied by Brunswick’s new, proprietary Fathom e-power system. The onboard lithium-ion battery pack takes the place of an internal gas generator and powers all the boat’s accessory systems, shutting off devices when they’re not needed and recharging when the gas motor is running. Boats use a ton of power—the SLX-R would need the equivalent of 10 Tesla batteries to operate the actual motors—and the power system manages it all, to make sure that boaters get home safely at the end of the day.

—Adrienne So

Wireless Charging for Thick Phone Cases

The maker of those adorable plastic pop-out phone grips has a few tricks up its sleeves this year, the newest of which is the PopPower Home. This 15-watt wireless charging pad launched today for $60.

It’s not your average wireless charger. Where most on the market falter once a phone case hits around 3 mm, the PopPower Home can handle 12 mm. That means no more removing your phone grip to top off your device. Simply plop your phone down and it’ll start charging, with no finicky repositioning required. The sloped sides and textured surface sort of “slide” your phone into place, ensuring that your device starts charging right away. A red light alerts you to any metal or foreign object detection, too. I liked the nonslip feet and sturdy feel, but mostly I liked being able to set my phone down and know that it was charging without having to triple check.

—Louryn Strampe

Electric Dreams

After five years of making electric step-through scooters and ebikes, NIU yanked the covers off two new electric vehicles today at CES: the RQi-GT motorcycle and TQi-GT self-balancing three-wheeler.

Anyone who’s owned a motorcycle knows intimately the fear of someone knocking it over when it’s parked and out of your sight. If the RQi-GT cycle goes sideways, it’ll cry out for help through the app on your phone so that you can, I guess, run out there and save it.

The TQi-GT is a pod, plain and simple. It has a full windshield and a removable roof, which distinguishes it from “other” three-wheelers that are basically motorcycles with an extra growth. I assume doors will be an option or accessory, because NIU calls it an all-weather vehicle. You’ll be able to charge it at regular EV charging stations.

NIU will automatically beam software updates to both vehicles over 5G, so as the batteries age they’ll get tweaks to optimize performance for their less-than-new condition. Two Panasonic lithium-ion batteries give the RQi-GT a 100 mph top speed and 80-mile range, and the TQi-GT a 50 mph top speed and 150-mile range. They go on sale in the second half of 2020. Pricing hasn’t yet been revealed.

—Matt Jancer

Google Slides

Google loves a good trade show gimmick. Last year it was a roller coaster-like train, this year it's a slide. Yeah, Google's latest "ride" doesn't sound as exciting, but it's a bit nerve-racking as you're sliding down in front of CES attendees and photographers galore. If you're anything like me (and I hope you aren't), you'll spend 15 minutes coming up with the best pose as you ride down to show people that yes, you're still very cool.

—Julian Chokkattu

A Wall of OLED

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There's no practical reason LG made a wall of OLED screens at CES. It just likes to do it, likely as a reminder that it makes the best TV displays. LG's OLED TVs are still the best looking TVs around.

—Jeffrey Van Camp

Customize Your E-Scooter

I have never gotten as many glares from Las Vegas Convention Center employees as I did while trying Unagi’s new, lightweight E500 in a parking lot at CES this morning. (I guess you’re not allowed to ride scooters here. Oh well!) It has a 500W motor and weighs 26 pounds. If you press both paddles down and tap the power button 10 times fast, you can unlock it from its top speed of 15 mph to a very respectable 19 mph.

This year, Unagi is also debuting personalized scooters. Online, you can pick your own colors and patterns for the handlebar, deck, and shaft, which will be 3D printed in a durable clear coat and wrapped around the metal. They also have premium, limited-edition prints. CEO David Hyman told me that famed industrial designer Yves Behar is working on next year’s iteration. It should be a stunner.

The Unagi E500 costs $990.

—Adrienne So

Keurig, You're Drunk

Keurig has a new home bar, and it’s probably one of the neatest things I’ve seen so far at CES. Dubbed the Drinkmaker, it’s available in a handful of states now and up for preorder in six more, with plans to expand in the future. It works similarly to the coffee makers you’re familiar with, but with more features than just brewing up a basic cup. Drinkmaker can carbonate using curbside recyclable CO2 cartridges, chill down to 35 degrees Fahrenheit, and quickly churn out several types of cocktails, beers, and ciders.

It uses Drinkworks pods, scanning a barcode on each pod to determine the exact amount of water, carbonation, and chilling the drink will need. I tried the Moscow Mule, and it was great—stiff, with a bite of lime and ginger, and not too cloyingly sweet. Other options up for grabs now include drinks like sangria, mojitos, lawnmower beers, and a limoncello-inspired bubbly lemon cocktail, to name a few.

The Drinkmaker costs $299 at Amazon, Best Buy, or Office Depot.

—Louryn Strampe

A Dancing Cat Robot

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CES has everything from the very serious to the downright wacky, sometimes with both in one package. This dancing cat robot showcases the DIY possibilities of tiny computers like the Raspberry Pi. The cat is powered by an Arduino-compatible x86 chip by the name of 86Duino.

—Scott Gilbertson

The Prettiest Smartwatch

I’m a sucker for simple designs, which is why I’ve always been a fan of Skagen smartwatches, from the Falster 1 to the Falster 2. Count the new Falster 3 in that list because, to me, it has usurped the competition to become the prettiest smartwatch you can buy—at least in my early testing at CES.

It’s round, sleek, and the watch’s lugs slope down at a nice angle so there’s no awkward gap between the strap and your wrist. The 42 mm AMOLED screen is large and looks gorgeous, yet it doesn't feel oversized. Specs-wise, it's decked out with GPS, NFC for contactless payments, a heart rate monitor, 1 GB of RAM, the Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor, and it’s swimproof up to 30 meters. There’s a new type of silicone mesh strap that’s pretty comfortable, too. It runs Wear OS, Google’s smartwatch operating system, which isn’t as powerful as Apple’s WatchOS platform for the Apple Watch. It works with Android phones and iPhones.

The Skagen Falster 3 is available now for $295.

—Julian Chokkattu

Laptops Have 5G, Too

5G is still nascent, but some laptop makers are getting a jump on the next-generation wireless potential and building 5G modems directly into their hardware. That includes HP, which unveiled the new version of its Elite Dragonfly laptop at CES this week.

The sleek-looking business laptop is cased in lightweight magnesium alloy, has a compact 13.3-inch design, and weighs just 2.2 pounds. It runs Windows 10 Pro and will be powered by Intel’s 10th-generation Comet Lake processors. But the biggest updates from the previous Elite Dragonfly are undoubtedly the inclusion of Qualcomm’s X55 5G modem, and built-in support for lost-item app Tile—for when your laptop gets wedged between the couch cushions and you really can’t find it, I suppose.

A nice little bonus feature: It has a dedicated button for the display’s “Sure View” mode, which keeps nosy people from seeing what’s on your screen. It ships in February, and while HP hasn’t share the price yet, you can likely expect it to be in the $1,500 range and beyond.

—Lauren Goode

Segway's Hoverchair

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We wrote about the Segway S-9 before CES and mentioned “the Segway problem”—which usually refers to a product that is a technological marvel but almost too dorky to use. The S-9 fits right into this sweet spot. It’s hard to not think of yourself as riding in a baby stroller for adults. But it’s incredibly fun and comfortable—and as always, Segway’s self-balancing capabilities on two wheels are impressive.

This incarnation of the S-9 will go on sale later in 2020 and is intended for commercial use in airports or theme parks. It can be steered with either a tablet that inserts in the chair’s side—and lets you control colored ambient lighting!—or with a small, intuitive joystick. After about 0.5 seconds of instruction, I was able to hop on and take off. It was so easy to operate, and clearly had so much power, that I felt an almost irresistible compulsion to ride straight off into the parking lot to do high-speed donuts.

—Adrienne So

A Scooter That Rides Itself

I’ve been writing a lot about Segway, but it’s hard not to when the company is showing 19 (!) new products at CES. The T60 is a combination robot-and-scooter that's intended for scooter shares. Not only does it have Segway’s usual self-balancing tech—it can correct for bumps to make the ride more stable—but users can call it.

If you’re looking for a shared scooter and a T60 is nearby, it will drive itself to you, avoiding pedestrians and other obstacles along the way. The rideshare company can also independently steer the scooters to charging stations. It remains to see how well this will work—will scooters steer themselves in front of cars? Knock over unsuspecting grannies?—but this could make scooter sharing just a little easier.

—Adrienne So

Hey Google, Respect My Privacy

2019 wasn’t a great year for voice assistants and smart home security. Google has been trying to alleviate concerns with voice commands for Google Assistant such as “delete everything I’ve said to you last week,” offering users a little more control over their data. At CES today, Google revealed two new commands: First, you can say, “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you,” in case the Assistant activates on a smart speaker when it’s not supposed to be listening; you can also say, “Hey Google, are you saving my audio data,” and Assistant will walk you through your privacy controls.

Google also has a few other upgrades to Assistant that are genuinely helpful. For starters, there’s Scheduled Actions. It means you can ask Assistant to “turn the lights on at 7 pm,” or “turn on the coffee machine at 7 am.” If you own a Google Assistant-powered smart display, you can also now leave sticky notes for others in the household—handy if you need to remind your partner to pick up the dry cleaning. Other quality-of-life updates include the option to make a master speed dial so anyone in the house can access specific contacts, as well as the ability to ask Assistant to read aloud the contents on a phone’s screen, like a short story or the news.

—Julian Chokkattu

An Inkjet Beauty Wand

Beauty companies love to boast about natural coverage when it comes to foundation, but I’ve never seen something as natural as Opte offers. Rather than using colored pigment to cover freckles, blemishes, and general uneven skin, the Opte Beauty Wand uses ink in a handheld inkjet printer.

I use the term “coverage” loosely — the camera detects and scans for even the tiniest spots of hyperpigmentation, and then the 120 inkjet nozzles disperse the skin-friendly solution in minuscule amounts down to the picoliter, resulting in smooth and even coverage that corrects rather than camouflages. The wand also uses much, much less product than the average foundation (97 percent less, according to the company).

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Swiping a makeup remover wipe over skin after application reveals the spots you hadn’t noticed before, while leaving no visible trace of product on the wipe itself. According to the company, tests on 100 women ages 35-65 showed that the pigment can correct 99 percent of skin tones. Shipping soon, a starter kit will run you $599. It's a steep asking price, but considering the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on foundation over the years, color me impressed (so far).

—Louryn Strampe

New Noise-Canceling Kings?

Move over Sony and Bose, the next great noise-canceling headphones may be from JBL.

The audio-maker's new Club One headphones come with a special blend of graphene (a Nobel prize-winning material that’s nearly as light as air, but 100 times stronger than steel) inside its drivers, and they’ve got a speedy processor that listens to the world around you 50,000 times per second and adjusts the included noise reduction accordingly. They even compensate for sound leakage caused by glasses, long hair, or head movement.

So far, so good: They made the company’s cacophonous show floor at the Hard Rock Hotel whisper-quiet, and I was especially impressed with the separation between instruments during a short listening demo. Can they take down the noise-canceling kings? Time will tell, but I eagerly await a review pair—and a real head-to-head with the industry leaders—when they launch this spring.

—Parker Hall

Reachy the Robot

He reaches. He grabs. He plays tic-tac-toe.

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—Lauren Goode

A Cheaper Foldable Phone, Maybe

Foldable phones, like 5G phones, are very expensive at the moment. The Samsung Galaxy Fold, for example, costs almost $2,000. As all tech, these phones will get cheaper over time, and TCL thinks it can make and sell one for around half the price of Samsung’s before 2020 ends; that would make it cheaper than Motorola’s $1,500 folding Razr.

The phone, pictured above is a concept. It looks like a miniature book, but unfortunately there’s no screen on the exterior (just a neat crystal shard-like pattern), so you would have to open it up every time you want to use it. Like Motorola’s upcoming Razr, TCL’s phone doesn’t have a gap when you fold it up, so the screens sit flush against each other.

—Julian Chokkattu

Kindle + Laptop

Lenovo’s getting weird at CES this year, and we’re here for it. In addition to its new foldable ThinkPad, the PC maker is showing off a laptop with an E Ink top cover. Yup, you read that correctly.

The ThinkBook Plus has an 11-inch monochromatic E Ink touchscreen (like a Kindle) on the outside of it—the part of the laptop where you’d typically see a backlight logo or choose to display a garish assemblage of stickers. You can catch a glimpse of your upcoming calendar appointments while running from meeting to meeting, scribble something on the top of your laptop with a stylus, or even read a Kindle book when the laptop is closed on your lap. The rest of the ThinkBook is pretty standard. It’s made of anodized aluminum, has a matte finish, contains a 13-inch diagonal Full HD display, is powered by a 10th-generation Intel Core processor, and runs Windows 10 Pro out of the box. It will start at $1,199 when it ships this March, although the charging stand will cost extra (it ships later in the year).

Oh! Did we forget to mention the charging stand? In case the E Ink cover wasn’t enough excitement for you, Lenovo has also developed an angled charging dock that connects to pogo pins on the bottom of the ThinkBook. It might not be as transportable as a charging cable, but at least you won’t constantly trip over your USB-C.

—Lauren Goode

Samsung's Infinite Galaxies

Samsung, you’re making too many phones! Last year it announced the Galaxy S10, S10E, S10 Plus, S10 5G, (take a breath) Note 10, Note 10 Plus, Note 10 5G, and the Galaxy Fold. That’s without mentioning the more affordable options, like the Galaxy A50. Yikes. Well, prepare to be even more confused; the Galaxy S11 is around the corner, but new to the party are the Galaxy S10 Lite, Note 10 Lite, and the A51 and A71.

These phones have pretty nice specs, with the S10 Lite even equipping the same flagship Snapdragon 855 processor as the 2019 S10 range, but the compromises come with the hardware, which feels cheap and plasticky. You still get ultra slim bezels, a gorgeous screen, three cameras, and big batteries. Samsung hasn’t said how much these phones will cost or where and when they’re launching, but expect them to sit somewhere between $350 to $700, with the A51 being the cheapest and the S10 Lite the most expensive.

—Julian Chokkattu

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