Whether you noticed or not, the annual Consumer Electronics Show did happen this year.
CES 2021 took place in January, even with the COVID-19 pandemic that’s gripped the world for the past year and a democratic crisis in the United States that garnered most of the spotlight (and rightly so!). Instead of packing thousands into a convention center in Las Vegas, tech companies and journalists enjoyed the all-virtual tech conference from the comfort of their homes.
Despite the change in format, CES 2021 managed to deliver plenty of fascinating trends and glimpses into the future of technology. From normal advancements like prettier TVs to more timely innovations like smart masks, here’s what went down at CES this year.
With the threat of climate change constantly at our doorstep, the world of technology has to figure out ways to advance while keeping sustainability in mind. Sometimes these innovations are on the frivolous side, such as Shower Power, a portable speaker made of ocean plastics that gets power from your shower’s water flow and helps you belt out your favorite tunes during your most private moments.
There are also more serious sustainable products, like Schneider Electric’s smart light switches that let you monitor your home’s energy use from a smartphone app. It may not be as fun as aquatic karaoke, but there’s value in unleashing your inner dad-who-shuts-off-every-light-to-save-money.
The 4K TV revolution is really only just getting started, as many video games and TV channels haven’t even made the jump to 4K yet. But that hasn’t stopped TV manufacturers from taking it one step further.
8K resolution has four times as many pixels as 4K (and 16 times as many as 1080p) and, until now, has largely existed in CES concepts and expensive TVs for early adopters. That’ll most likely still be the case for a while, but we got confirmation from companies like Sony and LG that consumer 8K sets are coming in 2021. It might be smart to hop on the bandwagon now so you’re ready when 8K content starts rolling out in a few years.
COVID-19 is has been the elephant in every room for most of the past year and the same held true for CES. Rest assured that tech companies have seen the world embrace the idea of wearing masks in public and created a bunch of zany, but potentially cool, alternatives.
The COVID product that arguably stole the show was Razer’s Project Hazel. It’s a smart mask which features a translucent plastic exterior so people can see your mouth, a microphone in situations where hearing is difficult, and even lighting effects. In other words, it’s about what you’d expect a gaming accessory company to make in the COVID era.
As always, CES brought us plenty of products that won’t come out for years, if they ever come out at all. Concepts are usually abundant at CES and the virtual 2021 edition of the show didn’t disappoint.
Take LG’s rollable phone, for example. Was anyone asking for a smartphone screen that cold unroll into a bigger, tablet-like screen on command? Probably not. Is LG working on one anyway? You betcha. The same goes for Toto’s “Wellness Toilet,” a device that analyzes your, uh, waste and recommends diet and lifestyle changes based on its findings.
It doesn’t get any more CES than that.