Top Tech Picks from CES 2019

The annual CES show (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas has something for everybody, from smart homes, IoT, 3D printing, and robotics, to healthcare, automotive, AI, entertainment, entrepreneurial offerings, and more. Here are a few products that I think you might like.

If you are interested in learning about some of the 3D printing technologies shared at the show, then check out my previous article here.

 

AfterShockz -  Bone-Conduction "Swim-phones"

AfterShokz, whose bone-conduction-based open-ear headphones remain my favorite mobile listening accessory (I'm wearing their Trekz Air as I type this) announced two new products both of which use bone-conduction to deliver audio to your ears.

Xtrainerz (pronounced "cross trainers") are AfterShokz new waterproof MP3 headphones.

Having failed at buying a waterproof MP3 player headset a few years back -- cheap but didn't work -- I'm definitely intrigued!

How waterproof? According to AfterShokz, the Xtrainerz are "IP68 (Ingress Protection) certified to meet the highest dust and waterproof standards... Built to withstand heavy perspiration and complete submersion in up to 6ft of salt or fresh water." This makes them suitable for running, cycling, training, and swimming... or for walking in rainy environments, and presumably, also for use in the bath, the shower, while washing your car or boat, bathing your dog or cat, or simply walking in the rain.

Xtrainerz has 4GB for storing MP3 and other audio files, which you import through the wireless clip-on that doubles as the power charger.

Xtrainerz do, it's important to note, have a few important differences from most other headsets:

  • No streaming or phoning. There's no microphone, no Bluetooth or wired connectivity.
  • Wireless magnetic clip-on charging only -- as part providing IP68 protection, there's no micro USB or USB-C charging port.

Some pre-release reviewers, like TechRadar, feel the lack of Bluetooth is disappointing and means you may still want (or need) a separate headset for streaming and for phone calls. My opinion: if you don't have or can't find downloads (or CD tracks, if you have any) to listen to, then I'm sad for you and happy to give some recommendations.

MSRP $149.95, availability currently scheduled for March/April 2019.

 

AfterShockz - OptiShockz Revvez Sunglasses

OptiShokz Revvez combines bone conduction audio with sunglasses, for a “done in one.” OptiShokz Revvez are designed to allow cyclists, runners, hikers, golfers, skiers, and others to listen to their favorite music, podcasts or audiobooks and make/take calls. IP55 rated sweat and water resistance; choices of five interchangeable lenses.

As long as you like the sunglasses, this is a good way to have non-ear-blocking-audio without adding a separate headset.

MSRP $179 ($99 if you pre-order via the Indiegogo campaign), estimated availability July 2019.

 

Omnicharge Intros Omni Mobile power banks

Even if you already have a, ahem, pocketful of mobile power packs to recharge or top off your mobile devices, the port and power requirements continue to evolve. The USB-C and the various wireless methods, plus new tech are making batteries and chargers smaller and faster. (And your older battery packs may, like phone and notebook batteries, be losing capacity and ready for replacement anyway.)

Omnicharge was showing its new line of Omni Mobile power banks:

  • Omni Mobile 3,200 mAh, with integrated cables and USB-C Input (MSRP $39.99)
  • Omni Mobile 9,600 mAh, USB-C Port In and Out, Fast Charging USB Port (MSRP $ 49.99)
  • Omni Mobile 12,800 mAh, with High Powered USB-C, Wireless Charging, and Fast Charging USB-A Port (MSRP $99.99)
  • Omni Mobile 25,600 mAh, with High Powered USB-C, Multiple DC Voltages (using device-appropriate tips), Wireless Charging, and Fast Charging USB-A Ports (MSRP 149.99)

OmniCharge was also showing its 60W USB-C Fast Charger (MSRP $39.99)

Estimated delivery for the Omni Mobiles is April 2019, and Fast Charger for May 2019.

(Note, you can pre-order, through the Omni Mobile Indiegogo campaign for about a 25-35% less than the MSRPs.)

 

LapScreen, A Lightweight Portable Monitor

Faytech's new Lapscreen monitor offers an easy, affordable, lightweight 12.5-inch 1920x1080 HD display for use with your smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Measuring 11.1 x 8.2 inches -- roughly the size of a standard 8.5x11" sheet of paper -- the new Lapscreen comes in non-touch ($200, 0.14 inches thick, 12.3 ounces) and 10-point multi-touch touchscreen ($260, 0.31 inches thick, 14 ounces) models, with HDMI and USB-C ports.

At this price, size and light weight, there are lots of possible applications for Lapscreen. Add a mobile keyboard like the Zagg Flex (which I've been using for several months), and you can turn your phone or sub-10"-tablet into a notebook type experience.

 

Jackery Portable Power Stations

Mobile battery packs that fit in a pocket and pack enough punch -- 3,000-6,000mAh -- to recharge or top off your phone and tablet -- are common and affordable... but sometimes you need more power.

Jackery, teaming up with Honda, was showing its new Honda by Jackery line of eco-friendly portable power stations suitable for outdoor/recreational use, including the sub-four-pound Honda 200 Power Station, with AC, 12V, and multiple USB ports (including USB-C), and a handle. For relevant events, trips, etc., these sound like convenient, affordable solutions.

MSRP $299

 

Audio-Technica Adds More Headphones, Turntables And Other Audio Gear

Audio-Technica, whose AT-LP2D USB turntable was my pick for usability in a ComputerWorld “digitizing your LPs” roundup that I did a decade ago, brought, as always, some interesting new gear for home, DJ, and other professional use. This includes eight new turntables ranging from $99 to $399, with features ranging from Bluetooth to bundled-in headphones; the VM95 Series of moving-magnet phono cartridges and new headphones including its Sound Reality ATH-CKR7TW and Sonic Sport ATH-SPORT7TW wireless in-ear models.

For record-digitizing, I prefer a fully-automatic turntable, which includes a “raiser” that lifts the tonearm up and off the record at the end.

According to Audio-Technica, “The newly announced AT-LP60X models are all fully automatic -- just push the Start button and the tonearm will move and lower onto the beginning of the record, and lift off at the end and return to the arm base.” This series includes:

  • AT-LP60XHP fully-automatic turntable/headphones bundle (MSRP $129.00)
  • AT-LP60XBT fully-automatic wireless belt-drive with Bluetooth (MSRP $149.00)
  • AT-LP60XUSB fully-automatic belt-drive with USB (MSRP $129.00)
  • AT-LP60X fully-automatic belt-drive (MSRP $99.00)

All Audio-Technica’s new turntables include a phono cartridge and a built-in phono pre-amp, RCA phono output, and play at 33 1/3 and 45 RPM.

Other features may include USB output, Bluetooth output, and 78RPM.

Some of the new turntables are available now, and the others will be available between now and around June 2019.

Audio-Technica also introduced some useful turntable accessories:

  • The AT6006R Safety Raiser, which automatically lifts the tonearm off the record at the end of the side -- at $129, not cheap, but an affordable way to protect your stylus and your disks if you want to walk away while you’re still playing a record.
  • The AT6181 Stroboscope Disc and Strobe Light (MSRP $129) for checking turntable speed accuracy (in case you don’t have a strobe disc and a fluorescent light kicking around somewhere)
  • The AT617a cartridge stylus cleaner (MSRP $35), a specially formulated polyurethane gel that gently removes dirt particles from the stylus tip when the stylus is lowered onto it. (Much better and safer than using your finger!)

 

Voicea, an AI Assistant for Meetings and Calls

Voicea is a voice collaboration platform powered by an AI named EVA (for "Enterprise Voice Assistant"), which can "take commands, performs actions and captures highlights in meetings to share them and create actionable recaps." You can use Voicea on calls, conference lines, and even in-person.

According to the company, "EVA can take Voice Commands to create reminders, tasks, answer questions and provide meeting recaps.  For example, say 'Okay EVA, remind me to send the presentation to Tom, Thursday at 4pm' and watch EVA go into your calendar to create a reminder."

There's a free limited-feature version; per-user pricing starts at $7.99/month.

 

Jammy Portable Guitar -  Fits in a Carry-On

If you're the right kind of guitarist, and you want to take it with you when you travel without an airline’s careless handling breaking your axe (see Tom Paxton’s Thank You, Republic Airlines (For Breaking The Neck On My Guitar) and Dave Caroll’s United Breaks Guitars) – or simply want something more compact – consider the Jammy portable guitar.

With its detachable neck - just 17" long when disassembled, fitting into a backpack or airline carry-on - the Jammy guitar is your portable axe. The Jammy Guitar comes with a MIDI controller with steel strings, and a 15-fret neck "suitable to play most of your favorite rock songs.”

The sound comes directly from the guitar; you don't need any external device. There are 1/8" and 1/4" jacks for headphone or amp connections, and a mobile app with features including a metronome, changing the tuning, and backing tracks.

Also, you can use the Jammy as a sample or MIDI controller, via Bluetooth or the USB-C port.

MSRP $499 including detachable frame, strap and soft case in the box. Shipments to backers already started in March, and it's expected to be available to purchase on mid-April.

 

Like I said, lots of intriguing products of use for fun and/or work! To check out some of the new additive manufacturing tech from the show check out my other article.