As usual, the gravitational pull of the tech giants at the recent Consumer Electronics Show was nearly inescapable, but we were also drawn to the "Eureka Park" section of the show. Eureka Park is known as the flagship startup destination for startups and universities. Showcasing were universities like CWRU, with 9 student startups, along with other smaller companies and individual innovators — especially those that make still-emerging technologies more accessible for everyone. Here are some examples of several innovations that caught our attention at the CES Show:
Meccanoid: Remember Erector Sets? The European parent company, Meccano, is still around, and introduced Meccanoid at this year's CES Show. Meccanoid is an “easy-to-use, open source Robotic Building platform.” The resulting ’bot features voice recognition and interactive games — it even tells jokes. But the best part: it’s compatible with old Erector parts.
PLEO rb: from Innvo Labs, is sort of like a Tamagotchi that hatched into a three-dimensional dinosaur pet. Equipped with artificial intelligence, PLEOs gradually mature from a hatchling to toddler to adolescent to adult, and their behaviors change along the way. They even recognize day and night and are guided by an internal clock that determines when they are most hungry, playful, sleepy, etc. At nearly $500 each, they may not catch on quickly, but it’s easy to imagine that they represent an important step in the evolution of interactive toys.
Muse - The Brain Sensing Headband: Billed a “brain fitness tool,” Muse is a light, wearable brainwave scanner that works with an app to strengthen focus for reduced stress and increased productivity. We were lucky enough to try this and it was a perfect product to test during a high-energy conference like CES Show. You wear the headband like a visor along with a pair of headphones. When synced to your iOS or Android Device, through the App, the headband senses brain activity and provided guidance for entering more of a relaxed/meditative state. Much like Nike Fuel Band, you can track your progress and improve your sense of calm. We think this would be great for everyday use and travel.
The BioLite Basecamp: This product is a larger version of the company’s Camp Stove, and burns small amounts of wood for both cooking and charging your mobile electronic devices. If you’ve ever hauled large bundles of wood and/or a heavy metal fire ring to a beach or camp site, you’ll appreciate the convenience of this lightweight, highly efficient alternative. Consider this a "Portable Campfire" and we think this would be great for taking to the beach.
The 3Doodler: From speaking with the founder/inventor, we learned that this is essentially the arm of a 3D printer separated from the rest of the machine for handheld draw-sculpting (sculpt-drawing?), no computer or software required. The “ink” for this pen is plastic filament that hardens almost instantly. This product was created by accident, when the inventor was using a 3D printer and he wanted to fill in some gaps in his printed part and he simply removed the printer arm and used it manually.
Artec 3D: Speaking of 3D printing, arguably the coolest gadget at CES was Artec Group’s Shapify booth. Shapify creates an exquisitely detailed, three-dimensional digital image of a person in almost any pose; that image is then 3D printed and painted into a “Shapie” — a one-of-a-kind, personal inaction figure. Unfortunately there are only four booths in the U.S. at the moment (in Palo Alto and L.A., California, Dayton, Ohio and Jacksonville, Florida), but there are dozens in Europe, so if you’re traveling soon, make an appointment.