New year, new chaotic mega tech exhibition. CES was this week, complete with all of its usual glitzy gizmos and gaudy gadgets. It was a strange year for the tech conference. It was held in person and virtually, and multiple presenters pulled out at the last minute, citing Covid concerns. Still, many companies were undeterred, and the slew of tech announcements continued unabated.
WIRED covered CES from afar, including a live taping of the Gadget Lab podcast. This week, WIRED senior associate reviews editor Adrienne So and WIRED reviews editor Julian Chokkattu join us to talk about all the best things we saw at CES, and which consumer technology trends will shape the coming year.
Julian Chokkattu can be found on Twitter @JulianChokkattu. Adrienne So is @adriennemso. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). This special live episode was produced by Jane Garcia Buhks and Chris Cona. Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
If you have feedback about the show, or just want to enter to win a $50 gift card, take our brief listener survey here.
How to Listen
You can always listen to this week's podcast through the audio player on this page, but if you want to subscribe for free to get every episode, here's how:
If you're on an iPhone or iPad, open the app called Podcasts, or just tap this link. You can also download an app like Overcast or Pocket Casts, and search for Gadget Lab. If you use Android, you can find us in the Google Podcasts app just by tapping here. We’re on Spotify too. And in case you really need it, here's the RSS feed.
[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays.]
Lauren Goode: Hey, everyone. Welcome to this special live taping of Gadget Lab. I'm Lauren Goode. I'm a senior writer at WIRED.
Michael Calore: And I am Michael Calore. I'm a senior editor at WIRED.
LG: And this is our first WIRED podcast of the year. And fittingly it's our CES show. It's Wednesday. The show officially started today though we here at WIRED have been taking briefings and just covering the event. It seems like I don't know, snack. It seems like weeks now, days, months.
MC: Yeah. It feels like we've been doing this since the day before Christmas probably.
LG: Pretty much. And as you might be able to tell if you've tuned into this stream, we're not there in-person. WIRED along with a lot of other companies this year decided to participate in CES virtually for health and safety reasons. But we are still keeping a very close eye on the event. We've got a lot to talk about. We're going to get into all of the big trends that we're seeing this year at CES, some interesting new products. And we're going to talk a little bit about what these new technologies mean for the future of tech, like how it lays the groundwork for other tech that we're going to see merge this year.
Also, I should note that if you have questions for us during this special live taping, you can send them to us @GadgetLab or at the main WIRED account on Twitter, which is just @WIRED. And we're going to try to get them later on in the show. We would just love to hear your questions. So send them along. All right. So we're going to have a couple guests with us today. First step is Julian Chokkattu. He is WIRED's review editor. And then later on in the show, we're going to have Adrienne So on as well. And Julian's going to stick around. But first let's go to Julian. Julian, thanks so much for being here or there or in the metaverse or however we're describing where we are?
Julian Chokkattu: I'll take metaverse. Thanks for having me.
LG: All right. So Julian, your coverage typically at WIRED spans a lot of different categories, phones, PCs, AR, VR, micromobility. There's a lot going on there, which categories so far would you say stands out to you? Of all the areas you cover, which area stands out to you the most so far at CES this week?
JC: Well, I think, I guess the first thing maybe that caught my eye that I saw at the show was when Intel randomly announced that it was going to unveil this technology later this year called … Well, it's part of the acquisition of Screenovate. And so you're going to be able to look at your iMessages on a Windows laptop, or check potentially your Apple Watch ECG readings on your Windows machine. Weird and random out of left field thing, but very cool in a way that it's one of those features that if you're in the Apple ecosystem, you're completely used to it. You are obviously from your iPhone going straight to your iPad with the same Safari webpage, or you can read your iMessages on your MacBook and you can do all sorts of things like that that are just pretty much have been normal things on Apple devices for several years.
And to finally see something like that happening potentially with iPhones and with Windows machines is exciting. And this was aided further when Google also announced today, I think it was Fast Pair of their technology, which lets you quickly connect your headphones with your Android phone with a seamless one second approach. That's expanding. So now you can do the same thing. You can connect Fast Pair headphones with your Google TV very quickly. And eventually this also going to allow the headphones to basically automatically switch between devices. And that's tied to your Google account, very similar to how AirPods can just magically switch between your iPhone and your iPad when you're switching between those devices. So it doesn't necessarily seem like something that's going to blow you out of the wall, but it is definitely one of those things that every day I'm just very happy not to be able to soon have to re-pair all my devices to each device that I switched to.
LG: It's interesting to me, Julian, that the first thing that comes to mind for you are actually software inventions, not so much new gadgets.
JC: Yeah. I mean, I'd say mostly a lot of the things that maybe that stuck out to me have been related to software because I think we're getting at a point where a lot of the devices have gotten just pretty great phones and pretty great laptops. And it's hard to make a bad product, I think. Knock on wood. But I think software is where we seeing a lot of that innovation. That said, the other big thing that stuck out was a lot of devices with a crazy long battery life. And this spans various categories and not just really long battery life, but also innovative ways on how to recharge those devices.
One of the things that I think everyone here at WIRED liked was Samsung's eco TV remote that they're going to start packaging with a lot of Samsung TVs. It's basically harnessing excess wifi frequencies to power the remote. So it just sits there on your coffee table. You don't need to plug it in. You don't need to swap batteries and it just going to recharge itself based from your wifi signals. That's insane and really smart. And that's something that I think we are slowly going to start seeing with a lot of these other home gadgets that I don't want to just have to keep using AA batteries and AAA batteries and sending all of those to landfills. And that's just one of the ones that was using wifi technology.
There's another one, we reviewed a pair of Urbanista headphones last year. The company that was behind the technology for that, that enables them to recharge with the power of the sun is now putting it into speakers. The company is called Exiger and they're partnering with a company called Mate and they're making this speaker that basically will recharge through natural and ambient light. So I think again, going to that whole thing about everyday gadgets that don't require too much power. Hopefully you don't also need lithium ion batteries or AA batteries and things like that that would potentially be not so great for the environment, but using renewable sources of energy or wifi.
MC: The battery tech to me is one of the more interesting innovations this year, particularly because there was also, I think a pair of headphones from HyperX that the company's claiming gets 300 hours of battery life per charge. And we're seeing modest gains in things like PCs, which typically last all day, but now can last longer than a day, like a day and a half in some models because they have mobile chip sets in them, right? So they're much more efficient. Battery technology being better is one of the great hurdles towards sustainability in consumer products. The fewer things that we have to throw in landfills, the better, the less energy we have to consume to user devices, the better.
But all of these things that we're seeing this week and the things that we're going to be hearing about over the next year, so they're all relatively low power things. Remotes, speakers, headphones, phones, laptops are the next layer here that we have to get better battery life in. And think this is obviously going to become better in the future. And I think where it's going to get really exciting is when we start seeing very high powered electronic machines get much better battery life. Things like electric cars, because you can think about like the range problem with electric cars right now. If that effectively becomes eliminated in a few years, that's going to be absolutely huge for the EV market. Right?
MC: And also e-bikes, the same thing. Range on e-bikes, power on e-bikes. If you can go three or four, five times as far on an e-bike charge, that's also going to be revolutionary. So I'm all for never having to charge my remote, but when I don't have to charge my Nissan, then it'll be even better.
LG: Yeah. There was a Mercedes car at the event this week too, that was called something like the … I'm going to get it wrong. Like the vision EQXX or EVQXX or something like that. Sometimes these naming conventions make my head explode. But I think they're claiming 600 miles plus in range if the thing ever ships. Yeah. I think that is going to be really exciting. One of the things, and we're going to bring on Adrienne later to talk about micro mobility and personal transport devices because she tests a lot of them.
But one of the things that we talked about before too, is there could be this really cool little e-bike or scooter that's like, oh great. It's really easy to transport and bring on the train or tuck away when you get to the restaurant. But then it only lasts for like 20 miles and you're like, OK, great. So where am I going to charge it in the interim? So battery life very important. It turns out I was talking about this earlier with Brian Barrett on one of our webcasts from WIRED HQ. It turns out that sometimes it's not all of the whizbang, fancy, weird stuff at CES that's most exciting. It's actually just making our lives a little bit better by improving conveniences. And one of those things is in fact battery life.
MC: True innovation looks pretty boring.
JC: I mean, look at the new Motorola buds, for example. They announced a new pair of buds that have 18 hours of battery life, which is … And the that's not in the case. That's separately just the buds. You can literally just stream music for 18 hours, which is insane, especially considering AirPods are four to five hours at the moment. So it is exciting and definitely one of those things that just impacts your everyday life.
LG: Julian, one of the notes that you made when we were talking about this podcast earlier was that you said there you're noticing a trend of webcams getting better. And I would just like to state for this podcast and for the world and for anyone who's working on webcams, that it's OK if they don't get that much better. I'm personally OK with just slightly fuzzy Skype circuit 2010 kind of Gagen blurs. We don't need to get super high depth in our webcams, right?
JC: I can see that argument.
LG: I'm I alone in that?
JC: I get it. I mean, I think from my perspective, it's more to do with low light, I guess. I am currently in my bedroom and I have two different lights beaming at my face basically blinding me to be able to produce this like quality of video that I have right now. If I didn't have those there, I would look awful. So I just think this year is one of the first few years where I've actually seen manufacturers take some time to say, Hey, we have a better webcam, which is just, that was all I needed. I don't need fancy 4k features or whatever, that's nice to have. But just acknowledgement that current webcams are bad and that they're finally getting a little better, that's all I want. Yeah.
LG: Was there any specific laptop or webcam that jumped out at you this week during CES?
JC: Well, Dell is coming out with a monitor with a built in 4K HDR Sony webcam. It's like this gigantic little circle that just sticks out, looks intense. I'm sure you will hate it. And Lenovo also has a ThinkPad X1 line, and they specified a focus on improving their webcam. And also Anchor came out with this sort of a really interesting looking webcam with a built in privacy cover. And they're using AI algorithms to automatically focus in on you and you to zoom in, maybe when your cat is crossing your stream or something like that. So they're definitely playing around and adding more machine learning features into these cameras, not just improving the quality. But I think that there's been a real demand for just better webcams than just the standard fare 720P thing that's been on our laptops for dozens of years.
LG: I do think the potential AI element there is cool. As much as I don't necessarily want the super duper high risk camera, something that right now would use artificial intelligence to see that there's a glare in glasses and all of us are wearing glasses, right? So we all suffer this problem and would be able to eliminate that in some way. Or there's a lot of stuff going on right now with eye gaze too, which is cool. You're looking down at notes, but you could potentially have your eyes looking upward. That's really fascinating.
MC: Yeah. It would solve the weird camera placement on iPad during FaceTime calls, right? So if you'd like to use your iPad during FaceTime calls, it looks like you're always looking over to the side when you're talking to the person. They could software correct your eyes and snap them back to the camera. That'd be pretty dope. I know a lot of people are looking forward to that someday. And also just as many people are dreading that someday.
LG: Julian, we can't get through this podcast without talking about the metaverse. I already had one mention at the top of the show. So for those of you who are listening, if you're playing a drinking game, here's your opportunity to do another shot. Metaverse. So for years we called this AR, VR. More recently and was referred to as XR, which means cross reality or extended reality. But CES is usually a place where you get to see some interesting new headsets and heads up displays that are going to power this ne next level experience at the metaverse. Have you seen anything this week, I keep saying seen because all of us, of course, haven't been able to put these things on our faces. But have you seen anything this week that jumps out at you in the Metaverse?
JC: The biggest thing for me, I suppose would be Qualcomm had announced that they are working on a NextGen chip with Microsoft that will power the NextGen smart classes from Microsoft. So that is just something that was an announcement. It's something to look forward to, but it is definite one of the big tech companies working on this thing. And it's in the context of having consistently heard that apple is working on AR glasses. And I think recently there was news that Google is also definitely going to be working on their own AR glasses as well. I think it's just leads to like, OK, this is happening. Maybe 2022 new two is the year that we'll see some big names enter this smart glasses industry that's not existing yet.
I mean, so far a lot of the things are basically glasses that are just displays, which is by far still the thing that you see the most. And also by far still the thing that's the most disappointing tech in my opinion, because you want to wear glasses and have all this cool stuff happen. But at the present time, when you try these things on, like TCL has next wear air glasses that you put on, and it's basically just mimicking your phone screen on the lenses, which I suppose has utility and is cool. Maybe that's cool as a stretch. But they look clunky. They don't really do much other than basically paste your phone on the glasses. They're not futuristic. They're not showing me all sorts of crazy things in real time. That's what I think is going to be more exciting. And so far, I think it's mostly just Qualcomm and well, I guess I should also mention PSVR because that's one of the metaverse.
PS Sony announced that there's going to be a PSVR2. That's actually pretty much all they said. They didn't show us a picture. They said there's going to be controllers, which is nice, I guess, and there's going to be one game, a horizon Call of the Mountain, not Call it the Wild. But Call of the Mountain is from the Horizon franchise. It's a follow-up, or I guess it's just a VR version of that game. And that's exciting because PlayStation VR became supremely popular with the old gen PS4. So PS5 is becoming increasingly popular. And I suppose this will be foray for a lot of people to enter VR with their existing consoles. And that's exciting.
LG: That's also very Sony, isn't it, to host an event and be like, "We've got this really amazing piece of hardware coming out," but you can't see it yet. I remember they did that years ago with one of the PS consoles at an event in New York. The diehard fans were going to wait for it regardless of what it looks like. Julian, it sounds like you are mostly not impressed with the metaverse at CES this week, but there are glimmers of hope in the future. Thanks to Sony.
JC: I'm trying.
LG: You don't have to be optimistic. You can just unleash on this podcast if you want, Julian. But hold that thought because we're going to wrap up this segment, but want you to stick around because we're going to bring you back later in the show to answer some listener questions and to give your recommendation for this week. And again, I should tell everyone who's out there listening, if you're listening live and you have any questions for us about CES or really about anything, about life, Mike gives great life advice, send them to us @WIRED at the main account. And we're going to get to them in just a bit.
LG: Now I'm really pleased to welcome WIRED senior associate reviews editor, Adrienne. Also, joining us from the metaverse, in this case, the Portland metaverse … Is that correct? Hey Adrienne.
Adrienne So: Hey Lauren. Completely correct. Nothing here is real. It's awesome.
LG: Adrienne, the last time I saw you, we were both speaking of the metaverse. We were in a Meta Quests, two headsets playing a boxing game together on a Saturday night. I may have just revealed this as total nerds, but it's nice to see you and not your avatar.
AS: Or the coolest people ever. It's nice to see me when I am not beating you.
LG: It's odd. It turns out Adrienne has this extreme competitive streak. It's intense. Right now she's been she's been tweeting at me and Saira Mueller calling us suckers on Twitter today. So it's like it's on.
AS: I think Saira let the battery run out on her headset in order to get away from me. So we're going to have to do a rematch once Saira charges her headset and gets her gumption back up.
LG: That's right-
AS: I'm prepared. Yeah. Having internet troubles.
LG: Sorry, I got to go.
AS: I know.
LG: You're another one of our longtime WIRED veterans and CES veterans. You cover a lot of home tech, health tech, wearables, personal transportation. We're going to get variables. Let's start with home. So home tech is definitely not a new category at CES, especially, which is with the proliferation of IOT products over the past few years. Everything from your toothbrush to your doorbell, getting a Bluetooth and wireless chip. There's been a lot of home tech. But now it's like worth so much more focused on our homes. We're spending so much more time at home. It's a pretty hot category. What have you seen this week that stands out to you in terms of the smart home?
AS: Well, it's running on similar themes, is what Julian was talking about, which is that everybody has all this stuff and you want it just to work together. So if you have a Samsung robot vacuum and Samsung has a hub, like the way you would make all of your home appliances work together would be to have your Samsung vacuum and then add your Samsung washer and dryer. And just to have everything be made by one manufacturer under one hub, one app on your phone. If you have a bunch of different speakers in your house, probably they're all going to be Sonos or they're all going to be HomePod minis. And that's how we get things to work together, which doesn't really work if you're trying to get your toothbrush to match up with your faucet or whatever you're doing nowadays.
So the way that I just want everything to turn on around me like a God, but the way we're working on this right now, we, I personally am working on this, is with Smart Home Alliances. So you may have heard of the Zigbee connectivity standards where tech reporters barely did anything with Zigbee at all. But there's a new Smart Home Alliance called Matter, which is endorsed by Amazon Alexa, Google. And then at CES this year, the home connectivity alliance was announced and that's a partnership between hardware manufacturers like Samsung, GE, Electrolux, I think are a couple of the people who are working with the Home Connectivity Alliance. I'm not really sure where it's going, but it just speaks … It's really interesting to me to figure out how people are going to guide their shopping choices in the future.
For example, Arlo, it makes some of our favorite webcams, and they just announced that they're working with Matter. Ikea is working with Matter, but GE makes most of our refrigerators and washers and dryers. Does that mean you're going to go with a hardware manufacturer for a webcam that works with the Home Connectivity Alliance versus Matter? Are these things that regular customers are going to care as much about as we care about? I don't know.
LG: Right. And are they two worrying alliances? Go ahead, Mike. I've been talking a lot.
MC: It's OK. For a long time, the thing that was the glue that connected all these things together was Amazon Alexa, right? It's always been like the voice layer has been the thing that connects it together and that ambient computing layer, where the camera sees you come home and then it silently tells your thermostat to adjust the temperature. Those things have always been proprietary connections. If this goes according to plan, if these alliances actually bear fruit, it'll be that you can do those ambient computing things between devices by different manufacturers. And you can also do them without having to ask a voice assistant to control the things for you, which is exactly what I want. I don't want to have to talk to my house.
AS: Yeah. I've seen a couple of those ambient experiences here at CES too. Like with the Kohler digital showering experience, because I need the most flattering lighting and only the most soothing aromas to greet me as I run into the shower after my gym. I don't want to interrupt things with this squeaky old chatter box.
LG: For a while there was also Nest, right? I mean Nest, which is now a part of Google. And I think a lot of the products have just been rebranded Google Home or whatnot. But they were doing their works with Nest thing for a while. And I think eventually they wound that down and it turned out that maybe it wasn't the best solution to just have one company establish a standard and say, We're going to develop the standard. Put out a software development kit. You can have your hardware work with this, and just this. I think consumers do. They want security first of all, right? So these alliances are undoubtedly going to be talking a lot about home security and what the protocols are for that. But consumers really just want everything to work together. I don't think they want to go to the hallowed halls of home depot and Lowe's. I don't think they want to go and say, Does this work with H … What is it called? The HCA.
LG: HCA. Always HCA compatible or Matter compatible. They're going to go, Oh, does this work with like my Apple phone?
AS: Yeah. It's interesting to me because there are also multiple layers of devices. You've got your locks and your webcams and your smart locks. But then Google doesn't make a washer and dryer. They don't make a refrigerator. Those are the kinds of things that GE is going to make. I think the one interesting thing to me is that Samsung does make these multiple layer of devices. They make everything from the smart robot vacuums to your cameras and everything. And they are in both those sneaky bastards.
And they also have smart things, right? Isn't smart things their own home platform? For a while, there was works with smart thing going on. Whether that still exists.
MC: That's still going.
AS: They're definitely hedging their bets there.
LG: Interesting. Should we talk about micro mobility, personal transport? I don't know. Mike, what would you call it? Scooters?
MC: Yeah. I would call it micro mobility. I think that's what most people call it. Things that get you around the city that aren't cars or public transportation.
AS: Sorry, Mike, I cut out for a second there. But I'm assuming now that we're talking about bikes, because-
LG: Yeah. Mike, didn't ask you a question. Mike just said, "Micro mobility" and wants you to just go.
AS: Yeah. And it did. It worked. My heart rate went up by like 30 beats per minute. The minute I did not hear you say that, Mike. So electric bikes, the thing that I have been seeing a lot here is again, it is not … I mean, there is hardware that I am excited about. But one of the most exciting things is seeing electric bikes made by Panasonic that are UL certified. So when people ask me, "Why do you want to spend more money on an electric bike?" The main thing is safety. You don't want the bike to set on fire in your garage. You don't want pedals to be snapping off when you're going 20 miles per hour on a rainy road with your kids. A lot of cheaper bikes, they don't have the facilities or the money for queues for extensive QC testing.
And one of the certifications, I think, the name is escaping right now. It's like underwriters something, UL. They're a third party battery and safety certification that Panasonic has just announced that they are debuting two bikes at CES here that are UL certified. And that's why my personal bike has a Bosch drive train because for a really long time, Bosch were one of the only companies whose power trains were also UL certified. So the fact that bikes are now touting their safety certifications is something that I'm pretty excited about given that I like having my limbs attached to my body.
I'm totally going to butcher this other name. It's German. The initials are E-F-B-E. I think people pronounced it like EFBe. So those that's fatigue testing to make sure that frames are not going to bend or snap on you. And that brings me to the other exciting development that I've seen at CES, because we've been talking a lot about bikes and e-bikes especially as personal mobility vehicles. But they are also like totally awesome as commercial cargo solutions, especially in dense cities. I think there's some recently published studies that say a delivery person riding a cargo bike in a city can deliver 10 packages an hour versus six packages per hour for someone in a van. If you can just roll up onto the sidewalk and just toss an Amazon package at someone's store, that's going to be so much faster than a van driver, even an electric van driver. That's going to be so much faster than an electric van driver. Pulling up to the sidewalk and trying to find a safe place to get out of traffic.
And so it was exciting to see Tern and Carla Cargo trailers exhibiting, or Matter exhibiting at CES this year. I don't know. We can coin our own portmanteau right now. That's what we're here for. So Carla Cargo trailers, they're European trailer company that allows you to haul a ton of S-H-I-T anywhere you go. So commercial cargo solutions on bikes that have been tested to be extra tough, I am excited to see that. I mean, this is especially great for small businesses because you can buy a ton of bike and trailers for way cheaper than one electric van. I don't even know what those cost now, like $100,000 or something. So keep that in mind.
LG: This brings me to the pods. I feel like we have to talk about the pods, not AirPods. Two companies, LG electronics, which I believe was the very first press conference of press day, Tuesday or Monday. What day? What is time? I don't know. Earlier this week. And then Hyundai, which had its press conference a little bit later, they both showed off.
LG showed off something called the Omnipod, which is a cabin on wheels. It's like this little futuristic cabin on wheels. It's autonomous. And the idea is that it would be whatever you want it to be, whatever you need it to be. Do you need a mobile office? That's great. Use it as your office. Do you need a fitness studio on the go? That's great. Put your Peloton in there. Do you need to shop for groceries and then have the thing just wheel you to the grocery store? That's great. You can use a touch screen and shop for your groceries in advance. Do you need a second home office because your family is driving you insane and you need a place to go? It's great. Just park it in the driveway, plug in your Omnipod, and there's your mobile office. It was so futuristic and yet so dystopian.
And then Hyundai showed off a version of a pod as well. Although theirs was a little bit more like there was this art in the background where you can see them sliding up the sides of buildings, the pods going up your own little elevator portal. And then they're on a train. And I was like, "I actually am not quite sure what's going on here, whether this is …" Of course, they're concepts. But what do you guys make of this? Is this really the way we're going to be living in the future? We're already pretty isolated these days. Are we going to be living in pods? Do they suggest something about personal mobility and micro mobility in the future that maybe we shouldn't overlook. Or are these just crazy concepts that they're using to get attention? And now I'm talking about it on our podcast.
AS: Lauren, before we continue about pods, I would like to mention that I live in the future. Time and space no longer exist for me. I have an AI in my computer that's keeping my eyes focused on you. And I'm actually clipping my nails and playing checkers with my daughter in the future here and not paying any attention to you at all. It is all nonsense. The Omnipod it just seems like, I'm about to get real dark here all of a sudden, but the Omnipod seems like a modular R- I mean, it just looked like a modular RV to me. I mean, it looked awesome, but I also was picturing tons of these just parked in the Google parking lot so that they didn't actually have to make like the two hour trip to …
Because I do have engineer friends like this, and I suggested that he get a quest too so that he could also play boxing games with, because I just loved to fight. And he said that he didn't want to get one because he didn't want to be playing it in the parking lot in front of his van. And so if he had a pod, then he could just bump out the top, put out his fitness studio flooring, and then he could have played FitXR with us. But this is the future. It's the future, Lauren. It's the metaverse undefined. Now I'm just rambling just thinking about-
LG: So I think what you're saying is that some of these technological solutions are in search of a problem instead of addressing an actual problem, like maybe housing before pods, right?
MC: Do the Omnipods have a bathroom inside of them because that would really make them useful?
LG: Well, in the future-
MC: Like a service housing.
LG: We're just going to download our brains to robots, like Adrienne is deploying right now and we won't have to go to the bathroom.
LG: All right. It's got really dark. We need to get to talk about health tech. Adrienne, super quickly, tell us what the most exciting thing was in health tech that you saw this week.
AS: Again, it's not a super innovative like hardware thing. But Movano and Withings, Withings, which makes some of our favorite health tech fitness trackers, they are actually submitting data and clinical trials for FDA approval. Because most of the vastly popular fitness tracking devices, we call them fitness trackers because we can't legally call them health trackers. They have not been cleared by the FDA. Even our super favorite Apple Watch is covered with disclaimers like, "Here's all this medical tracking equipment, but you can't use it as a medical device."
LG: Right. I think Apple Watch has De Novo clearance for certain features, but it doesn't … None of these are FDA approved, right, as medical devices.
AS: Mm-hmm. But Withings, I think their scan watch, which I really love was delayed for about six months for FDA approval and now it's on the market. And one of the devices that I'm pretty excited about is the Movano watch, which looks like the Oura ring, or it's smaller than the Oura ring that I'm currently wearing. But it is going to be certified as an FDA cleared device. And it's going to be monitoring really common health problems like diabetes and hypertension. And so the idea that you could have a not fitness tracker that's taking care of yourself, like a Tamagotchi, as I think I saw on Twitter today. You're not counting your steps or how many squats you did. You actually have a really attractive light wearable that can help you monitor chronic health conditions. This is a good for the future as I see. Movano is currently exploring ways to make their device more affordable and accessible. So that's also really exciting.
LG: We've gotten some questions from the people who are watching on Twitter. So thank you for sending those in. We're going to bring Julian back into so he can participate in this Q and A around. Oh my gosh. There are a lot of really good questions here. I don't even know where to start. OK. There's a really great one. Oh, here's a good one. OK. This one is coming from Kate Kirkland 11. "Is there anything good you've seen for Wear OS," which is Google's wearable OS. I'm going to toss that one to Mike and Julian here.
JC: Yeah, sure. There were two new Wear OS watches from Fossil, one of the few companies still turning out Wear OS watches consistently. Unfortunately they're not particularly new. Fossil late last year came out with the Gen 6 watch, with the new Qualcomm processor and everything. And so these two new watches, one of which is the Skagen Falster Gen 6 and Razor collaboration. It was a Razor focused gaming watch. It just pretty much has a black and green theme, like all of Razor's products. But they're basically the same product as the Fossil Gen 6. They have the same hardware. They're just looking like different products that match those respective brands.
There was one software announcements from Google related to Wear OS though. They did say that soon you'll be able to unlock your Chromebook and your Android phone by just having your Wear OS watch on you. How I think you can do that with the Apple Watch and your iPhone. As long as it's nearby your laptop or your phone, I think it'll just automatically. And that's nice, right?
MC: Yeah. Ambient authentication. Do you think that maybe there are a lot of smartwatch manufacturers out there who are holding off on Wear OS? Because there are rumors that are circling that Google is going to have its own Pixel Watch this year, and maybe they don't want to dip in if Google's going to come in and eat up all the candy.
JC: I don't think people are going to avoid entering the market because there's so much, piece of the pie to get. Samsung only just joined the Wear OS ecosystem last year, and now you have this full groups of, there's the Apple Watch ecosystem and then there's the Wear OS ecosystem. Now there's two groups, Android and iOS. So there's a lot of people to have use your own little device. So I don't think it's going to shy people away from entering the market just because Google's going to make one, especially because Pixel phones as much as we like them, don't really have a lot of market share. It's a lot to really explore. We'll see. But Wear OS3 is going to be coming to more watches later this year. So I think that is something to look out for. There's going to be a lot of activity there, whether or not Google has its own watch.
LG: Mike, you're a Pixel user and so you don't wear an Apple Watch. You often wear it. If you're going to wear a watch at all, you wear an analog watch, right? So if there was a Pixel made smartwatch, would that be thing that pushed you into smartwatches?
MC: I don't know. My big thing is that I don't like to have to charge my watch every day. So I wear a Withings Activite. I think it's an Activite Steel, which I put a new battery in about once every 16 months.
LG: Got to love it. You're co-host of the Gadget Lab podcast.
MC: It is a smartwatch.
LG: It is a smartwatch.
MC: It is a smartwatch.
LG: I gave it to a family member once and he really liked it. So it's very simple. It's very nice looking too. Yeah.
AS: What a luxury to only be able to wear one watch per year, Mike. I think I have about six that are waiting to switch on.
LG: Right. Next question. "A lot of us parents are still spending lots of pandemic QT with our kiddos at home." I'm going to take that to mean quality time and not quite time. "Any good kids or parenting tech we can look forward to?" That's from Alice Bird.
AS: I did get a lot of latent in the game pitches for software for Chromebooks. But I was just commenting to Lauren and Mike. I have a four year old, and a six year old, and two years into this pandemic. The number of pitches for at home solutions has steadily gone down. I think all of us parents are getting pretty tired. Man, I wish I could help. I did have a really great pitch that I'm planning on. A really great product that I was excited about. It is an outdoor gaming console, but it's really just like light up handheld toys that can get your kids outside, running, passing a lightning bolt or playing outdoor AR whack-a-mole. So I am pretty excited about that. Anything that can get kids, especially small ones, outside socializing safely, that's going to be way more exciting to me than anything on any new tablets or software at this point.
LG: Fair enough. Right. I really like this question because I've been thinking about this a lot. This is really open to the whole panel here. "Do people really need to go to CES anymore now? We're pretty much virtual anyway. Our conferences in the metaverse just are new now." Oh, I like that, are new now. What do we think?
AS: I'm just going to jump right on in here. I miss CES so much. I miss getting to see you guys in person and continuing to be shocked by how tall Julian is in real life versus being one inch tall on my screen. I miss the warm cheese. I miss being able to pick up and see things in person because that's really what they pay us for. Not everybody is the ability to be able to pick up a pair of smart glasses and just be like, This feels like crap. That hands on gut feeling, that emotional response that you get from picking up a piece of hardware. I miss that. I don't think you're going to get it from a headset. So that's just my two cents there.
JC: Yeah. I mean, one of my most favorite things I think of all CESs that I've ever attended was I discovered basically a chess board with moving pieces, the pieces that move themselves through magnets and you're just … It was crazy. It's basically Wizard's Chest from Harry Potter. It blew my mind. I found it at some random booth in Eureka park at CES several years ago. And to this day that's like one of the things that I think I'll eventually buy. It's like $200, so it's pretty expensive. But one day I'll buy it. But it's one of those things that it's like, I'm not going to see that, I'm not going to find that on like a virtual CES.
Already I feel like I've had so much trouble finding a lot of these weird fun gadgets and gizmos that were so easy to come by before. Now it's mostly the big announcements from the big companies, which we all get in our inboxes. But it's just hard and difficult to find the fun stuff from the weird French district of CES or whatever, really. So that's something that I definitely miss and hopefully next I'll be traversing those halls.
MC: Yeah. La French Tech always has some of the best toys. One of the things that often gets lost in the conversation is the fact that CES is fundamentally a B2B show, right? So it's like a business deal show. It's set up so that the person who is the buyer where the big box store chain can show up and meet with the sales rep for Hisense televisions and the sales rep for, I don't know, TCL vacuum cleaners and put in like millions of dollars worth of orders. So it's a show where big retail deals get done and big distribution deals get done.
And that as spec pretty much has to be in person. I'm sure that there are a lot of deals done over the pandemic, not in person. But part of the healthy consumer electronics economy, that face to face interaction is going to be critical. For us as journalists covering it, I echo what everybody else just said. I really miss wandering aimlessly through the Las Vegas Convention Center for three days straight, blurry eye, shuffling my feet, undernourished, just collecting content to put onto the internet.
LG: I miss celebrating your birthday in person in Las Vegas, Mike, because every year your birthday falls either during CES or just afterwards. And so I have these great photos of CES 2020 of all of us packed into a restaurant, exchanging all kinds of respiratory droplets before we knew what was imminent. And we get you vegan cupcakes.
MC: Oh, I remember those cupcakes.
LG: I mean, I do miss that. I do miss paying $11 for a coffee at Bouchon Bakery in The Venetian every morning. But I miss that a lot. One of my favorite CES stories similar to Julian's is several years ago, I think it was 2013, I was on the ground for CES for probably four or five days, very tired. On my way out an editor messaged me and said, "Lauren, everyone's talking about this thing. It's being shown in a back room, in a hotel room. You have to go see it." I mean, I think I was literally on my way out the door with luggage. And I'm like, "OK, I'll go see this thing." So I went to this hotel suite and it was Oculus. It was like, blew my mind, like totally blew my mind. It was Brendan Iribe. Am I saying his name correctly? Sorry Brendan I'm butchering your name. It was just this big boxy thing, right. It had been crowdfunded and I'm not even a huge gamer.
And so I put it on and it was this first person shooter game. Even I was like, "This is incredible." I just never had a computing experience like this before. I was sold. And that was a CES thing. It's not like it's big reveal was a CES. Obviously people had been crowdfunding it, but it was the first time a lot of us got to try it. It was very, very cool. So not quite the same when someone's showing you a pair of smart glasses over a PowerPoint or something. That's for sure. OK. I have one last question from our listeners that I want to get to. It's a life advice question. Thank you so much for sending this in. I did ask for life advice questions. And it is for snack fight. "How do I become more extroverted during a pandemic?"
MC: How do you become more-
AS: Please, Mike, help us. Help us all.
LG: This is not going to be me. I don't want to become more extroverted, but this person does.
AS: No. I do.
MC: OK. Here's here's my answer. Visit a nude beach.
LG: Like in the metaverse or in real life?
MC: No, in real life.
LG: And what does that do?
MC: Well, it's outdoors. So it's safe, social distancing wise and extra version is built in.
AS: Is the person going to be clothed at the nude beach or they should be participating? The person asking this question should be for participating in the nude beach.
LG: OK. What if they're in a cold weather climate?
MC: Well, the pandemic will probably still be going on in a few months.
AS: Gloves and a hat would allow you to participate.
MC: Hashtag YOLO. That's all I'm saying.
AS: YOLO. That's been my theme for the last couple of months. Should I spend 40 hours a week on puzzling places on the Quest 2? YOLO. Yeah. You only live through a pandemic once. That's what I have to say.
LG: One hopes.
AS: OK. If you're lucky.
LG: It just turns out it lasts the rest of your life. OK. For those of you who are still with us, we're so grateful for you. I'm pretty sure we just lost some listeners, but we love those of you who have remained. We're reaching the end of our time together. We only have a few minutes left. But before we go, we did want to do just one thing. For those of you who listen to our podcast regularly, the Gadget Lab Podcast, we always give a little recommendation at the end of every show. This week we're not doing our standard recommendations. Here's this thing I love, go buy it. We are once again, keeping this CES themed and we're going to do a lightning round, where each of us say the one thing that we found the most interesting or important at CES this year. Could be a product, could be a trend. I don't know your favorite nude beach. Just kidding. Adrienne, let's start with you. What's the one thing, lightning round that stood out to you most this year?
AS: Bikes. Bikes are going to continue to be important. There was a lot and it's especially timely now with the passage of the infrastructure job act, the build back better bill. Yeah. They're not toys. They're for real. They go fast. You can get hurt. Get a good one. There you go.
LG: And you mean e-bikes or just bikes?
AS: E-bikes. Well, bikes too.
AS: Those are fine.
LG: Julian, what's your theme this year? What's your big theme?
JC: It's weird. It's haptics. There's a lot of talk on Haptics, which is basically the vibrations that come out of your phone or advanced vibrations. A ton of laptop manufacturers are using haptic track pads now. Very much Force Touch on MacBooks. And also I spoke to a company called Boreas Technologies that's introducing this thing called Nexus Touch, which is their version of … So instead of making buttonless phones, as we might have heard from a couple of CESs ago, these are basically embedded into the sides of phones and it lets you customize what types of buttons you add. Like if you want a camera shutter, you can add a camera shutter. But the cooler thing for me is they're being a bit more pragmatic and they understand that not everyone wants a buttonless phone. I don't want a buttonless phone. I like my buttons. But they're adding to what's already there.
So they showed a retrofitted Google Pixel 4 with, they basically put their tip into the volume rocker and they were able to slide a finger down on the volume rocker to scroll the webpages or flip through the camera, back to the rear camera and to the front camera, or zoom in and out of the camera. You do just all sorts of things that basically you can do. And I think that's just one of those things where the whole proponent was that they can have localized vibrations straight to your finger. So you really get that tactile sensation that mimics whatever the manufacturer is going for. So I think for me, what's cool about it is just I think we're just going to see this wave of haptic feedback being more of a thing on all of our everyday gadgets. And I think that's very important because we touch our device a lot and that is just very nice to have actual nice feelings and sensations when we actually use those things rather than cold, static, hard metal.
LG: Feelings and sensations. That's what you come to the gadget lab for. Thank you for that, Julian. That's awesome. Looking forward to more feelings than sensations in 2022. I can't even say that word. Mike, snack fight. What's the thing that stood out to you most this week?
MC: The thing that I really like is what I've seen. I've seen trend of creative uses of AI for cameras. We've seen a lot of fun AI powered, like computer vision powered features in cameras over the last couple of years. But at CES we saw company UFI, which I believe is a sub-brand of Anchor if I'm getting that right. Yes. They made a security camera that recognizes package deliveries. So it has computer vision in the camera and it actually has a camera that faces down onto your doorstep. It's a doorbell camera. Just like a doorbell, you walk up and you press the button and then it shows your face on the person's device or on their smart home display or whatever. This has an additional camera that recognizes package deliveries. And who doesn't like that? Who doesn't like being able to just not have to go downstairs and look and see if the package has been delivered by just a look on your phon? Oh, there's a package there.
What else? There was the John Deere self-driving tractor that has 20 cameras on the outside of it and it uses them for collision avoidance. You think about collision avoidance for things like drones and self-driving cars, but now that same technology is on self-driving tractors. We saw a bird feeder, I think it's called the Bird Buddy, which can recognize birds and help identify birds using AI because it has a camera on it. So when a bird lands and feeds, it snaps a little picture and send it to your phone and says, Hey, there's a new bird that's visited you today. This is all really cool stuff. And it's all software. The hardware has been around for years and just these little software improvements that make things more fun, more useful. I'm always down for that. What would you say is your pick, Lauren?
LG: I would just like to say that my cat has already volunteered to be a content moderator for the Bird Buddy to train the AI and really wants to identify all those different birds. We talked a little bit about this earlier and mostly we talked about how Adrienne has been schooling me in FitXR on Meta Quest 2. But I think the thing I'm most excited about are all these advancements in AR and VR. And some of what we saw this week was in fact incremental. When I think about something like Vuzix, right, Vuzix, AR classes have been around for a while. They mostly sell it to the enterprise market. But they showed off a new pair of glasses this week that's a little bit lighter and slimmer than their earlier form factors.
Panasonic, a couple years ago, announced steam VR compatible goggles. And they finally said they're going to ship this year. They're going to be $900. And they're relatively compact pair of VR goggles with super high resolution in each eye. And then we mentioned the Sony PlayStation VR 2 headset and controllers. Whenever that comes out. And one of the interesting things about that is that the headset itself will offer some vibration feedback as you're using it, at least according to Sony. So are all interesting things. And I think in general, it's going to be a pretty big year for AR in VR, which is what I will continue to call it instead of the "metaverse." Who am I joking? Who am I kidding? We're going to call it the metaverse.
AS: I would like to put out a call for developers to put more games specifically for VR, whether that's the Quest 2 or any of the other new VR headsets that are coming out because we have a thirst for blood and YOLO.
LG: I have to put you off there because we have to wrap. YOLO. Theme of the show. That's our show. Thank you so much, Julian and Adrienne for joining Mike and I. This has been super fun and thanks to all of you for listening. Thanks to everyone who watched live and sent in your questions. We really appreciate it. This special live episode was produced by Jane Garcia Buhks and Chris Cona. Thanks to Repertoire Productions for running the video for us. Our show is produced by Boone Ashworth every week. And we'll be back next week with another episode of Gadget Lab. So be sure to tune in. I'm Lauren Goode from WIRED. Thanks again, and have a good night.
[Gadget Lab outro theme music plays.]
More Great WIRED Stories📩 The latest on tech, science, and more: Get our newsletters!The race to find “green” heliumNeed to test a space suit? Head to IcelandThis digital bank is designed for the LGBTQ+ communityPicture-perfect “graze boxes” are taking over FacebookHacker Lexicon: What is a watering hole attack?👁️ Explore AI like never before with our new database📱 Torn between the latest phones? Never fear—check out our iPhone buying guide and favorite Android phones