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Where the Robots Meet the Road

CES 2019 boasted disruptive tech, eye-popping gadgetry and some unexpected travel accessories

The annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is the place to go to find out what the next lifestyle disruptions will be, what the next cool must-haves will look like and whether there really is a future for driverless cars and Google glass.

And CES 2019 did not disappoint in delivering the big news: Glass is back. This time, however, those spectacles talk to Alexa, read the weather, provide directions, take photos and video, and display the news in a stunning 3-D hologram-style specter through the lenses, for $1000.

The Vuzix Blade Smart Glasses made a spectacle at the show, with a whole room dedicated to Amazon Alexa-connected products that could do everything from talk to your bike to pump breast milk on command.

Uber, too, chose the show to announce its latest endeavor beyond driverless cars: Pilotless air transportation. Yes, Uber Air is on course to disrupt the way we get from skyscraper to skyscraper.

UBTECH Robotics, a global leader in intelligent humanoid robotics and AI technologies, strutted out its Walker prototype – a robot with arms and legs that take this machine from a talking head to almost human on the robot evolutionary scale. The bipedal humanoid robot now includes fully functional arms and hands with capabilities for a number of business-assisting functions.

Meanwhile, LG, always a big name at CES, did not disappoint. It rolled out its latest concept in redefining the television box: the 65-inch OLED display on flexible glass that rolls up and down, giving you that state-of-the-art 4K screen when you want it and making it all but disappear when you don’t.

Additionally, LG threw its hat into the 8K TV ring with some new displays brandishing 33 million-pixel clarity. And not to be outdone in the AI department, LG’s 2019 TVs are adding IQ points. Its “ThinQ” brand AI has been integrated to offer users great suggestions for their viewing tastes.  On top of that, it wraps into “contextual” conversations through Amazon Alexa to let users ask questions, make demands and connect into other Alexa-enabled devices through their TV.TECH FOR THE ROAD For the near-term technology hidden in the crowded aisles and booth, stuck behind suddenly awake robots and new 8K television screens, some travel gadgets emerged that may make days on the road a little more comfortable.

Business Traveler sifted through some 4,500 new-fangled tech solutions that were looking for a problem to solve and came up with a dazzling dozen suitable for taking on the road.

Hands-free Suitcases

For those who want to turn their luggage into a skateboard, Scoocase has the solution. This battery-powered vehicle rides like a Razor at a 15-mph clip with an aluminum suitcase built on the front to allow a balanced dash to the gate. A spot on the handle holds the smartphone and a Scoocase app helps with navigation. Great for hitting the ground running in the next destination. Prices run around $239.

The Ovis ForwardX is part dog, part travel bag. It’s an electric case for moving around airports without having to drag luggage along. That’s because this bag has eyes that can see you and see where it is going. The principles inside this truly smart piece of luggage are the same found in self-driving vehicles to keep it rolling along with you – without rolling into other people or poles.

The 10-pound suitcase is TSA-approved and meant for carry-on purposes. It expects to sell for $800 but may still be available at the 40 percent discount given to crowd-funding preorders.

Sinus Relief in an Instant

Taking a plane can wreak havoc on sinuses sensitive to changing air pressures and dry environments.

ClearUP may be the palm-sized, holistic, over-the-counter, non-pharma solution. The device uses gentle microcurrents that relieve nerve tangles along acupressure points as it makes its way around each eye and circles the nasal passages. Each treatment takes around five minutes before relief ensues. The device costs around $200.

Personal Air

In an increasingly polluted world and with flights becoming more and more crowded, safe breathing can be a luxury. AirTamer is worn like a necklace and emits a constant stream of healthy negative ions to drive out pollutants, bacteria and pollen from personal breathing space. For those who jog through city streets, it also claims to improve athletic performance. The item fits in the palm of the hand and creates a three-foot sphere of air around the head. It runs on two small lithium batteries and goes for a full week on one charge. Cost is $79.

Find Your Passport

The Cube Tracker, a charm-sized blessing for your personal items, is the answer for those who tend to lose things along the way – whatever those things are. The square can be attached to wallets, passport holders, cameras, keys, files, whatever is keeping you up at night – especially when life on the road keeps things jostled and chaotic. The Cube works with an app that can locate missing items within 100 feet and buzz their whereabouts, or it can offer the last known location of the item on a map. You can even contact another Cube owner if that person is near your lost item. The Cube Pro is the latest edition and sells for $29.99.

A Plug for All Reasons

The five by two inch Nomadplug is touted as the last travel adapter you will ever buy. And that is because it is part adapter and part converter.  It’s jettisoned the heavy, bulky brick that’s usually required and has prong formats that fit any socket anywhere. It uses a powerbank that allows you to stay connected and charge your devices in any country or on the go with USB and USB-C functionality. The plug uses interlocking modules secured together with rare earth magnets and plug formats that allow connection in 190 countries.

Powerful and fast charging, the powerbank accepts 110V – 240V sockets, 50Hz – 60Hz devices and allows for 2 USB type A and 1 USB type C connections that can all be used at the same time. The powerbank can be charged by wall socket or USB port. Available five neon colors, current pre-order prices on Indiegogo run $99.

Drone-style Selfies

The AirSelfie is indeed the first portable HD aerial camera out there that’s made for the selfie-crazed traveler. It looks like an atomic cocktail coaster with four small rotors on a plastic case that is about the size of a hand and weighs less than a wallet. It offers around six minutes of flight time.

Simply remove the flying camera from the powerbank and switch it on. Open the AirSelfie app, press the lift button and watch the flying camera hover to heights up to 65 feet. Adjust height and direction with the app and let the auto-hovering take over to snap HD aerial shots or video. Land the camera smoothly into an open hand or grab it while it’s hovering in midair. The camera has sophisticated sensors and also serves as a small hot spot. An embedded 16GB SD card stores all the photos that can later be downloaded into a computer. Prices run around $199.95.

Tablet Folds into Smartphone

While many of us do not think we need a tablet that folds down into a wallet-sized phone, Royole thinks we do, so they’ve created the FlexPai. The wisdom of this device is that it is two things in one: You can read a book or watch a movie on the full-sized tablet or make a phone call from the device which can then fit into your pocket.

The secret sauce is the patented screen that can be folded and shaped and wrapped around nearly anything. The screen is virtually unbreakable and supports more than 200,000 bends. It cannot be cracked and is scratch proof. As with other tablets and phones, the FlexPai is also a camera with two lenses for photos and videos; however it improves upon the phototaking experience by letting the snapper and the subject of the photo see the pose at the same time. The OS allows for a split screen display and has a drag and drop interface. Selling price is $1,500 – but you get two devices in one with that.

Smooth Talkers

Everyone knows what a challenge communicating between cultures can be when there is no language in common. And while translating gadgets and apps are nothing new, advancements in AI have helped significantly. The WT2 Plus is an ear to ear wearable translator.  It enables face-to-face bilingual conversations and translates languages in near real-time.  

Parties talk and the app translates in conversational text format as well as speaks the translation into the receiving party’s ear. The software supports 36 languages and the earbuds also operate as noise reduction devices. The package comes with two earphone translators, a charging case and an app, and price starts at around $99, although the cost has yet to stabilize.

Another translation device spied at CES2019 is the iFLYTEK Translator 2.0. It’s a sleek palm-sized gadget that translates 63 languages. The device offers advanced speech recognition capabilities and an instant response in text boxes on the small screen. Power users will like the professional vocabulary coverage built into the software for industries like healthcare, IT and finance. It supports communication for up to five hours at a time. The price is $450.

FOMO-proof Binoculars

Binoculars were always just binoculars – until now.  Nexoptic has created binoculars reimagined in the DoubleTake. The device can spot game in the bush and coffee pots in distant apartments and take a movie, share a shot and capture images in ways that have even caught NASA’s attention. The DoubleTake runs on a patented Blade Optics lens design for improved resolution that can quickly and accurately target a moving object.

The technology can push the shot to other nearby devices with internal WiFi, upload that image to social media through a proprietary app, live stream it to a smartphone and record in 4K video. And it’s no bigger nor heavier than that pair of low distance binoculars that have been sitting on your bookshelf for two decades. A price has not yet been set.

Sleep Saver

Anyone who has had to bunk with a traveling companion who snores knows the pain of realizing you may not get a full night’s sleep during the entire trip. Long-haul fliers settling into an overnight flight despair at suddenly being awakened by the disturbing trumpets of the sleeper in the next row. Finnish company QuietOn has met this challenge.

These earbuds have active noise-canceling technology that is particularly effective in the lower frequencies – wavelengths foam earplugs do not address. It releases a calm masking sound and nothing else. It is tiny, fits right in the ear and can be used to muffle day sounds and conversations as well, lasting as long as 20 hours on one charge. The company says it is in talks with major airlines to offer QuietOn earbuds as an upper class cabin amenity for long-haul flights. The sleep buds start at $159.