CES 2017: the coolest, strangest and most innovative gadgets you'll see this year
Last week saw the world’s largest consumer tech expo, the Consumer Electronics Show, take place in fabulous Las Vegas. As usual, everyone – from household names like Samsung and Microsoft to tiny startups with big ideas – were setting out their most exciting wares for 2017.
CES is undoubtedly one of the biggest events in the tech calendar, and all of us here at Geek Squad were eager to see what weird and wonderful gadgets would be revealed this time round.
The event is always a charming mixture of serious technology – laptops, electric cars and the like – and stranger things, like the “world’s first Smart Bra”, the bizarre highlight of last year’s show!
As such, you can never be quite sure what you’ll find – and this year’s event didn’t disappoint. Here’s our pick of the coolest, most innovative and downright weirdest products on display this year:
Faraday Future FF91
Last year, Tesla-bothering electric vehicle upstart Faraday Future unveiled the FFZero1: their very first concept car, or “car of concepts” as they insisted on calling it.
This year, Faraday were once again in pole position at CES – but this time, they were showing off their very first production model, the FF91.
The all-electric four-door will allegedly be capable of 0-60mph in just 2.39 seconds, making it the speediest car in the world currently in production, electric or otherwise. This is particularly significant as the current record of 2.5 seconds is held by the other big fish in the electric vehicle pond: Tesla’s Model S P100D. The FF91 also features a 130-kilowatt battery that can cover 378 miles on a single charge, and an artificial intelligence engine capable of automated driving and parking.
Plus, while the FF91 is clearly more than capable under the hood, it also packs an extremely futuristic design: its striking headlights glow and pulsate, and it entirely lacks keys and door handles – relying instead on touch buttons to open its motorised doors. There are no mirrors, either: these have been replaced by a series of HD cameras.
Right now, there’s no news on an official launch date, or even a final price – but that hasn’t stopped more than 64,000 people from putting down a $5,000 deposit to be among the first to get one.
In our opinion, it’s still too early to say whether Faraday can provide a real challenge to Tesla. The FF91 looks incredible, though – and if Faraday can meet demand and iron out the kinks, they could really be on to something.
Samsung Chromebook Plus
It’s no great secret that Samsung had a pretty challenging 2016, with their botched Note 7 recall putting them in the headlines for all the wrong reasons – and while mobile fans are holding their breath for the forthcoming Galaxy S8, due to be revealed before next month’s Mobile World Congress event, the Korean manufacturer were still keen to impress last week at CES.
For us, the highlight of their offering was the Samsung Chromebook Plus. For the uninitiated, Chromebooks are small, light laptops powered by Google’s ChromeOS. For casual web browsing, word processing and the like, they’re a great alternative to Windows or Mac machines – but what makes Samsung’s latest offering special?
Well, for a start, it plays to the ecosystem’s strengths. A clever 360-degree hinge lets the screen flip round into a full-featured tablet mode, emphasising the highly portable, take-anywhere ethos of the cloud-based OS.
But for all that lightness and portability, it still packs a ton of power into its 12.3-inch frame, with 4GB of RAM and a 4K screen meaning it runs fast and looks great. It’s also got two USB-C ports, a microSD card slot and, interestingly, a bundled ‘Digitizer’ stylus. This last inclusion has the potential for some really creative applications, from handwritten notes to precise control for digital art and design work.
All told, it’s a really impressive bit of kit from Samsung. With the ability to run Android apps in movable, resizable windows, it really does seem to offer the best of mobile and desktop ecosystems – and you can’t help but get the feeling that you’re looking at the future of Android tablets.
Razer’s ‘Project Valerie’ three-screen laptop
It’s not often that a laptop offers a genuinely innovative, never-before-seen design – but the Project Valerie machine by Razer has managed it.
This gaming-focused laptop features not one, not two, but three 17-inch, 4K-resolution monitors that pop out at the touch of a button. Some might call this overkill for a portable machine – but then, gamers are power-hungry bunch!
Beyond its striking and unique monitor setup, the laptop features a top-of-the-range NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card – and once it’s all closed up, it’s about 1.5 inches thick and weighs in at almost 5.5 kg. In other words, a MacBook Air it ain't.
While it’s undoubtedly a niche device, it’s an impressive feat of engineering – just don’t expect to be popular if you whip it out for a spot of Call of Duty on a packet commuter train!
Alexa in everything
One of the biggest trends we spotted at CES this year was the increasing integration of Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant, best known from the Echo home hub, into a huge and varied range of devices.
At the high end, carmaker Hyundai announced they’ll be integrating Alexa into their self-driving car, the Ioniq – so owners will be able to start the car, adjust the heating and charge the battery through voice commands.
White goods manufacturer Whirlpool also announced that many of their appliances would receive Alexa support from early this year, allowing users to control everything from washers and dryers to smart ovens and refrigerators.
Finally, we learned that phonemaker Huawei will be including an Alex app preinstalled on their new flagship Mate 9 handset – which should in turn encourage even more users to take the plunge into Amazon’s ever-growing smart home ecosystem.
Indeed, industry site GeekWire reports that Alexa now has over 7,000 ‘skills’ – up from just 1,000 back in September. That’s an incredible rate of growth, and we can’t wait to see where the technology goes over the next 12 months.
Quite aside from the big names, CES wouldn’t be CES without a selection of weird and wonderful start-up gadgets – and one that definitely caught our eye was the Petcube Play.
This unassuming little box is an ‘interactive pet camera’ that lets you see, talk to and play with your pet via your smartphone, wherever you are in the world.
It’s got a full-HD camera with wide-angle view, and two-way audio lets you both hear and talk to your pets. A night vision mode means it’s useful round the clock, and sound and motion alerts notify you about major events at home. It’s even got a built-in laser toy, so you can keep your cat amused (or confused, at least) when you’re not around!
The Play joins a range of similar devices from Petcube, including Petcube Bites which dispenses treats and cloud video recording service Petcube Care. Clearly, this stuff is no substitute for actually spending time with your pets – but for those animal lovers who are forced to spend lots of time away from home, they offer an appealing way to keep in contact with the furrier members of the family.
Segway One S1
Some would argue that using a Segway at all makes you look like a clown – but the One S1 electric unicycle is undoubtedly their most absurd and circus-friendly ‘personal transporter’ yet.
Described by Segway as both ‘functional’ and ‘insanely fun’, the device brings Segway’s patented self-balancing technology to the strange world of one-wheeled devices. You’ll no doubt turn heads whizzing by on one of these – but it also offers practical benefits over the full-sized Segway devices, not least a far more portable form factor.
The device’s lithium-ion batteries are fully charged in four hours, and will then carry you for 15 miles at a speed of up to 12.5 mph – meaning you should have no trouble nipping to the cream pie bakery and picking up your baggy trousers from the dry cleaner while still getting back to the Big Top in time for the show.
Okay, we’re being a little unfair here – but it’s hard to see the One S1 as much more than an attention-grabbing gimmick. That said, there’s sure to be a niche market out there for it somewhere – so if you’ve been waiting for that electric, self-balancing unicycle of your dreams, this could just be it! The Segway One S1 is available now, and will set you back around £795.
That's it for our look at the coolest (and strangest) tech from CES 2017 – but if there's anything that's caught your eye, why not share it with our readers in the comments below? And for more great articles from our Agents straight to your inbox each month, get your name down below for the Geek Squad newsletter!