Offbeat home-based tech gadgets from the CES in Las Vegas

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It felt like a surreal step into the future to look around at the cutting-edge products, gadgets and appliances at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

Held last week in Las Vegas, Nev., this year’s 56h annual CES covered four million square feet of technology for the coming years and decades — from domestic robots that could help us maintain (or secure) our home and innovative foldable laptop-tablet hybrids to 97-inch “wireless” OLED televisions and smartwatches powered by artificial intelligence.

But for all the practical home-based items, the 2023 CES offered silly and strange findings, too. Granted, some of the futuristic domestic tech can be weird and wonderful at the same time.

Check out these offbeat highlights from this year’s big show:

Fur real, a dog communicator. Wouldn’t it be cool if your dog could text you?

A company called FluentPet showcased its upgraded FluentPet Connect communication system, which lets pet owners program paw-sized push buttons with simple words like “Walk,” “Water,” “Outside,” or “Play,” as examples.

FluentPet Connect is a WiFi-enabled button system that lets your dog

Then, after you’ve trained Fido — with 70 per cent of dogs learning at least two words within a month, says the company — your furry friend presses one of the buttons on the spongy, hexagonal tiles, and you’ll be notified on your phone.

(On average, dogs learn up to nine words with the buttons, FluentPet says.)

This WiFi-connected gadget can also capture data, accessed on the phone app, so you can track your pet’s progress and, if you opt-in, help data scientists improve the system.

Available now for preorder at about $215 ($160 US), Fluent Connect should ship by February.

Golden gadgets. Best known for its WiFi bathroom scales, Withings showed its puck-shaped U-Scan sensor that sits inside your toilet bowl and, well, analyzes your urine.

Yep, this hands-free pee tester looks at your nutrition and metabolic health, checking your pH, ketone, protein-vegetable balance, and vitamin C levels, and more. A second monitor is dedicated to reproductive information, focusing on women’s luteinizing hormone for ovulation cycles.

CES was flush with good ideas, including the Withings U-Scan ?  a palm-sized puck for your toilet that analyzes urine for nutritional or ovulation info.

The data is relayed to your smartphone, which lets you access info on the U-Scan’s companion app. The company says each sensor can help provide early detection of potential health issues, and can automatically detect differences between different individuals in a single household.

The U-Scan will cost about $665 ($500 US) when released later this year.

One cool fridge. Color-changing technology was hot at the show this year, and LG’s MoodUP refrigerator — first unveiled in September 2022 at Berlin’s IFA show — garnered quite a bit of buzz at CES. The fridge’s four huge LED panels can display bright colors via its companion app.

Along with matching (and changing) the decor to suit your kitchen, these 23 color options (resulting in 190,000 total combinations) have both a fun and practical application: as the name suggests, they can be used to create a mood for a house party (and after all, the action is often in the kitchen). But the fridge could also blink to let you know the door is slightly ajar.

A tasty addition: the MoodUP fridge also houses a loud Bluetooth speaker for wirelessly playing audio from a nearby smartphone, tablet, or laptop — and yes, the colored panels can give you a light show, too, and in time with the rhythm of the music.

No price or availability has been announced just yet.

Smell-o-vision for VR? You can see 360-degree content in virtual reality, hear spatialized audio, and even experience haptic feedback when “touching” items in VR worlds. So what’s next? It might be smelly.

OVR Technology, a Vermont-based startup that focuses on “digital scent technology,” chose CES to launch ION 3, a wearable cartridge-based scent solution optimized for virtual and augmented reality, mobile, and desktop PCs.

OVR Technology is now adding

Resembling an old-school headset you’d wear around your neck (with one arm extending to sit near your nostrils), the device connects via Bluetooth and can emit aromas, like a perfume, in different combinations to create “thousands” of unique scents .

For example, imagine the aroma of, say, lavender while meditating in VR, or the smell of gun smoke during a first-person shooter game.

Let’s see if this actually comes out, though: I distinctly remember CES in 2001, when I sat through a demo of DigiScents’ iSmell, a computer accessory that was more or less the same idea as ION 3, but the company folded before the product was released.

A “breathing” pillow. Finally, something strange — but perhaps oddly soothing — to help reduce anxiety and induce calm.

Japanese robotics firm Yukai Engineering showed off its Fufuly, a soft pillow that “breathes” when you hug it.

A pillow that

That is, the cushion concept subtly expands and contracts to imply inhaling and exhaling, and will transition from a normal “breathing” state to a more relaxed one, in the hopes that the human hugging it will join in with this slower cadence. The gentle rhythmic pulsation is meant to provide comfort and perhaps lull you to sleep.

Also at CES, Yokai Engineering demonstrated its cute humanoid bedside lamp robot, called Lightony, with a small head that literally nods off after a while — and is said to encourage humans to do the same. Lightony also responds to voice commands, such as asking for a countdown of 100, or saying “good morning” to wake it up and turn itself on.

Marc Saltzman is based in Toronto and covers consumer technology trends. He is a freelance contributor for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @marc_saltzman

Chameleon car

If you can’t decide what color car to buy, BMW may have a solution for you.

BMW rolled into 2023 CES with its BMW i Vision Dee (“Digital Emotional Experience”) concept car that can switch between 32 shades. The midsize sedan leverages an e-ink exterior, not unlike an e-reader’s screen, but lets you quickly switch colors on the fly, or a combination of them, with panels — even changing the look of the wheels and grill.


(At least year’s CES, BMW’s iX Flow concept car could change between black, white, and grey.)

Also on the i Vision Dee is BMW’s updated HUD (heads-up display), which covers the entire windshield, so drivers can access info, communications, augmented reality projections, and something referred to as “virtual worlds,” but little was revealed about that.

This technology could be road-ready as early as 2025.


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