Editor's Note: Technobabble is our occasional series looking at the more colorful sides of technology, including research-based musings that illustrate the CIO Dive Editorial Team's case for the future HQ2 location.
This week, the headlines have been aflutter with news coming out of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
A conference that sends the tech world into an annual tizzy speaks more toward the consumer applications of technology, rather than business interest (though many of the showcased technologies will find a comfortable home in the enterprise).
In many ways, CES embodies the spirit of innovation and triumphs in technology. But in other cases, however, CES is a platform for technological excess.
When inventors were asking "why not," they really should have been asking "why?" (We're looking at you, GPS and bluetooth-enabled "vibrating hotpants.")
We've followed the show and have compiled the good, the bad and the ugly, not-so-work-related that came out of CES 2018.
Despite the cold metal components of most technologies, some gadgets introduced at CES warmed our hearts.
Aflac, alongside Sproutel, a health and research company, partnered to bring children diagnosed with cancer My Special Aflac Duck.
The duck's plush overcoat layers over its robotics core. The mechanics of the duck includes RFID-enabled emoji cards which are said to aid children in expressing their feelings when it would otherwise be too difficult to articulate.
Aflac intends to distribute the therapy companion, meant to make children feel as though they are not alone in their cancer treatments, to every child in the U.S. with cancer. Oh, and it's free of charge.
A smart fabric company, Xenoma, took on an issue that hits close to home for many families. Xenoma created a set of pajamas with circuits intertwined through the pants of the pajamas to notify medical professionals of movement.
This is the first announcement of our medical application for dementia patients at a hospital in Germany.... https://t.co/EPNJKq5srM— Xenoma Inc. (@Xenoma_Inc) January 8, 2018
The sensors sewn into the shirt monitor a patient's heart rate and are connected to the "Iron Man-style plastic disc" at the top of the chest, reports Engadget. The disc houses the battery, Bluetooth LE unit and an accelerator and gyroscope.
While Samsung's Aibo is not a new technology, the 2018 Aibo may be the goodest boy of CES this year. For all of those unfairly diagnosed with a dog allergy, Aibo offers a solution. The mini Labrador-like robot has touch sensors on its head, chin and back while its eyes are OLED panels, that adoringly gaze back at you, reports The Verge.
The best part of every day is coming home to dog that loves you. Because of the camera situated in Aibo's nose, it'll be able to recognize you when you come through the door. Even though Aibo is biologically lifeless, it is infinitely better than Furbies.
CES sometimes presents a cornucopia of bad technology ideas. This year, the most glaring example was the choice by Hanson Robotics to present nightmare-inducing "humanoid" robot Sophia with legs. That's right. The world's first robot citizen, granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia in October, can walk, albeit awkwardly.
People are asking what I wore for my first steps. I was honored to be dressed by fashion brand #PH5. Designed and manufactured by women, they're all about innovation, risk-taking, and playfulness - just like me! Here's the top I was wearing: https://t.co/85dGGK8UJU pic.twitter.com/tPpcWRlSew— Sophia (@RealSophiaRobot) January 11, 2018
Advancements in robotics and AI are important, but should the technology world combine them at such an early stage? If you're Hanson, the answer is wholeheartedly yes. If, however, you're a member of the logical and Terminator-fearing populace, the answer is absolutely not.
To ease your fears, remember that Sophia is far from sentient. In a conversation with Gizmodo, Sophia was limited in her responses. "I asked Sophia about Las Vegas and her world travels," wrote Adam Clark Estes. "Her best responses were somewhat on topic, but mostly, I got blank stares and uncanny facial contortions."
While Sophia nailed her publicized steps, other presentations did not fare so well. With live demonstrations, technological difficulties can abound. Just ask LG. In a presentation to unveil CLOi, the company's robot home assistant, it failed to respond to voice commands, ZDNet reports.
After outlining the schedule for David VanderWaal, LG's VP of marketing, CLOi prepped a washing machine to receive his used clothes after a session at the gym. However, when VanderWaal asked it further questions about wash/rinse cycles, CLOi failed to respond, according to the report.
When he asked for chicken recipes from the fridge, CLOi, again, failed to respond. Not the best advertising for next-generation products.
CNet captured the onstage exchange (awkwardness starts about one minute in).
The bad of CES, however, is truly embodied by the great CES Blackout of 2018. The expo, plagued by winds and heavy rain, experienced a power outage for nearly two hours on Wednesday. Booths normally lit up like the Vegas Strip went dark, casting a shadow on what would normally have been a cheery mid-afternoon on the expo floor.
But before, you laugh too hard, put Wednesday's blackout in perspective:
Still gobsmacked that 180k people experienced #CESblackout and got all this coverage while millions are still without power in Puerto Rico and people have stopped talking about it.— Rachael Berkey (@bookoisseur) January 12, 2018
The ugly, not-so-work-related:
"Bitcoin is the Viagra of flaccid stocks," and the cryptocurrency is about to get its own Kodak moment.
Following the announcement of a blockchain initiative, Kodak stocks soared this week. The company launched KODAKOne, a licensing platform for photographers, and KODAKCoin, a cryptocurrency for photographers.
The company showed off KashMiner, a bitcoin miner customers can contract out for two years at an upfront price of $3,400, reports ZDNet. Licensees will only collect half of the $9,000 produced over the course of the contract.
One can only hope the initiative demonstrates more consistency than that of Long Blockchain Corp.
If you missed headlines about robot strippers at CES, you might be living under a rock.
The robots were the work of artist Giles Walker and presented as commentary on the rise of humanoid robots, especially in the sex industry, reports Recode. Giles was bringing attention to gray moral areas such technology introduces.
Nevertheless, the show comes during a time of increased scrutiny on the treatment of women in the workplace, as the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns shed light on harassment and discrimination.
So what do you think? Were the robots — and human strippers participating in the show behind them — thought-provoking and challenging or poorly timed and executed?
Stripper robots perform at the Sapphire Club on the sidelines of CES 2018 in Las Vegas pic.twitter.com/dlqgoBvLyb— D P (@DEEPWOE) January 10, 2018
If you thought you would never see Alexa, Microsoft Azure and toilets in the same sentence, this year's conference has hopefully broadened your horizons.
Kohler unveiled a slate of connected bathroom appliances, including a shower, bathtub and toilets, reports TechCrunch. Using only voice, consumers can now instruct their toilet on temperature, bidet settings, music and lights. As a bonus, you need only wave your hand to flush.
And waste isn't the only thing getting a tech upgrade. For the tech savvy pet owner, the Litter-Robot also presented its automatic litter scooper at the conference.
@Kohler's Numi Intelligent Toilet brings AI to your BMs. Bidet cleansing, feet warming, odor control (??) and Alexa integration!— Matt Maher (@mattmaher14) January 8, 2018
Nothing says privacy and class like hearing your partner in the loo whisper, "Alexa, maximum power flush please." #CES #CES2018 pic.twitter.com/b5VMW1jqwF