CES Insights, Day 2

Focus on the weird

One of the most fun things about CES is to marvel at whimsical inventions and try to imagine if the creators are serious, or just looking for an expensive laugh.

Bathroom robot. Charmin, the toilet paper maker, is showing a number of bathroom oriented technologies, including the V.I.Pee, an in-bathroom viewing screen for live events that enables you to see what you are missing when you run to the bathroom. Another is the the Rollbot — a wheeled device with an extra roll of TP on the top that you can summon with your smartphone when you find yourself in that stranded position with no more paper on the roll. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Why, you may ask, would a legitimate consumer products giant take the time to develop these not very marketable toys? The answer is that many smart CEOs in non-tech industries are well aware that their industry will, somehow, at some time, be disrupted by tech. As a matter of fact, Georgia Pacific used technology, in the form of a patented, motion-based hand towel distributor, called enMotion, to disrupt the paper towel business and Charmin is smart enough to know that it needs to demonstrate thought leadership in the toilet paper dispensing technology arena as a defensive strategy. Amazing.

Selfie keyboard.  Selfie Type is a Samsung labs technology that enables a user to type on a virtual keyboard created on a blank surface (table, desk, airplane tray) by facing their smartphone towards them while the app is running. NET

dis-rup-shun: This is big. This is a step toward being able to use any surface as a keyboard so that one could perform real work on a smartphone. Using the airplane scenario, this is a step towards the day when one could place their smartphone on the folding tray, have the phone output to the small in-seat video screen and the tray becomes the keyboard — mimicking the full computing experience in order to finish that report you must deliver by the time you land.

Y-Brush. The Y-Brush is a $125 smart toothbrush-like device that claims to clean all of your teeth in 10 seconds. You bite on the Y-shaped tray and it cleans all of the top teeth in 5 seconds, then you flip it over to finish the bottom in 5 more. CNET

dis-rup-shun: Life is short. Why spend it at the sink? Seriously, technology innovation is focusing on personal hygiene, including smart toilets, smart curling irons/straighteners, smart nail polishers and, yes, smart tattoo machines.

Human exoskeleton. Delta airlines is at the event, showing how it is using technology to differentiate. Facial recognition, a new boarding app, are among the technologies in development, but interesting to see is a mechanical exoskeleton that baggage handlers can adorn in order to more easily lift and load heavy bags. CNET

dis-rup-shun: By the way, airlines are killing it by charging people for the their luggage. This has been an important part of a return to profitability. It would be interesting to know the dollars spent on rehabbing injured baggage handlers who eventually lose to the physics of overstuffed luggage. Delta has a Transformers-like solution that is half robot, half power tool that does the heavy lifting while strapped to the back and arm of human luggage handlers. Perhaps this is a new robotics category we can call “hybrid robot,” as the device can’t do its thing without a human strapped in.