As with just about every live event and convention over the last calendar year, the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the world’s largest annual trade show of consumer tech, is taking place online for the first time in its 54-year history. Anticipating the pandemic to leave its permanent mark on our lives and consumer demand to shift as a result, exhibitors this year are showing off innovative (sometimes weird) inventions that are supposed to make life in the “new normal” a bit easier.
From the thousands of virtual product booths and presentations, we’ve selected the most eye-catching COVID-related products below. Whether they are real game-changers or just gimmicky fads, the verdict is yours.
COVID-19 Symptom-Detecting BioButton
Wouldn’t it be nice if a small wearable can tell whether you’ve caught COVID without having to go through the uncomfortable PCR tests and anxious waiting? Well, technology isn’t quite there yet, but close.
BioIntelliSense showcased a small device called BioButton that sticks to your upper chest and uses sensors to continuously track your temperature, heart rate and activity. The company says a BioButton can collect enough data after a few days to help identify if you have symptoms of a possible COVID-19 infection, although it can’t yet tell the difference between COVID and a flu.
A few organizations in the country, including UCHealth in Colorado and the American College of Cardiology, are offering BioButton to their members as a monitoring tool for COVID-19. The device has also been cleared by the FDA to collect vital signs at home.
Headless, Legless Robot Pet Cat
Meet Petit Qoobo: a pillow-sized fuzzy ball with a wagging tail, a heartbeat and the weight of a real kitten that will keep you comforted and less lonely in a time of frequent quarantines and social distancing.
The robot pet’s maker, Japanese firm Yukai Engineering, said Petit Qoobo is designed to be “reminiscent of skittish, young animals.” But beware, it doesn’t have a head or any legs.
Yukai debuted a prototype of Petit Qoobo at last year’s CES and previously released a larger version of the robot. The company said demand for the larger Qoobo had gone up during the pandemic, which prompted it o follow up with a more portable version.
Petit Qoobo retails for $110 and is available in Japan only for now.
Smart Face Masks
There’s no question that face marks will, for the foreseeable future, be a part of our life. But a basic surgical mask isn’t always the most comfortable or safe to wear throughout the day. At this year’s CES, there are several “smart” face masks with built-in technology to satisfy needs that you might not even realize you have.
AirPop debuted its new Active Plus mask that’s perfect for workout (expected to ship in February). Equipped with a sensor, the face mask can monitor outside air quality, your breaths per minute, and whether the mask’s filter needs replacing.
Chinese smart watch maker Amazfit released a transparent, self-disinfecting mask called Aeri. Unlike fabric-based masks, Aeri is a plastic cover attached with a small air-purifying ventilator that allows you to breathe. It also comes with built-in ultraviolet lights that can disinfect itself when not used. And because it’s transparent, you’ll still be able to use Face ID to unlock your phone with the mask on.