CES 2021 – Best and Worst New Products

January 13, 2021

Today on the hookup we’re at CES in my living room checking out the latest tech trends in 2021.

In keeping with the theme of 2020, this year’s CES was weird, at home, and kind of terrible.  There were some clear trends related to touchless technology, disinfecting, and social distancing and as expected there were also quite a few products related to spending more time in your home, which is something we are all familiar with these days.

Lets get the covid stuff out the of the way first

There were literally dozens of companies showcasing their large and small scale air purifiers.  I’m not saying they don’t work, but there’s probably a reason they are so prevalent: Selling some UV LEDs and a fan for between 2 and 500 dollars has a pretty decent profit margin.

The product that I think we will see in the most immediate future is the Steri-Write system made by a company in Ohio.  The Steri-Write provides UV sanitized pens on demand for filling out paperwork and signing contracts.  When you’re done just dump your pen in the top to be sent into the UV sanitizing carousel.  Even in a post-COVID world I could see these becoming a standard in hospitals and doctors offices.

Another unique commercial product that I hope we see in the near future is the CleanMotion door handle.  Driven by internal magnets the clean motion sanitizes the door handle using an alcohol based antiseptic after every use, this tech may be a few years out, but depending on the price point I could see these popping up in high traffic areas and bathrooms in high end buildings.

The one home COVID related product that caught my eye was the Ultrawave mask dryer and sterilizer.  With a 10 minute run cycle and the ability to accept almost any mask type, this portable ultraviolet sterilizer would be perfect for refreshing your mask on a lunch or dinner break.  The same company also makes a dog bone shaped pet MP3 player… so yeah.

What about non-COVID trends?

LEDs are big.  Between twitch streamers and tiktockers one common theme is colorful LEDs on the wall or ceiling.  Twinkly who made a big expansion into big box stores this year with their pre-lit addressable LED Christmas trees has a line of LED wall panels slated for released in 2021 that I think are unique enough to pull some major business away from Nanoleaf, LIFX and phillips hue.

Speaking of tiktok, I also think we’re going to see an influx of facebook, Instagram and tiktok influencers pushing kitchen accessories to take up your precious countertop space.  A few years ago it was the instantpot, and last year was air fryers and multipurpose cookers like the ninja foodie.  This year we’ve got a humidity controlled oven from ANOVA, and a more involved solution called iWonderCook that’s sort of like a meal service and oven in one, but if I’m being honest it looks pretty half baked and I’m not sure it’s going to make it to market without some serious seed money.

If you have any countertop space left there are plenty of other single use gadgets to fill it with, like a countertop beer brewer called the beermkr which can brew beer right in your kitchen in just a week, or maybe the dozens of countertop gardens from companies like Rise, aerogarden, and gardyn so you can bring the farm inside.  Don’t forget about drink dispensers! The Albicchire stores and dispenses your wine at the perfect temperature, the Lify is like a Keurig specifically for herbal te and health drinks and the Cuzen brings matcha to your countertop… but it’s still not cheap.  Ever wanted to buy soft serve ice cream in non-perishable cans and then freeze it in a countertop machine? 2021’s got your back with the Coldsnap.

Personally I don’t see the value in slowly growing my own lettuce for $300 when I can get it for 99 cents a head at the supermarket, or wait a week to brew a 6 pack of beer for $600, but who am I to tell you how to live your life.

I was actually kind of excited when I saw the Albicchire countertop wine chiller and dispenser, but quickly lost interest when I learned that each bottle needs to be poured into a bag before putting it into the dispenser.  The upside to the bag is it allows the Albicchire to remove all the air and empty space from the bag to preserve your wine perfectly for weeks, but I don’t remember the last time a bottle of wine lasted a single weekend in my house, so maybe it’s not designed for my use case.

One food based product that I think is a legitimately great idea is a battery powered lunchbox called heatbox that uses steam to reheat your meals instead of a microwave.  I think this is a perfect solution for meal preppers who make an entire week’s of healthy lunches on Sunday to bring to work, assuming we get to stop working from home at some point.  Heatbox even sells Tupperware style containers to store your portions and just drop into your Heatbox in the morning.

Robotic vacuums continue to get better, Roborock announced a new mopping technology that uses high frequency vibrations to more efficiently clean floors, and Samsung has taken a whole different approach to robotic vacuum design.  Most importantly, auto empty bases have become the norm, with all major robotic vacuum companies either currently offering them or slated to release them in 2021.

Samsung has also taken a totally new approach to refrigerator design with their new bespoke line.  The bespoke is modular allowing you to have side by side, top and bottom, or mixed configurations for your refrigerator.  I think this is a cool concept, but in the US I think it will be of limited usefulness since most houses are built with a fixed amount of space for the refrigerator, so the concept of having a custom width refrigerator isn’t really possible.  This is likely something we will only see in new homes and remodels, but I guess that’s what makes it future tech.

In my opinion the most important thing announced at CES isn’t future tech at all, in any sense of the word.  In an effort to reduce eWaste Samsung has announced, for a second time, a program called “galaxy upcycling at home” where they will be releasing special software to load onto your old unused galaxy cell phones to repurpose them in your house.  The two use cases that they specifically showed were a baby monitor and a luminance sensor, but there are so many other great possibilities.  DIYers have been hacking old cell phones for a decade, but if Samsung could find a way to make it easy for general consumers to repurpose their devices it would not only reduce ewaste, but also give an incentive for people to upgrade their devices, a win win for Samsung and since cell phone companies seem to just copy each other these days maybe we will see similar solutions from Apple and LG in 2021.

Samsung’s second initiative to reduce waste from consumer devices is my first of many major fails of CES2021.  Samsung wants you to build small pieces of furniture out of the cardboard box that your TV comes in, that way you can have a Samsung branded cardboard coffee table to compliment your new high end TV.  Just follow this complex set of instructions and in just a few hours you too can have cardboard furniture.

The coolest part of CES is seeing what the future might have in store, but there were a few pieces of tech that the world just isn’t ready for.  Toto makes toilets, great.  Toto makes high end toilets with built in bidets, cool.  Toto recognizes you from your buttprint and analyzes your waste to measure your digestive health and make dietary change suggestions.  Too much toto, too much.

We want our kids to grow up big and strong, how can you give your kid a leg up over the competition? How about some growth plate stimulating laser need pads?  Lumiola’s H10 claims to stimulate growth plates to make your kids taller and stronger, the best part is that the H10 is barely even noticeable, so they can wear them anywhere without getting strange looks!

Good sleep is also important for growing up healthy and strong, NYX has the gosleep device that hovers over you at night and adjusts the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the surrounding air to put you right to sleep and keep you there.  I’m a pretty big advocate for technology, but letting a computer regulate your most essential biological processes while you are most vulnerable seems like a terrible idea.  Still creepy but less terrible is the MaRI which is a sensor for your night stand that uses lasers to monitor your heartrate and breathing while you sleep.  If you have a snoring problem, the Mari subwoofer will disrupt your sleep with low frequency sound to stop your snoring.

And last, and very least, my pick for the worst product of CES comes from a company called Family Self Care.  Ever heard of essential oils? They are those wildly expensive supplements that are touted to do everything from cure ebola, cancer and paralysis and the most amazing part about them is that they do these incredible things without any scientific backing or peer reviewed studies!  The Family Self Care is an automated essential oil blender and dispenser to get you and your family just the right amount of pleasant smelling placebo to cure all your ailments, for the low price of $300 for the dispenser and $69 per oil refill cartridge.

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