Industry leaders and startups came together at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas for the ShowStoppers event. ShowStoppers produces events at CES and Mobile World Congress, among others, and ITWC had a chance to check out the many innovations on site. We’ve listed some of the booths that stood out to us.


VRgineers’ Xtal VR headset

When it comes to virtual reality, people still have reservations. It’s an experience that requires a headset that’s almost always attached to wires, and the resolution is simply not comparable to traditional HD displays. While VRgineers’ Xtal headset is still wired, it absolutely delivers on the resolution front. Our brief time with the headset comprised of static, real-life photos (one was from the top of a skyscraper in Dubai), but the display was beautiful. It’s 2560 x 1440 per eye and offered a 180-degree field of view. Without even needing to calibrate, my hands, which were presented as skeletons, were completely usable in the virtual world and the tracking didn’t disappoint as I moved my them around. It’s not going to make it into the hands of the general consumer just yet, but it’s easy to understand why it’s used in automotive, industrial design, medicine and aerospace.


Braintap headset

Everyone has those moments when you simply can’t focus, but what do you do when this happens? Well, an increasing number of people have turned to the Braintap app, which takes the user through meditative brain-wave states without them having to actively participate. At the ShowStoppers event, the BrainTap’s full arsenal was on display, including its headset, which until recently, was only available in clinics and research facilities. The BrainTap headset channels frequencies of light and sound into the brain, and even with your eyes closed, the optic nerve pices up the light pulses while the pulsating audio frequencies synchronize the hemispheres of the brain. In addition, this is the first time BrainTap programs will be directly available to the public starting at $5-$10 per month, whereas in the past, users had to go through one of 1,600 licensed providers. While CDN didn’t have a chance to test it out, multiple people at the event who did described the 20-or-so-minute experience as surprisingly effective, an impressive feat considering the amount of noise surrounding the booth.


Jaq Hybrid

Using nothing but water and safe reaction components, the Jaq Hybrid fuel cell enabled charger creates energy on-the-go. Swedish fuel-cell developer myFC was on site showing off its latest chargers, and during a visit to their booth, Ville Legon-Avrin explained how it works. “We’ve developed the thinnest fuel cell in the world at 0.8 mm thin and bendable,” said the company’s acting sales and marketing director. “We can take that fuel cell and apply it to a number of applications you couldn’t with a traditional fuel cell.” The fuel cell is only one part of the business. The other half is the fuel itself. “Hydrogen is tricky to transport and store. What we’ve done is developed a fuel. Through a chemical reaction we can extract the hydrogen from water when you need it.” myFC’s most recent offering, the Lamina Max – a deep integration of fuel cells in smartphones _ was showcased as well. The offering provides smartphone manufacturers with a sought-after competitive edge and consumers with power gap relief.


Mobvoi

Chinese AI company Mobvoi brought a number of its products to the showfloor, including its latest line of TecWatches that boast deep integrations with Google. Mobvoi formed strategic partnerships with Wear OS by Google in 2015 and with Volkswagen in 2017. The watches come in various styles that function in workplace and fitness settings. However, Mobvoi’s slickest device might be the TicPods Free, a set of wireless earbuds designed with touch controls. There are no visible buttons on the ear buds, so to turn the volume up or down, one simply has to slide a finger up and down the device. They also come with 18 hours of battery life. Mobvoi also has a line of TicKasa smart speakers with Google Assistant installed.


Rock and roll on the go

Rock and roll on the go. That’s the concept behind PlayJammy’s portable guitar. The Jammy is a 17” – when disassembled – 15-fret guitar that can be played straight out of the box without any software, includes the ability to autotune itself, and can be used as a MIDI controller with your DAW. The sound is generated on board, which means no latencies caused by sending the signal to external devices like other smart guitars do. When combined with the Jammy Guitar app, users can switch between different acoustic and electric guitars and onboard effects pedals’ configurations, and more.


ViewSonic’s smart home theatre systems

 

One of the clearest displays on the show floor wasn’t from a display at all but a series of projectors. ViewSonic’s Portable Short Throw 4K Ultra HD Projector boasts an impressive 3840×2160 resolution and can be controlled via voice assistants such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. They also include Harmon Kardon speakers and Wi-Fi Bluetooth connectivity. Smart TV functionality also delivers streaming services from Netflix and YouTube, among others. It doesn’t let you down on the portable front either, as the handles on the edges make it easy to pick up and transport wherever you want. Unsurprisingly, it is a bit heavy, but that’s expected with all the bells and whistles stored inside. Its bigger brother, the 4K Ultra HD Laser Projector delivers the same resolution and comes with a laser phosphor light source that lasts up to 20,000 hours. The two devices come with price tags of $1,499 and $2,199 respectively.


Cat S48c

We love rugged smartphones, and not many companies build them better than Cat. The folks at Verizon seem to agree, and while the Cat S48c, the company’s latest rugged smartphone, isn’t one most people would pocket themselves, Americans will be able to buy it at the end of January from Verizon. “We’ve had a lot of success in Europe…but it’s such a carrier-driven market in the U.S., the lack of those relationships hurt us in the past,” according to a Cat representative.“ The S48c looks very similar to a number of previous Cat phones, with rubberized construction and colors that mirror the tractor company’s branding, but now it also comes with 64 GB of ROM and 4 GB of RAM, in addition to a Qualcomm SD630 Octacore 2.2GHz processor. The phone packs a 4,000 mAh battery, meaning it’ll last a while, especially with a 5-inch Full HD display. The Cat S48c’s ability to withstand extreme environments and perform so many of the daily functions regular smartphones do is extremely impressive. We don’t think we could have smashed this phone even if we tried.


Jabra headsets

Jabra was back at CES this year and it had some new headsets to show off.  Released in Q4 of 2018, the Evolve 65t is sort of like an enterprise-grade version of AirPods. It’s certified for the enterprise. Specifically, it’s Skype-certified for high quality conferencing interactions. No fiddling around with the Bluetooth settings on your laptop. Just plug in the USB connector and you’re good to go. The Evolve 65t is on sale now for $329 US or about $440 Canadian. The just-announced Elite 85h connects with either Google Assistant, Alexa, or Apple’s Siri without the need to push a button. Users just ask for the voice assistant they want to talk to.  The 85h will be available for pre-order in March and will ship in April at a price of $299 USD or $399 Canadian. You can read more about them here.


Lockly

A 2019 CES Innovation Award Honoree wants to revolutionize the way people secure their homes. Lockly was on site showing off its smart lock that’s filled to the brim with all kinds of software and hardware features. One of its most notable features include offline access codes. Lockly secure locks can generate multiple access codes without an internet connection. These codes can be issued to guests via text messaging – perfect for Airbnb hosts, for example – even if the power or internet is out in the area. The device also comes with a 3D fingerprint sensor, the option to unlock it with a physical key, and multi-user access. It’s also powered by standard AA batteries.



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Alex Coop
Editorial director for IT World Canada and its sister publications, and former community reporter. Also a great pick up basketball player | acoop@itwc.ca

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