A First Look At New Tech Products To Hit The Market

Jan 11, 2014
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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

The biggest show in Vegas this week wasn't Celine Dion or DJ Afrojack. It was the Consumer Electronics Show. The annual show where buyers, journalists and consumers get a first look at new tech products that are about to hit the market. Snoop Dogg was there, Secretary of Commerce Pritzker was there. And so was NPR's Steve Henn, who joined us as the show was packing up, from the floor of the Consumer Electronic Show on Friday. Steve, thanks so much for being with us.

STEVE HENN, BYLINE: Oh, my pleasure.

SIMON: Twenty thousand new products there?

HENN: Yes, 20,000 new products were unveiled. There were hundreds of thousands of products. You know, the show took up more than two million square feet of space. It filled the Las Vegas Convention Center and spilled over into four hotels. It's just - it's enormous.

SIMON: I gather they're connecting everything to the Internet these days. What I read, onesies for babies...

HENN: Right.

SIMON: ...and toothbrushes. I'm very envious because that I don't have one yet. Why would you connect a toothbrush to the Internet?

HENN: This actually was designed by a father who was wondering whether or not his kids were actually brushing their teeth when they said they were. But he's hopeful that an Internet-connected toothbrush will also give people a little bit of data about how well they're brushing their teeth and could actually allow folks to brush better over time.

So, there's a real interest in this idea that we can collect data about every aspect of our lives and optimize it.

SIMON: And why is the onesie connected to the Internet?

HENN: So, it has a variety of sensors in it. One that monitors breathing, so it can send an alert to your cell phone if you're child were to stop breathing. They're connecting this onesie to a bottle warmer so the onesie can sense when your baby wakes up and turn on the bottle warmer so when you go in to pick up your baby and it's their feeding time, the milk or the formula is ready for them.

SIMON: So, this opiates the need for a baby to scream, is what you're suggesting.


HENN: Right, exactly.

SIMON: And technology is becoming wearable?

HENN: Right. You know, many sensor are getting smaller. The ability to connect to the Net is now embedded in chips that are just tiny and can be built into things like clothing. And this is really allowing technology companies to get data about us that is really very, very intimate. And that raises a number of questions about privacy and the security of that data, and then how these companies are going to use it in the future. Really, almost anything about your life could be monitored by the technologies that were unveiled here.

SIMON: We mentioned about 20,000 new products. Just based on your experience in the industry, Steve, two years from now will we be talking about, what, a dozen of them that survive the cut?

HENN: I think that would be perhaps a bit optimistic. But what I think we will be talking about are some of the technologies that those products touched on. I mean, for example, one that I think is going to really change the way we interact with computers and smartphones and the world in the coming years will be the ability to map our surroundings in three dimensions. There are sensors now that can clip onto a tablet that allow you to scan your room and create a perfect model of that. And I think that technology will actually form the basis of computing to sort of extend in new ways into our world that will probably change the way we live.

SIMON: NPR's Steve Henn, on the Consumer Electronic Show. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.