It's January, and in the tech world that means CES season, where the latest and most advanced gadgets are revealed. Some of the biggest names in tech will be displaying their wares, but buried among the 8K TVs and ultra-thin laptops are some far more left-field products. In previous years, these have included automated cat toilets, a device that folds laundry, and a badminton playing robot – so what can CES 2020 offer to compete?
If there's one thing that you can rely on CES for, it's a collection of new devices that genuinely make you question the thinking of their designers. This year's highlights, if we can call them that, are a vertical TV, a toilet paper dispensing robot, and a coffee pod-style machine that makes cakes. Actually, we have nothing against that last one…
Read on as we guide you though the weird world of CES 2020.
Samsung Sero TV
Ever lamented that your vertically-shot TikTok videos just don't look that good on your TV? Or that Instagram content is tailor-made for your 6-inch phone, rather than your 60-inch flatscreen? Well, lament no more, because Samsung thinks it has the answer.
On the Surface, the Sero TV looks like any other TV. You know, a black, tried-and-tested rectangle. It comes attached to a floor stand (there's no wall mounting this thing), and reveals its true purpose when you want to watch some quality internet video. You see, the Sero can do all the boring old horizontal TV stuff, but the real trick up its sleeve is that it can also rotate 90-degrees to turn those portrait-shot videos full screen.
Samsung says that Sero is ‘designed for the mobile generation', and that's no more apparent than with its screen-mirroring tech. Of course, the Sero can stream any content that is playing on your phone – that's nothing new. However, it can also mirror your phone's position. Rotate your phone, and the TV will follow suit, thanks to its hidden mechanism.
The Sero was actually unveiled last year, but, after debuting in its homeland of Korea, the 43-inch TV is now coming to the West. With the release date given as just 2020, and no pricing available yet, you'll need to be a bit more patient before you can watch your favorite TikTok stars' 60-second videos on the full screen.
While CES has a reputation as a breeding ground for weird and wacky tech, it's still able to surprise you. Case in point – learning that there's not one, but three toilet innovations all from your friendly bear-branded toilet paper company, Charmin.
Yes, it seems that the boffins at Charmin's GoLab are on something of a roll, with a host of tech innovations designed to make your time in the rest room more enjoyable.
First up, there's RollBot. This bear-faced gizmo will come to your aid brandishing a toilet roll, on command, should you find yourself staring down the cardboard barrel of an empty one. We're not quite sure on how the small, wheeled automaton actually gets the toilet roll in the first place – the implication seems to be that he is forever cursed to have a roll on his head, ready to serve his master at any moment. It's a joyless existence surely designed to provoke Asimov's rule that a robot must obey its orders.
If the robots ever do rise up, we suspect the first one to break will be RollBot.
Not far behind it will be the SmellSense robot. This is another bear-faced bit of tech that monitors bathroom activities for…unpleasant smells. If detected, SmellSense displays a message warning visitors that they may want to cross their legs a little longer.
For an animal that famously does its business out in the woods, we can't help but feel that these bears are slightly judgmental.
This is the last one, we promise. V I Pee (yes, really) is a portable cubicle designed especially for events and concerts. It tackles the age-old issue of taking a trip to the toilet, only to miss your favorite song. The toilet has a dedicated VR headset which shows a live feed from the front row of the venue, meaning that you won't miss any action. Obviously, we have a list of questions about this one, mainly around the cleanliness of a VR headset that's permanently attached to a toilet. Then, there's the question of whether or not people with tickets at the back of the venue won't just spend the time in the toilets to get a better view…
Somehow, we doubt these concepts will ever make it to market, but it's a bleak insight into the way that tech has the ability to encroach into our most personal of moments.
Kholer Moxie Showerhead
We're staying in the bathroom for this next innovation, which is a shower head with an internal speaker. Kholer has actually had one of these available for some time. But, for 2020, it's adding an important feature you never knew you needed while you scrubbed yourself clean – a virtual assistant. Yes, the company has added Alexa to the product, because apparently everything needs Alexa. And to think, we once laughed at the Alexa-enabled microwave…
The speaker component is held in place magnetically, and the battery lasts around six hours. To recharge it, it's a case of plucking it off and sticking it in its dedicated charging cradle.
The same company also makes an Alexa-enabled mirror (which is slightly more sensible), and an app-controlled heated toilet seat (how did we cope before?). It was also responsible for last year's “smart toilet” at CES 2019 – which, of course, is also Alexa-enabled. In an age of sensitivity around personal security and worries of devices listening in on our conversations, you would assume that the bathroom is the last place you'd welcome a voice assistant into your home.
To be honest, it's Alexa and its transcription logs we most feel sorry for in this scenario.
TigOut Pastry and Cake Maker
Capsule machines are nothing new in the kitchen, with many of us turning to coffee pods to recreate that barista experience at home. Well, TigOut is the next logical step in pod-based coffee culture, offering honest-to-goodness cakes to accompany our beverages. That's right, slap a couple of pods in the top of the machine, try to suppress the sound of your groaning stomach for a minute or two, and out pops an individual dessert.
Currently on the menu is a cheese soufflé, a caramel volcano, a raspberry muffin and a chocolate fudge. While we haven't tasted these ourselves, expectations are set high by the marketing, which promises “most noble ingredients.”
Naturally there's an app, which allows you to monitor the progress of your dessert, or even schedule one ahead of time – perfect for those who want to arrive home after a long day at work to the smell of a fresh, hot cheese soufflé.
There's no price or release date yet, so you'll need to wait a little longer for your bite-size, automated desserts.
Prinker Tattoo Printer
Remember those temporary tattoos that you used to get in packs of gum? Did you ever wish that you had a machine that could print tattoos on you whenever you wanted? If the answer is yes, then chances are you are the inventor of the Prinker, which does just that.
The Prinker allows its users to print their own temporary tattoo in seconds, by sweeping the device over the desired area. Tattoos can be either black or color, and the manufacturer promises that there's a library of thousands of images to choose from. The real genius stroke though is the ability to design your own tattoos. The possibilities are endless – imagine turning up to a job interview with the company logo ‘tattooed' on your forehead. Sure to impress.
For the less inspired, perhaps use it to print your shopping list onto your forearm, so you don't forget the milk.
Unlike the other devices we've covered here, the Prinker is available right now, priced at $269, and comes with an ink cartridge that will print around 1,000 tattoos.