With its abundance of companies promising to help you stay fit, eat healthier or measure your [insert whatever biometric reading here] more accurately, this year’s CES evolved to be more like a MedTech conference instead.
And while health, wellness and medicine have always been tied to technology, their steady influence on consumer products and portable devices such as phones and wearables is only growing. More and more, consumers are getting access to gear that can handle serious diagnostics of the sort that were previously only available to healthcare professionals.
CES 2019: What makes us say WTF
Compared to last year, there were 25 percent more health-related exhibitors in Las Vegas, and a 15 percent increase in the amount of floorspace dedicated to health tech, according to the Consumer Technology Association, the organization that presents the show.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. There are an estimated 74 million Baby Boomers in the US (people born roughly between the end of World War II and the mid-1960s), and tech companies are eager to help the elderly and those with physical or nonvisible disabilities live independently and comfortably.
Younger people born between the early 1980s through early 2000s (commonly known as Millennials) are more anxious and depressed than previous generations, meanwhile, which explains the plethora of lifestyle and self-care gadgets at CES claiming to help them relax, sleep better and have smoother skin. And with the appearance of Impossible Burger 2.0, maybe they’ll even eat better too.
Below is a roundup of the most interesting, compelling and bizarre health tech and gadgets on display this week. Because many of these products were demoed rather than independently and thoroughly reviewed, it’s best to take these companies’ claims with a grain of salt. (Even something as simple as measuring a heart rate with a fitness tracker isn’t as accurate as, say, an actual EKG machine.) Nevertheless, these products were still compelling and give a glimpse of what’s to come in the tech industry — anxieties and all.
Taking health into your own hands
While it’s always best for healthcare professionals to handle medical checkups, some products are making it possible for patients to carry out noninvasive procedures on their own. Others, like the handful of hearings aids we saw, are getting smarter. The ReSound Linx Quattro, for instance, pairs with Apple’s digital assistant Siri.
CES 2019: Take your own ultrasound with Butterfly iQ’s…
The EyeQue VisionCheck is a Bluetooth-powered portable device that conducts vision tests at home with an app. It measures nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism and after testing it spits out “EyeGlass Numbers.” These work similar to an eyeglass prescription, but don’t require a doctor’s sign-off. You can then take that number to specific retailers that will honor EyeGlass numbers and buy prescription glasses on your own.
For expecting mothers, the Butterfly iQ is a $2,000 handheld sonogram that can scans your body. An app helps guide the patient to move the sonogram and images can be sent over to a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis. It scans any part of your body so you can use it to check up on your abdominal organs, muscles and heart.
Monitoring the data-rich body
Though continual and constant health monitoring sounds a bit Big Brother, it’s useful for those who are at high risk of a medical emergency. And allowing the supervision to work in the background through AI gives the patient enough room to go about their daily lives without feeling “sick.”
The Omron HeartGuide has tiny pumps and air bladders similar to traditional medical devices that can measure your blood pressure. The wearable then uploads your data to an app, which is shared with your doctor. With frequent readings, Omron aims to make hypertension diagnosis easier.
If you have chronic heart failure, being able to predict the next attack not only can be life-saving but empowering. Chronolife hopes to help those who are diagnosed with congestive heart failure to anticipate potential medical emergencies with its Chronolife vest. By continuously measuring six key physiological stats in real time, its AI-powered platform hopes to predict an oncoming heart attack.
Withings’ Move fitness watch can take electrocardiograms but looks like a regular analog watch. It’s the company’s first watch that can reportedly check for irregular heart rates and can alo track your sleep. And while it’s following in the footsteps of the Apple Watch Series 4, it’s doing it at less than half the price — it’ll be just $130 when it hits Q2 of this year pending FDA and CE clearance.
Kepler Vision Engine is a software platform that analyzes live images and recognizes body language and actions, giving us a peek at the future of smart cams. It can tell whether or not someone is angry, relaxed, defensive or showing signs of distress (suddenly taking a tumble down, for example).
Automating personal care and companionship with robots
If someone needs around-the-clock care or simply wants someone to interact with, robots can be a efficient solution to either issues. At CES, we saw bots complex enough to move around and measure blood pressure, as well as a handful of companion bots that respond when you greet them. But this spectrum of capabilities is only the beginning of a personal healthcare system supported by robotics.
Though mostly a concept for now, Samsung introduced its platform of bots that address needs in healthcare, air quality monitoring, retail and fitness. Bot Care can check up on someone’s health including measuring a person’s blood pressure by having that person placing their finger on the screen.
Lovot, the love robot, offers a warm hug of friendship…
The super adorable ElliQ robot is a companion designed for senior citizens living alone. Friendly and interactive, it responds to voice commands while also keeping tabs on its owner in case relatives want to monitor their conditions. In a similar vein, the Bocco Emo robot reads out text messages, controls your smart home devices and notifies you if your doors are locked. But for those seeking companionship, it also appears more “empathetic” and expressive. It responds when it hears its name and emotes when it reads out messages. It can also recognize the emotional state of the speaker depending on their tone of voice and react accordingly.
Other robots, like Lovot and Kiki simulate pets. They have facial recognition, can track your movement and react to pets and hugs. Though they can be pretty expensive (Lovot is estimated to cost between $5,000 and $6,000 for two), they provide similar company as a pet without the sky-high vet bills.
Sleep and relaxation
Sleep was another prominent theme in health-related devices. Considering that lack of sleep is related to memory loss, irritability and impaired cognitive function, many gadgets at CES claim to help you achieve a more restful night sleep
ASTI’s LectroFan Micro 2 is a portable, cleverly designed sound machine that works for up to 40 hours without a charge. It connects with Bluetooth and can play your favorite music, podcast or white noises.
If you’re a snorer, the SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band from Phillips is a band that goes around your chest. During the night it keeps track of your position and if you move to life on your back he band will encourage you to move to your side.
The Hupnos sleep mask also wants you to stop snoring. Along with an app, the mask listens to you while you sleep. If it detects any snoring it’ll vibrate and its built-in accelerometer will determine the best sleeping position to decrease your snoring.
Self-care and beauty
Beauty and cosmetics are a multibillion dollar industry, so it’s no surprise when it pops up at CES. From identifying skin issues to making everyday products better, the business of beauty is becoming more and more high-tech. Of course, the same problem we noted last year still persists: These “beauty tech” products can’t seem to improve your look without first telling you everything that’s wrong with your appearance.
SK-II, the popular Japanese cosmetics company, brought its Future X Smart Store to CES 2019. Originally announced in Tokyo in May 2018, the smart store fuses tech with your typical retail shopping experience. The process begins with a facial scan that measures your skin condition. (The Comper Smarkin, which we also saw at CES 2019, does a similar facial scan.) It then recommends products for treatment and after after you make your picks you can wave your hand to add them into your shopping cart and checkout.
Using infrared radiant heat technology, the Volo Go hairdryer is a wireless hair dryer that promises to dry your hair quickly. Its battery only lasts 14 minutes (!), so if you have a big thick mane, the Volo Go might not do the trick.
If you want to cover up your sunspots or freckles (though why would you need to?) the Opte Precision Skincare System scans your face and body with a tiny camera. Its blue LED light enhances the contrast of your skin and then applies the exact amount of makeup or serum with 120 thermal inkjet nozzles to cover each spot.
When sex tech becomes ‘obscene’
Though there weren’t many sex-related product launches, there was controversy surrounding the industry this year when Ose, a robotic sex toy geared towards women, won a CES Innovation Award only to have it revoked. The CTA considered it an “immoral, obscene, indecent” and profane device, which caused ire and outcry given CES’ male-dominated history, the CTA’s past approval of sex tech for men and the legitimate robotic technology behind the toy.
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