Are we the laziest civilization ever?
Yes, if you go by the high degree of user assistance that companies are packing into new gadgets debuting at this week's CES tech show, which will open Thursday in Las Vegas. Everything is getting smarter and more proactively helpful - from high-tech trash cans that automatically flip their lids to TV sets predicting what show or site you'd like to check out.
Getting away from it all? No keys, cash, or ID? You'll still be welcomed by name, stateroom doors will open, and your favorite food will show up wherever you are on teched-up Carnival Corp. cruise ships in the Princess line, starting year's end on the Regal Princess. All you'll need is an Ocean Medallion, a quarter-sized smart disc.
One of the coolest travel tool launches since GPS, Carnival's Ocean Medallion cruises will require a major refitting of boats and home ports. For extra-sharp guest profiling and predicting (improving over time), travelers open the Ocean Compass app on their smartphone or cabin screen to share likes, interests, and almighty credit card info. Both intriguing and creepy, the Medallion helps the wearer reconnect with luggage and shipmates and lubricates onboard spending on drinks, candid photos, and gambling. Its masterminds developed the visitor-tracking MagicBand ID and FastPass+ services at Walt Disney World.
Speak to me, pal: Want to turn on lights or crank up the heat by voice? CES is rife with gadgets.
The bulk collaborate with Amazon's Echo and Dot digital-assistant speakers. But imitators are multiplying, including newbies from Lenovo and Microsoft, both built with Harman Kardon. Some makers are going it alone. Samsung's second-generation (and in one model, lower-priced) Family Hub refrigerators will play nicer with other products in the brand's "eco-system." So when standing near the fridge, you'll be able to dictate a message to your kid to "be home by 6" and have it pop up on the child's Galaxy (or Apple) smartphone. Or, from that same kitchen spot, request that a Samsung smart TV in the living room "turn on NBC" and see the nightly news pop up as a "mirrored" image on the refrigerator's in-door LCD color screen.
On 2017 LG Smart TVs, a "Magic Link" search initiated by voice or typing will analyze the show you've requested and find related content on other channels, YouTube, and websites that you can view simultaneously (by split-screen) or catch up with later.
Even coffee makers, toaster ovens, and alarm clocks will go hands-free this year.
On the trash can front, simplehuman is showing off the "world's first" receptacle that responds to "open sesame." And rival GeniCan is introducing a scanning device that installs on your trash bin to automate the creation of a grocery shopping list, using bar code scanning and voice recognition to note what's discarded. GeniCan also will interface with Amazon's Dash Replenishment Service to automatically order such items as diapers, paper towels, and snacks once tossed or recycled.
Other senses spoken for: Cognitive Systems' novel security system works without conventional cameras and motion detectors. Its "advanced" analytics can differentiate between the auras of known residents and unwanted intruders, it's claimed.
Your tossing and turning at night should wake up Sleep Number's new 360 "intuitive bed." This brainiac mattress will adjust the firm factor to your position, shaped for left side/right side occupants, to relieve discomfort and whisk you back to dreamland.
Then there's the French-spawned Fenotek video doorbell/butler. Answering to the model name Hi), this cute thing uses face recognition to unlock the door, switch on lights, and trigger the subject's favorite music. Or if it senses a threatening stranger at the door, it will alert you by phone and sound a loud alarm to drive the big, bad wolf away.
Parental Assistance: It's 8 p.m. and too quiet. Are your kids doing their homework or something distracting, like texting? If you upgrade to Comcast's new "Digital Home" solution, you'll know without leaving your easy chair.
Launching midyear at no extra cost for internet customers with a Comcast WiFi Gateway device, the system will let subscribers use a mobile app, a computer or X1 box-equipped TV to "see" which connected devices each child is using and for how long – be it smartphone, tablet, game, Roku box, or whatever.
A nonconfrontational scheduling system automates rules and schedules – say, disabling WiFi to specific phones during dinner and after 11 p.m. on school nights.
Some of this snoop dogging can also be summoned by voice command with an X1 remote. And the spyware will work with both the current Xfinity Wireless Gateway and a new Advanced Gateway, which Comcast claims is the world's most robust – delivering up to nine gigabits per second over WiFi throughout large homes with a new wireless repeater system that's a CES 2017 trend story ("WiFi Mesh networking") unto itself.
Your new best friends: Some may freak out at the surge of self-driving cars – made possible with new tools such as 360-degree cameras and laser-radar ("LiDAR"), in-car health monitoring sensors, and new 5G mobile communications, so car computers can signal each other when there's trouble ahead.
Some of that intense neural processing power is also coming to personal and domestic robots.
Service robots are already assuming daily chores (mowing the lawn, vacuuming floors), and working as robotic pets and pals that cuddle, joke, and answer questions. Robots are also venturing into child care and serving the booming senior population, with nurse-needy, robot-lovin' Japan in the lead.
Smarter creatures in the R2D2 vein are poking up their antennas at the new CES Robotics Marketplace – like the carebot Cutii getting ready for test marketing this year and the Alexa voice-activated Yumi. LG is showing off a whole family of robots, vacuuming floors and giving travel directions.
In the next few years, robots will soar. ABI Research predicts that consumer robotics, which generated $3.8 billion and 34 million products in 2015, will grow to $19 billion and more than 170 million devices by 2025.