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Dishwashing robots and Bluetooth masks: Pandemic products hit tech's biggest show

LG Display has unveiled its transparent TV, with an OLED display and what the company touts as potential safety benefits amid the pandemic.

Posted: Jan 12, 2021 5:20 AM
Updated: Jan 12, 2021 5:20 AM

A nearly human-sized robot grabs a dish out of a crowded sink with its gripper arms and neatly adds it to the dishwasher. It then sets the table, placing a flower into a vase, and pours a glass of red wine.

The robot, Samsung's Bot Handy, is the company's vision for "a better new normal," as more people work, cook, eat and drown in dishes at home than ever during the global pandemic. As seen in a video shown at the all virtual 2021 Consumer Electronics Show on Monday, Bot Handy is, well, handy around the house; not only to pick up some unfinished chores but to remind you of upcoming meetings and to stretch your legs if you've been sitting for too long.

It's only in development for now -- no pricing or release date has been announced -- but Samsung said it's part of a greater effort to make technology to simplify your life at home. "The technologies in your home need to work harder to help you adjust to this new normal," the company said in its session description on the CES website.

Companies big and small showed off their new innovations at the closely watched tech trade show, which kicked off on Monday, many with features tied to life during the pandemic. There's MaskFone, a face covering marketed as having a built-in N95 filter, earbuds and microphone to make calls, and a wearable for the ears called Cove that claims its gentle vibrations regulate anxiety and stress.

For the kitchen, manufacturer Kohler showed off voice control features for its sinks and other fixtures, so homeowners can turn on faucets without ever touching them. UK startup Handsteco touted sinks with built-in artificial intelligence to guide people through hygiene techniques in hospitals, offices and public spaces.

The pandemic tech theme took a step outside the home, too. Riding on the growth of online deliveries, lock manufacturer Yale announced it's now shipping its smart delivery box to keep packages safe from porch pirates when they arrive. A delivery person places a package in the storage box, which automatically locks, and homeowners receive a notification.

While some of these products, like Bot Handy, may seem a bit gimmicky, ABI Research analyst Jonathan Collins said there's definitely money to be made from items that help automate household tasks. The market research firm found the smart home market in 2020 grew 6.7% over 2019 to $88 billion. However, that's $11 billion below pre-pandemic expectations.

Even products that weren't specifically pandemic-related may still tap into the way we live now. Flashy new TVs, a mainstay of CES events, seemed all the more fitting this year as we're stuck at home, glued to the TV and ever-more conscious of our surroundings. LG, for example, drummed up excitement over its new 55-inch transparent TV, the latest company to show screens you can see through when off.

Meanwhile, a Panasonic hair dryer that you don't need to move -- a built-in oscillator does all the work for you -- also generated some buzz, at a time when many people have not gotten a proper haircut or blowout in too long.

People watch CES events to get a sense of where technology is going in the years ahead, but this year's event is arguably about the industry catching up to the ways the pandemic reshaped our lives in the past year.

With vaccines on the horizon, it's unclear how much longer we'll be largely stuck at home, but these tech companies seem to be betting that even if the pandemic ends, our habits won't entirely change.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3074812

Reported Deaths: 35060
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles103873814416
San Bernardino2569141560
Riverside2510002676
San Diego2185552174
Orange2165092508
Santa Clara949051129
Kern87240572
Fresno83200968
Sacramento811831128
Alameda68649788
Ventura62774462
San Joaquin58843788
Contra Costa53349460
Stanislaus43121766
Tulare42186515
Monterey36464255
San Mateo32887309
San Francisco29502266
Solano25983107
Santa Barbara25405243
Imperial25333474
Merced24570316
Sonoma24184242
Kings19588148
Placer17490184
San Luis Obispo16056140
Madera13528151
Santa Cruz12461113
Marin11732159
Yolo10789138
Shasta9750123
Butte9528128
El Dorado788649
Sutter782879
Napa767244
Lassen519916
San Benito500346
Yuba499627
Tehama433244
Tuolumne340340
Nevada323474
Mendocino319232
Amador302431
Lake262531
Humboldt242725
Glenn194820
Colusa17969
Calaveras162123
Siskiyou145713
Mono11244
Inyo98329
Del Norte8672
Plumas5895
Modoc3853
Mariposa3464
Trinity3044
Sierra820
Alpine730
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Thursday was the last fairly quiet weather day that we'll have in northern California as a series of storms will move our way through next week. Our first chance for rain and snow showers arrives Friday morning with a cold front.
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