Call me crazy, but I missed Tokyo Auto Salon to go to the CES trade show. I've been attending TAS since '12 and travelled to Japan on three different occasions last year. I was a bit "Japan'd out," if you know what I mean. So taking a one-year hiatus from TAS and a 50-minute plane ride to and from Las Vegas to pop my CES cherry didn't sound like a bad idea. Plus, our Toyota C-HR project would be debuting some new hot shiz in the Pioneer Electronics booth!
If you haven't been to CES, you've undoubtedly heard about the massive geek show. It's basically the SEMA of the electronics world, and even shares a few interesting similarities to SEMA: they both take place at the Las Vegas Convention Center, both started in 1967, and both span four days with millions of square feet to cover and thousands of booths to see.
This year's CES was one for the books, with 4,000 exhibitors and 184,000-plus attendees. Coming from a non-tech guy, it's extremely overwhelming, but that doesn't mean I didn't appreciate everything there. If I could do anything different, I'd hire some sort of techie tour guide to show me around. Guess there's always next year... But for my first adventure into the global stage of innovation, it was an experience I wouldn't change for the world.
Here are my top 15 coolest things from CES, and don't worry, I'll see you back at Auto Salon next year. Connect: ces.tech
1. Super Street C-HR debuts Android-friendly Pioneer head unit
Our Toyota C-HR was originally finished for the SEMA show after being fitted with an Artisan Spirit kit, 20-inch Volk Racing TE37Ultra wheels, AP Racing brakes and a yellow wrap by Auto Tuned and, I must say, it was one of the coolest Toyota CUVs built to date. Okay, maybe I'm a bit biased. Nonetheless, we had an opportunity to bring our C-HR back to Vegas and show it to a whole different community of enthusiasts at CES with the help of Pioneer Electronics. We would be helping them showcase a new prototype NEX head unit. To freshen up our C-HR, we went back to Auto Tuned where Avery Dennison supplied a new matte grey vinyl-a much more aggressive and menacing look compared to the previous yellow wrap. As for the new head unit, it's truly a step into the future of wireless connectivity and smart home integration. Our C-HR was fitted with an AVH-W4000NEX to demonstrate Android Auto Wireless and Google Assistant. It was pretty damn cool to be able to adjust a thermostat and turn on/off the lights at home all through Google voice commands and the new head unit.
2. Mercedes-AMG Project ONE
Project ONE was revealed at the '17 Frankfurt Motor Show last September When I saw it in person for the first time at CES, I had to pick my jaw up from the floor! The design takes cues from Formula 1 such as the roof-mounted air scoop, shark fin rear and NACA ducts. It's powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged V6 that features the same block and heads of an F1 car. There's one electric motor that keeps the turbo spinning at all times while a second electric motor is connected to the crank and delivers a little extra boost when needed. The Project ONE is basically a detuned F1 car for the street. 275 will be built, 50 will make their way to the U.S., and it'll ONLY cost $2.75 million.
3. Yamaha Motoroid
This is Yamaha's electric motorcycle that is "semi-autonomous." What's that mean? It can balance itself on two wheels even when pushed or nudged. The Motoroid can also recognize other riders on the road and even tell when you're waving at it.
4. Yamaha Motobot Ver.2
It's not faster than a human (Valentino Rossi for that matter), but it's crazy to see how far Yamaha's Motobot has come. It's a robot that sits atop a mostly stock 1,000cc R1M superbike and relies on pre-programmed routes to get around the track. In its last test, the Motobot was able to surpass 200kmh!
5. Furrion Elysium RV with Helicopter
This luxury RV broke ground over a year ago but it was the first time my virgin eyes saw this beauty. It's the king of all RVs with modern day you-name-it: TVs, kitchen appliances, audio equipment, open-air hot tub and, oh yeah, a retractable helipad. It's said to be worth over $3 million - that's if it ever goes into production.
The most disturbing thing at CES was the Psychasec booth that's rumored to morph human bodies and keep them alive-something straight out of Demolition Man with Sylvester Stallone and a blonde Wesley Snipes. Upon further investigation it was a clever Netflix campaign for the upcoming show Altered Carbon.
7. Kino-mo Hypervsn
I really haven't heard much about holograms since 2Pac performed at Coachella in '12, but Kino-mo is showing us we're closer to seeing it commercially used with its Hypervsn. The holographic effects are made possible by multiple modular units and LEDs and the devices spin to create holograms. Pictures and video don't do it justice, you definitely have to see it in person. Seeing this at CES makes me believe we're not far away from seeing holograms floating at malls and restaurants to display flash sales and menu items. Some Minority Report shit!
8. LG OLED TVs
I'm not a TV guy nor will I ever be, but LG has some pretty rad stuff. This year,they were praised by many for an 88-inch 8K OLED TV; however, I was more impressed by this W8 Series, paper-thin, wallpaper-like TV that's measures just 3mm thick!
9. Samsung Flip
The inner student in me was geeking out over this touchscreen whiteboard from Samsung. It's 55-inches and has a smooth matte finish. There's a stylus to help you write, highlight and draw on the board. Files can be imported and exported with ease via USB, your laptop or phone, and it can also be "flipped" between horizontal and vertical orientations. The Flip will cost $2,700, which is nearly half the price of the current "e-whiteboard" competitor from Google.
10. Ion Audio Garage Rocker
This wireless Bluetooth speaker is a little bit tacky but it does mix fun with function quite well. The Garage Rocker from Ion features an integrated ruler, protractor, drill bit holder, socket tray and magnetized screw tray. It's also pretty sturdy and features water resistance, a metal grille to protect the 50-watt speaker and rubber buttons. A full battery charge is said to hold up to 50 hours of play. At $199, it might make a cool gift.
11. Polaroid OneStep 2 Analog Instant Camera
Polaroid had a lot of cool things to check out, from new cameras and TVs, to instant printers and 3D printers. But I was diggin' their ingenuity to take things back to the old school with their reinvented instant camera. It's already available in stores and retails for $99.99.
12. AvatarMind iPal Robot
The iPal Robot is intended to help do things like remind elders to take their medicine and greet children at the door. It stands 3.5-feet tall, rolls around on four wheels, weighs 27.5 lbs, and is plain frightening.
13. ITRI Scrabble Robot
A big robot that plays Scrabble... I'll never need a friend again! Made by Taiwanese research company ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute), this robot uses a combo of AI, 3D vision and hand-eye coordination come up with the highest scoring words possible. Its brain is an entire dictionary, so basically you're going to lose every time.
14. Aeolus Robotics
I'm guessing this is a lot like Rosie from The Jetsons. The Aeolus Bot is a maid that can help vacuum, mop, put away dishes and move furniture. The robot can even grab you a beer from the fridge. Already Alexa and Google Home compatible, I'm placing my order tomorrow.
15. Atari Pong Project
Last but not least, we have Pong. Yes, the 1972 table tennis game from Atari has been reincarnated with LED lighting and 3D paddles. This wicked machine won't come cheap as it retails for $2,800. Nevermind, I'm getting a PS4.