It’s only January, but already 2022 is shaping up to be a stellar year for gadgets. With a surge in coronavirus infections unleashing a flood of cancellations from exhibitors, the Consumer Electronics Show that finished this weekend in Las Vegas was shaping up to be a huge disappointment.
But, in fact, the opposite happened. It turned out to be the most interesting gadget festival in years. TVs appeared that could actually upend the status quo we’ve lived with for almost a decade.
Invisible headphones appeared that really could change the way you work in the pandemic era. And a tiny projector appeared that could change the way you decorate your home.
So much stuff interesting came out of CES, we simply can’t wait for the year to unfold, so we can get our hands on it all. In the meantime, here’s a shortlist of the gadgets that got us most excited.
N1 invisible headphones, by Noveto
Noveto’s N1 desktop speakers might just be the best thing to happen to the office since the pandemic struck.
Technically, they’re speakers for your PC, phone or tablet, but rather than thinking of them like that, you can think of them as headphones that you don’t have to wear on your head.
The speakers use ultrasonic beam-forming technology to create sound-emitting air pockets near your ears, that function like a pair of invisible headphones.
The technology allows you to play music, listen to interesting YouTube videos or dull-as-ditchwater Zoom meetings, all without disturbing your housemates or workmates.
Noveto promises the technology reduces the noise other people hear by up to 90 per cent, as long as they’re 1 metre away from the intended listener.
The N1 speakers have motion-tracking cameras on them, to track your head and make sure the air pockets are always formed near your ears, even as you move your head.
In the hybrid office- and home-based work environment it looks like we’re stuck with, the benefits of invisible headphones are obvious. You’ll be able to sit at your desk at work, and still have private(ish) Zoom calls with colleagues, collaborators and customers, without having to ruin your look with ugly headphones.
Zenbook 17 Fold OLED, by Asus
Almost as improbable as invisible headphones, and probably not quite so useful, is Asus’ Zenbook 17 Fold OLED, the world’s first 17.3-inch foldable OLED laptop.
The Zenbook is essentially a 17.3-inch, 2.5K OLED touchscreen tablet that folds in half to create two, 12.5-inch, full HD displays.
Think Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold3 folding phone, but bigger, and with Windows rather than Android as the operating system.
Fully open, it works either as a huge, 17.3-inch Windows tablet, or, with the addition of a Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad, a compact desktop PC.
Half open, the Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is like a clamshell notebook PC, with a 12.5 inch display at the top, and an on-screen keyboard created from the other 12.5-inch display at the bottom.
Typing on virtual, on-screen keyboards rather than on physical keyboards has never been ideal, but for people who need access to a big screen while they’re away from their desk, as well as for people who need controllers such as video and audio mixers rather than keyboards, the Zenbook could be a compromise worth making.
QD-Display TV, by Sony and Samsung
Something better than an OLED TV? How is that possible?
In the strict sense, it’s not.
Technically, the new QD-Display TVs revealed by Sony and Samsung at this year’s CES are still OLED TVs. They still use Organic Light-Emitting Diodes to create self-illuminating pixels on the screen, and indeed QD-Display also goes by the name QD-OLED.
But the Sony and Samsung TVs use a very different type of OLED from the LG OLED screens that have set the standard for TV picture quality these past eight or nine years.
Rather than use colour filters to create the red, green and blue pixels that make up an on-screen image, QD-Display screens use red- and green-emitting quantum dots, layered over a blue OLED display, to create the picture.
The new technology should have at least two advantages over traditional OLED: whites should be whiter and brighter; and colours should be more vibrant, and brighter.
If LG’s OLED had one major weakness compared to LCD TV, it was brightness. If QD-Display overcomes that, it will be a big leap forward for TVs. A huge leap.
While Sony’s A95K QD-OLED TV is definitely coming out in the next few months, the status of Samsung’s version is a little less clear. It was on show at CES, and even won a prize, but Samsung didn’t actually announce it, so we don’t know when it will be available or how much it will cost.
All we know is there will be 55- and 65-inch models available, and that they’ll be pricey.
The Freestyle, by Samsung
We’d be more excited by the Samsung Freestyle if it were a little more affordable, but even so, this little device could be a real game changer for a lot of people.
The Freestyle is a soup-can-size, 830-gram projector, capable of displaying a high-definition TV screen as big as 100 inches measured diagonally.
It comes with its own 360-degree speaker system, Samsung’s smart TV operating system, and can be powered from batteries, all of which add up to one thing: provided you have a surface to project onto, it’s one of the most portable TVs ever made.
It’s so portable, Samsung even demonstrated The Freestyle hanging from the ceiling like a pendant light, projecting a picture downwards onto a table. You could use it for a meeting, or simply to create ambience at a dinner party.
The Freestyle is pitched at Gen Z and Millennials, but there’s absolutely no reason older generations won’t be able to make use of it, too, perhaps as a groovy, projected lighting display in the hallway, or as the main, huge TV in the beach home.
Pricing in Australia hasn’t been announced, but it’s $US900 ($1250) in the US, so it won’t be cheap when it lands here in February.
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