CES 2021 showcases the future of smart home tech

They may not be the proverbial flying cars and rocket boots long promised by science and science-fiction, but the many pieces of home focused technology showcased at CES 2021, give an intriguing glimpse into future of high-tech home appliances. From wireless charging stations to smart faucets and toilets, these new devoices aim at being as unobtrusive and discreet as possible.

This year’s edition of the Consumer Electronics Show was entirely virtual. In place of the big convention centers and crowds were well produced livestreams and video conferences. There were a wide variety of robots, drones, and high-end laptops on display, as well as the Cadillac eVTOL Air Taxi from GM.

In addition to such bold and flashy displays, there was also a wide selection of smart home technology that primarily emphasizes staying out of the limelight. These new appliances are all about blending in, giving your home plenty of extra convenience and functionality without really having any impact visually.

For example, Kew Labs unveiled a new wireless charger that can turn any surface less than an inch thick into a charging station. All you have to do is attach the slim UTS-1 underneath the surface of your coffee table, and that table can now double as a charging station. It’s very discreet.

In a similar vein, the new smart water faucets showcased by Koehler and Moen are not at first glance very different from technology we’re already familiar with. They are motion activated—a COVID inspired design for reducing surface contact—much like faucets in public bathrooms have been for decades now. The real difference comes from the faucets’ ability to obey voice commands. Via Alexa, you can tell the faucets to pour out a specific measurement of water.

The Moen faucet even has a special hand-washing functionality. It will turn on the water for you to quickly rinse, then stop for exactly 20 seconds for you to properly lather with soap, then flow once more to finish up the process. More significantly, perhaps, both the Moen and Koehler faucets are also integrated with larger systems for monitoring water in your whole house. They monitor and report your usage of water and can even detect and cut off water from leaks.

Other inventions include a smart toilet that will, among other things, open and close when people approach and withdraw respectively. There was also a transparent TV screen from LG Display that retracts into the foot of a bed to disappear completely. Then there’s the Infinity Game Table, which allows you to play digital versions of your favorite boardgames on a touchscreen table top.

The emphasis is on subtle, well-integrated design instead of epochal new inventions. Nobody’s—or at least very few people’s—lives are going to be radically transformed by a toilet that automatically opens and closes its own lid. Likewise, it isn’t that hard to measure out 2 cups of water. Most people will not need to ask Alexa to tell Moen to do that for them.

That being said, the extra bits of convenience do add up. CES 2021 shows a glimpse of a future where you can control your whole home with a simple voice command or a wave of your hand.

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