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COVID-Inspired Consumer Tech?

Published 6 months ago
By Forbes Africa

A preview of some of the cool gadgets being rolled out by global players this year.

BY NAFISA AKABOR

IN LIGHT OF THE PANDEMIC, THE WORLD’S LARGEST consumer electronics show held annually in Las Vegas, which saw well over 171,000 attendees in 2020 – went all digital this year. At CES 2021, we saw a mix of interesting prototypes and products. Naturally, it included ways to combat Covid-19, such as body sensors from BioButton to detect flu-like symptoms; the MaskFone with built-in microphone for calls without removing a mask; and Alarm.com’s touchless video doorbell to help reduce the transmission of bacteria.

As expected, there were plenty of robots but with UV lights to disinfect high-traffic areas such as the Coro-Bot, LG’s CLOi and the Adibot.

Gaming hardware company Razer introduced a prototype N95 mask called Project Hazel that is waterproof, scratch-resistant and transparent, which supports RGB lights that shine on the mouth. It features voice projection and can filter 95% of airborne particles.

Interestingly, the Metropolitan Museum of Art went virtual through the launch of The Met Unframed. It is a free smartphone-only experience of a digitally rendered art gallery including iconic masterpieces and the ability to play augmented reality games. It runs until mid-February.

There were also rollable phone screens showcased by LG and TLC, both with displays that expand as needed. However, the hype at CES this year was around updated television screens.

TVs unveiled at CES 2021 included brighter OLED screens, 8K support, laser TVs, mini-LED and micro-LED. The main difference between mini and micro LED is that the former can have more packed together in the same area and is backlit, whereas the latter is even smaller but self-illuminating.

HiSense unveiled a TriChroma Laser projection TV that displays “purer colors”, which is an improvement over RGB color and has brighter pixels, according to the company.

It also claims the technology offers 50% better color than cinemas, an industry that has been heavily impacted by the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Sony’s 2021 TV line-up will feature 8K support, OLEDs and 4K LED models. Bravias will be powered by its new Cognitive Processor XR that can divide the screen into various zones to detect its focal point, and analyze sound positioning to match what appears on screen.

The company says that while conventional AI can only detect and analyze picture elements like color, contrast and detail individually, the new processor can cross-analyze an array of elements at once, like our brain does. Sony is also the first manufacturer to announce support for the new Google TV platform, the successor to Android TV.

LG, on the other hand, has been busy with NanoCell TVs, 4K OLED monitors, QNED mini LED and second-generation panels called OLED Evo. It also announced a futuristic concept transparent TV that can be used in the bedroom, as a restaurant partition or on public transport to display route information.

The company will bring most of the line-up to South Africa, including the top of the range 8K Z1, the GX Gallery OLED and the 48-inch C1 model that was previously not available in the region, which is best for movies, sports and gaming.

Lance Berger, sales head for home entertainment at LG Electronics South Africa, says its 4K OLED monitors are suited for productivity, entertainment and gaming. “For those working from home, LG’s UltraFine Monitors are renowned for offering immersive viewing, but they also shine as productivity powerhouses, delivering a flexible workstation experience and easy setup.”

Berger says a USB-C port allows a 4K video display, data transfer and laptop/mobile device charging all at the same time over a single cable, which helps reduce cord clutter and increase efficiency.

Late in 2020, LG announced an exclusive partnership with Microsoft’s new Xbox Series X gaming console. This year, LG will offer a ‘game optimizer’ feature that fine-tunes the picture for consoles and PCs Berger says the feature gives gamers fast access to tweaks one would be likely to use, such as lag reduction and variable refresh rate.

“Gamers can enable AI-based sound tuning for specific genres – it will adjust for a first-person shooter, role-playing game or even a real-time strategy title.”

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