Whew! Boy am I not exhausted from not attending CES. Via my patented investigative technique of reading other news sources I am pleased to bring you this secondhand report of Things You Just Might Want to Consider Connecting to Max, If You're So Inclined in that Direction. Up first. Smart lighting.
So here's the problem. You're sitting on the floor, the way you normally do, and you have a cat on your lap and the cat just won't get up. Normally this isn't a problem, but the sun has gone down and you can't see anything. Wouldn't it be great to control the lighting in your room from your iPhone? For that cat's sake. That's worth $200, right? These are the difficult life decisions the Phillip's Hue system asks of me.
Using Phillip's excellent REST API and some clever hacking, Cycling's David Zicarelli successfully linked Max to the Philips Hue system with disco-licious results. The system isn't designed for low latency performance, so don't expect beat-synced ramping of hues, but using Max to control lighting opens new and innovative ways to annoy the people you live with.
Belkin takes aim at Phillips by expanding their WeMo home automation system to include smart LED light bulbs. While the WeMo light bulbs are cheaper than Hue, they don't offer changeable colors. Belkin's LED light bulbs join WeMo's expanding line of home automation products that include switch and motion sensors.
Also announced for the WeMo platform is the WeMo Maker. This device allows you to take readings from 5 volt analog sensors and switch up to 36 volts DC. Check out the WeMo local SDK for iOS and Android for developer information.
Belkin's WeMo system has its own set of modules at, ITFFF, a popular service that allows you to create connections between dozens of services like Twitter, Instagram and your phone with a simple IF (this) THEN (that) statement. This allows you to use a WeMo sensor to phone you up if it detects motion in your house, or use a light switch to publish a blog post.
Sure, sending tweets when your dog wakes up is all jetpacky and nineteensixtyfourworldsfairy, but when is somebody going to step up to accommodate people who need to control their crock pot from Starbucks? It has been 25 years since the first internet toaster was demonstrated, surely CES 2014 will show some progress on this front?
Well put away the pitchfork and get out your actual fork because the future is now with the Belkin CrockPot WeMo Slow Cooker.
Belkin this, Belkin that. You'd think Belkin invented smart things, but put down that burrito because I'm going to tell you something that will shatter your brain's mind. Smart Things invented Smart things. Smart Things is an open platform, meaning multiple companies like Honeywell, GE and Aeon Labs make Smart Things-compatible products. The product line up for Smart Things is a bit more extensive than Belkin. There are options for moisture sensors, pressure sensors, keychain 'presence' fobs and more.
Smart Things, WeMo and Hue communicate wirelessly to a dedicated hub that you connect to your home network. That's why 'starter packs' of any of these products fall into the $200 range. Of course, they're not compatible with each other, meaning you need a separate hub for each system. You can cross integrate, however, and the easiest way to accomplish that is via IFTTT. The allows you to, for example, use a SmartThings motion sensor to turn on a WeMo switch.
Sphero 2B and Sphero Robotic Ball
I have no idea how my son found out about the Sphero robotic ball. In the days leading up to Christmas, we were besieged by unusually persistent requests. It went something like this, "Can I have a Sphero robotic ball?" My wife's position had the solidity of granite. "Have you seen this Sphero ball thing? It's a another stupid remote control toy right? AND you need an iPhone, right? Dumb right? He's not getting one. Right?" Remembering last year's remote controlled spider my well-intentioned parents provided last year, I grunted agreement and didn't research any further. Spousal dissent trumps son's disappointment (and teaches a valuable lesson about life).
Our cheapness turned to triumph as Orbotix (Orbotix!) announced the Sphero 2B just two weeks after Christmas. The 2B is twice as fast as the original robotic ball! And cheaper too! And won't be available for nine months. I bet all those suckers who bought the original Sphero are drowning in pools of early-adopter tears.
As my son and I reviewed the specifications for the 2B, it seemed to fit the description my wife supplied: a remote control vehicle that uses an iPhone for a remote. Except for… an SDK. You can develop for it!
Worse, I realized the original Sphero robotic ball was much more than a remote controlled vehicle. It has an accelerometer, compass, and gyroscope. You can use it as a controller. It can provide haptic feedback. Crap. Now I want a Sphero.
Shure SE846 quad driver earphones
There was a time when one driver was enough. A simpler time. A time when frequencies under 100Hz were just as welcome as a fixed DC offset. Sure, "Time in a Bottle" sounded just fine on an AM radio, but this is 2014 and we can't be expected to fully appreciate Dad Metal without shoving eight drivers into our skulls.
The SE846 uses a three way crossover, with two drivers dedicated to the low end. The SE846's secret sauce is an physical maze of stainless steel plates that act as a "ground breaking low pass filter for a true subwoofer experience”. This channel adds about four inches of distance between the driver and the output canal.
If you're ready to pay $1000, and enjoy using words like "soundstage", "shimmer" and "space" to your friends, be sure to get a pair of these earphones. They won't fully obliterate the shame and embarrassment of your teenage years, but they'll help. Bonus: you can't hear your kids crying.
Anything we missed? What was your favorite product announcement at CES?