The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2021 is over now. This event happens every January in Las Vegas, and every year it is one of the largest trade shows world wide. Due to the pandemic, and for the first time in its history, CES 2021 was purely a digital event. According to CES CEO Gary Shapiro, the 2021 show had only about 1,000 exhibitors and around 150,000 attendees, down from the 2020 event which attracted 171,268 attendees, including 6,517 members of the media.
I attended the virtual CES event this year as a member of the media, and I found that it was much harder to discover new products by serendipity, i.e. stumbling upon a cool new product just by walking past an exhibitor's booth. In fact, I would rate the online experience at CES 2021 as a 2 out of 10. While the keynotes and presentations were what you might expect out of a virtual event, CES failed to make the exhibitor / visitor experience engaging and informative.
The exhibitor search interface was easy enough to use but the results page only displayed company names and logos. When you have a bunch of Chinese companies with generic names, you can't tell at a glance what they are offering. As a result, I wasted a lot of time drilling down to a company's landing page, only to see that they had nothing to offer me. So, it became sort of an Easter egg hunt.
In this article, I've summarized my experience from the show and I've collected what I think are the noteworthy, robotics-related solutions and product announcements from the event. So let's dive in, starting with a couple of my favorite announcements from the event.
My Favorite Product: The Yaw Motion Simulator
While not technically a robot, one of my favorite consumer devices announced at CES 2021 is the Yaw Motion Simulator from YawVR. This is the one device that I wish that I could have physically demo'd at the show. It is a virtual reality (VR) motion simulator that you can physically sit on while playing VR games like flight simulators and driving games. The cost is pretty pricey at $1,490 (USD), but it's not as expensive as some of the top-of-the-line consumer motion simulators currently on the market.
My Favorite Announcement: The Indy Autonomous Challenge
The race is on. The Indy Autonomous Challenge takes place on the Indianapolis Raceway on October 23, 2021. This is an autonomous racing challenge, where university teams will compete to program and race a completely autonomous race car. With a $1.5 million prize, the competition will be stiff. The racing will be head-to-head, which makes the challenge even more difficult. The teams don't need to design the race car, in fact, all of the teams will program a modified Dallara IL-15 racecar, which evens the field in terms of the physical race car capabilities. The real challenge will be in programming the race car control systems and in processing the sensor data in real time, during the race. What this has to do with consumer electronics is lost on me, but it is definitely a worthy challenge. Mark your calendars to watch this event in October.
Commercial Robot Announcements
There were a variety of commercial robotic product announcements at CES 2021, including six new UV disinfection robots. We covered several of these product announcements with separate stories on The Mobile Robot Guide last week, but here's a summary of the key product announcements:
Ava Robotics UV Disinfection Robot
Ava Robotics launches a new UV disinfection robot.
UBTech ADIBOT UV Disinfection Robot
UBTech launches two new ADIBOT UV disinfection robots.
Zetabank UV Disinfection Robot
Zetabank launches a new UV disinfection robot.
LG Cloi UV Disinfection Robot
LG launches Cloi, a new UV disinfection robot.
Samsung Bot Care & Bot Handy
Samsung previewed two new service robot for the home, the Bot Care & Bot Handy robots. Samsung expects to launch the robots this year.
Ekin A-Patrol Vehicle
Ekin Smart City Technologies announced the Ekin A-Patrol, an autonomous vehicle that can be deployed in city to help patrol the streets and provide police or city leaders with data about traffic or other situations.
Skydio X2 Drone Series
Skydio launched Skydio X2, a new generation of their popular autonomous Skydio drone. This drone is targeted at commercial applications such as defense, security patrols, and first responders, so it's not a consumer drone. Built 100% in the USA and NDAA compliant.
Autel Robotics launched two new autonomous aircraft. The Dragonfish VTOL Drone is designed for law enforcement, commercial security and inspection operations. Autel also launched the EVO II RTK series drone, an 6K drone with centimeter-level positioning capability, 36 minute flight time and dual cameras. The EVO II drone can also be equipped with a thermal imaging camera. It is targeted for inspection, law enforcement, firefighting and photogrammetry applications.
I was a little amazed that sensor companies qualify to exhibit at CES. Most of these vendors would be more at home at any of the industrial trade shows like Pack Expo, ProMat or Automate. Certainly, many of these devices are being integrated into consumer technology like automobiles and robotic vacuum cleaners, but they are primarily a systems component, not something that a consumer would purchase (or even touch). However, I picked out a couple of product announcements that I thought this audience might find interesting.
SOSLAB ML-2 LiDAR
SOSLAB launched the ML-2, a fisheye solid-state LiDAR sensor.
Robosense/Suteng Innovation Technology Co., Ltd. launched an automotive grade solid-state LiDAR in the RS-LiDAR-M1. RS-LiDAR-M1 Automotive Grade MEMS LiDAR
ibeoNEXT solid-state LiDAR
beo Automotive Systems GmbH launched their new ibeoNEXT solid-state LiDAR.
Taiyo Yuden Wireless Optical Communication
Taiyo Yuden launched a new wireless optical communication device. This sensor would be useful as a method to communicate between an AMR and a fixed component like a conveyor infeed or the interface to a machine tool. The device uses an encoded light beam to communicate between two devices. Useful when WiFi or Bluetooth isn't an option.
I was also shocked to see commercial agriculture related products announced at CES. While consumers interact with the end product (i.e. food products) of commercial agriculture, they aren't in the market to buy a tractor, or other agriculture device. The John Deere X-series Combine even won a CES innovation award this year. Another interesting ag-related product was an automated honey accumulation device by Daesung that automates honey collection without the need for a bee-keeper to handle the active bee hive.
John Deere X Series Combine
Daesung Smart Hive Controller
Last, but not least, there were plenty of consumer robots announced at the show. These new products run the gamut from robotic vacuum cleaners, to drones, to telescopes, to STEM-related toys. I collected my favorite announcements in the list below:
Eufy RobotVac L80
Anker Innovations launched the eufy RoboVac L80. This vacuum cleaner has super strong suction, and uses LiDAR for navigation.
Samsung JetBot 90
Samsung launched the JetBot 90 AI+ cleaning robot. This robot also uses LiDAR to map your house for accuracy and thorough cleaning. It automatically empties its debris bin after each cleaning cycle.
Several social robots were launch at CES 2021. These robots either leverage AI to help them engage with kids (or adults) or serve some additional social purpose.
Embodied, Inc showed off Moxie, an animate companion that helps children build social, emotional, and cognitive skills through everyday play-based learning and engaging content developed in association with child development and education experts.
Vanguard Moflin AI Pet
Vanguard Industries won a CES Innovation award for the MOFLIN AI Pet Robot. This cute little guy leverages AI to learn new behaviors over time and evolve a unique personality for each pet.
Moorebot launched the Scout robot. Scout is the world-first autonomous home robot for intelligent monitoring. Equipped with many advanced sensors and AI algorithms, Scout allows you to remotely monitor your house by driving the little robot around.
If you love looking at the stars, then you'll love the new Vaonis Vespera robotic telescope, that will hit the market later this year for under $1,500. It's completely self-contained, all you have to do is unfold its legs, start it up and it completely localizes itself, calibrates to its location and can begin imaging planets, stars, nebula and galaxies. It simplifies astronomy and makes it accessible to anyone with the interest.
Transportation Of The Future
Cadillac produced a slick video that demonstrates how people might travel around cities in the future by flying from building rooftops. They demonstrated this concept with a Cadillac VTOL passenger drone.
STEM Robotic Toys
Here are several of the STEM related robotic toys that were launched at CES.
KEYi Technology Co., Ltd. - ClicBot
ClicBot is a STEM education and programmable building kit.
Macroact Inc - Maicat
Maicat is a programmable, robotic feline pet.
Roybi Inc - Roybi Robot STEM
Roybi is an emotional support robot and STEM education companion.
Robosen Robotics - K1 Interstellar Scout STEM
K1 Interstellar Scout is a voice controlled, programmable humanoid robot.