CES 2016: An eyewitness account of the epic consumer electronics trade show

All images via Victoria Hallum
CES 2016 – the vast, sprawling consumer electronics trade show, wrapped up in Las Vegas in early January. Callaghan Innovation’s national network manager for sensing technologies, Andrew Dawson, immersed himself in the tech-fest, with nine New Zealand companies eager to showcase their wares to the most discerning buyers and reviewers.

The companies present on the Callaghan Innovation CES Mission ranged from conceptual start-ups through to established international businesses, covering technologies for high performance video recording, motion capture and camera hardware, performance sports monitoring and rehabilitation, next generation sensor and battery tech, and expert product design capability.

The Kiwi companies exhibiting stood out from the rest through their well packaged, novel and practical solutions for consumers’ wants and needs.

From Syrp with their beautifully designed video equipment, to Swibo with their innovative gamification of balance board rehabilitation, meMINI with their light, unobtrusive wearable camera providing the gift of hindsight, and Volt Technology with their revolutionary re-chargeable battery technology, all captured the interest of those walking past.

It was great for us to observe the continual interest in the Kiwi companies across the four days. From the companies’ point of view, it provided them with fantastic validation of all of their products.

Through the Callaghan Innovation Mission companies have gained real traction. Each company had its own objectives, from exposure to potential contacts and collaborators to product validation and identification of new applications for their products.

Companies returned to New Zealand reporting new investment, new distribution and sales partners and new customers.

But CES is not all about selling goods, and with the breadth of talent and expertise gathered in one place many of the companies hoped to make connections with benefits further downstream.

For a number of the companies this included significant reduction in manufacturing costs through new manufacturing partners, and gaining new Silicon Valley-based business mentors.

Ollie McDermott from Blender Design summed it up saying, "After five days in this environment,  we are much clearer on the future trends and better informed to choose the right opportunities to pursue". 

My colleague, Victoria Hallum, Callaghan Innovation's manager of international policy and partnerships, says the success of the mission means Callaghan Innovation is already looking ahead to next year’s edition and planning an enhanced New Zealand presence.

The nine Kiwi companies at CES 2016 with Callaghan Innovation were:

Image: The Syrp

Andrew's favs: the best innovations of CES 2016

  • In Motion: The first smart ski airbag vest. Very comfortable to wear, stylish, affordable, and already being trialled and endorsed by some of the world's best in the sport. A very cool example of French innovation.
  • UpRIGHT: A very simple unobtrusive device developed by a start-up in Israel that sits on your back and causes your phone to vibrate when you begin to slouch or demonstrate poor posture. By wearing this for just 15 minutes a day UpRight have demonstrated posture can be corrected within weeks. A very simple novel solution to a serious growing global problem.
  • MakerBloks: One of the best educational solutions I have ever seen for teaching kids the building blocks of today's smart electronic devices. Children can learn by following a tutorial that will challenge them or by creating circuits themselves with electronic building blocks that connect together via magnets. Fully safe and impossible to create a dangerous circuits. Very very cool.
  • VIRZoom: A VR system that turns exercycles into the most fun they could be with an immersive well designed VR experience controlled by your movements on the cycle. Again very affordable, and smart in terms of the gamification of exercise where you don't even realise you are exerting yourself while trying to achieve the goals of the game.



Andrew's favs: the most amusing innovations of CES 2016

  • In-Tail: the world's first wearable digital tail, with wiggling controlled from an app on your smartphone. Fun to wear, ridiculous, but apparently there is a real market out there!
  • Immersit: A system of jacks that sit under your couch feet that continuously adjust in height based on the audio output from your TV, creating the 4D experience you have always wanted. Great solution if you love an immersive experience or you are tired of your other half falling asleep during a movie but not for those who are looking for a quiet night in or wish to avoid motion sickness in their lounge.
  • Keecker: The truly smart robotic projector that will literally follow you around your house wherever you go or respond to a call command should you need to view video on a wall, anywhere, anytime in your house. 
  • A couple of complicated smart spoons that record your calorie intake precisely by measuring the mass and optically detecting what is on your spoon from their database. Yes they also have the smart fork in case you are interested.

Image: Left to right, Dawson does VR; wears tail