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Sunday, May 27 Living

Jim Shea: New tech gizmos too much for my pretty little head

Every year all the geeks in the world, OK, maybe not all the geeks, but a good number of them, descend on Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show.

If you want to see the latest in technological whizbang, CES is the place to be. What the thousands of geeks do to unwind in Vegas when they are not doing geeky stuff is unknown. This is probably a good thing. This is probably something for which we should all be grateful that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Anyway, while much of what is unveiled at CES is way too much for my pretty little head, there are always a few gadgets and gizmos that I see as having potential. Kohler’s new high-end (no pun intended) toilet is a case in point. The unit connects to the internet via such household assistants as Alexa or Siri, and can be flushed by a voice command.

The question, of course, is why? Has it become that much of an effort to push down a handle that a voice command option is necessary?

An additional feature of the toilet, one that I think is much more useful, allows a user to verbally lift or lower the seat. While it is obviously a plus that this function eliminates the necessity of having to physically interact with the seat, there is an even greater benefit. The unit can be held responsible if the seat is not left in the proper position and one of those unfortunate middle-of-the-night splashdowns occurs.

Given that I do my own laundry, another appliance that holds a lot of appeal for me is one that folds your laundry. Instead of having to wrestle a shirt or pair of pants into some kind of order, all you have to do is feed each piece into the apparatus, which does the work. This is one of those things that could have a definite impact on my life. To be honest, I’m not as diligent as I should be about taking stuff out of the dryer as soon as it is dry. There can be hours, even days, before I get around to it.

Since I don’t have a good working relationship with the iron either, no one ever uses the words crisp or creased to describe my appearance. One of these babies could definitely add a new wrinkle to my wardrobe.

Another device I can see as having possibilities is a robot pillow called Somnox, which is being marketed as a bed companion. OK, just to be clear, we are not talking about some techie equivalent of the blow-up doll. Essentially what Somnox does is simulate human breathing when you hug it, which is supposed to relax you and help you fall asleep faster. It can also do things like provide the sounds of a heartbeat.

I mean, the breathing and the heartbeat things are fine, but if this is going to serve as a surrogate when your regular bedmate is absent, it needs to be able to do some other things such as: mumble, talk in its sleep, wake you up with a weird dream, roll over, steal the blankets, get up to go to the bathroom. Wonder if you could get one that snores?

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Finally, the one thing I might actually have bought had the timing been better is Sony’s Aibo dog. Not that we don’t love the puppy we got last fall, but a robot version certainly would have made life easier. For one thing, it never has to go out at five in the morning. Aibo is capable of developing a personality over time, has facial recognition software that allows it to identify different people and can also do tricks like find a ball, lay down and give high fives.

In comparison, our puppy can lick himself.

Jim Shea is a lifelong Connecticut resident and journalist who believes the keys to life include the avoidance of physical labor and I-95. He can be reached at jimboshea@gmail.com and on Twitter @jimboshea.

Jim Shea|Columnist

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