January is usually the time of the year when a great throng of tech journalists descend on Las Vegas to showcase the delights of what the town has to offer. No, not those delights but what is happening in the world of technology and shiny new gadgets.
But this year it was different. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was virtual and, because of this, Las Vegas' clubs were left bereft of awkward-suited journalists living vicariously through the endless expenses budgets of the tech world.
It was technology, then, that helped the show go on and, despite the Covid-19 situation, there was a bounty of gadgetry, all of which will make your jaw drop due to the tech advancements made and your wallet empty thanks to the cost of the things.
Here's ShortList's pick of the most innovative gadgets at CES. The tech we recommend you think about buying this year...
1. Mercedes-Benz Hyperscreen
While we thought we were happy with the tiny screen in our car that houses the sat nav, the Mercedes-Benz Hyperscreen is an absolute marvel of innovation. Stretching almost door to door, the screen offers up all the controls you need in a car within a brilliant OLED display. It meshes in a number of analog car parts, too, with the fan grilles part of the setup. The screen is set to debut in the frankly beautiful Mercedes Vision EQS car.
2. Sony 360 Reality Audio speakers
When it comes to 3D Audio, Sony is at the top of the game, thanks to its 360 Reality Audio concept. The idea is music that is formatted the right way will sound like it's all around you, so you are sort of enveloped in a 360 audio bubble.
This speaker setup has been created to get the most out of that audio innovation. The SRS-RA5000 and SRS-RA3000 speaker range (to give them their hip-hop name) have been created with 360 Reality Audio in mind. They have an algorithm within them that cleverly converts stereo tracks to near 360 Reality Audio quality and will playback the thousands of tracks that have been that take advantage of Sony's audio goodness.
3. Kohler Stillness Bath
Just by looking at this picture you get a sense of calm, so imagine what it's like bathing in this thing. The Kohler Stillness Bath is a smart bath tub that is pretty much a world-class spa at home. It is a tub that fills up from the bottom up, with the water overflowing into a wooden grate (offering the sound of calmness) and fog surrounding the thing. It comes with a 'full spectrum' lighting and the experience can be modified through the Kohler Konnect app.
It looks fantastic, is utterly expensive at $16,000 and probably won't fit in your three-bed semi but we can all dream, right?
4. ASUS ZenBook Duo
Nope, that isn't just a bit of shiny plastic above the keyboard but another brilliant screen to play around with. The ASUS ZenBook Duo is packed with innovation. There's the aforementioned 14-inch screen and a separate oblong 12.6 inch screen that's called the ScreenPad Plus. Here you can use it for things like notes and Spotify, keeping the big screen free of clutter. It's a great idea and one ASUS has pulled off with aplomb - unlike Apple and the disappointing TouchBar.
5. Sony Airpeak drone
Sony has been teasing the Airpeak Drone for a while now so it's great to see that the thing is actually going to get launched. This isn't for amateurs, as it's a camera drone that's pretty much like what the pros use to get those amazing shots for Planet Earth and the like. It can carry a Sony Alpha camera and has a quadcopter design that's been created so the rotors don't get in the way of the picture taking. It looks, frankly, awesome and we can't wait to see this one take to the skies in 2021.
6. Samsung Solar Cell Remote
This is such an obvious idea that we can't believe none of the major tech companies has tried to release a solar remote control before. It's fantastic to see Samsung create a solar cell remote, adding to its eco credentials. The remote can be charged with indoor and outdoor light and there is also USB to fall back on, if you live a life of darkness.
7. LG C1 OLED
LG's OLEDs are always top class, but the LG C1 offers a lot of great new features. There are two HDMI 2.1 slots for a start, so it's ready for next-gen gaming. Couple this with a variable refresh rate and the gorgeous OLED picture quality and what you have is a very desirable television.
8. V-Moda M-200 ANC
If you are looking for a pair of headphones that can take on the Apple AirPods Max, then these are the cans for you. They are the first wireless ANCs from V-Moda - and come with ear cups that are customisable - and are built for high-res audio. They look fantastic, too, but then V-Moda's tech always does.
9. Razer Project Hazel
This is the world we live in now, where one of the best things to come out of CES was a face mask that is packed with computing smarts, such as voice amplification and Razer Chroma RGB on board for the ultimate in customisation. The case they come in has its own UV light which is great for zapping viruses, too.
10. LG Rollable Phone
Foldable phones are so 2020, 2021 is all about the rollable phone and while some lesser companies have got their own variants, LG's looks stunning. In the video we saw the OLED screen rolls up and down, depending on what you are doing with the handset. This could well be the future of the smartphone, if LG can get this technology right.
11. Air Pix AirSelfie
Air Pix has been a stalwart of CES for some time now. This year its presence may have been quiet but it has been busy launching the AirSelfie in the UK. We've had a try of the thing and it's a lot of fun. The premise is simple: it's an aerial camera that you throw in the air and once it composes itself, it takes a HD 12MP 'selfie' of you while in mid air. If you are fed up of the selfie stick and want something that is a definite conversation starter, then this is for you. Just make sure you have a lot of room to play with the thing and quite a bit of patience - it does take some getting used to. But, it's a freakin' flying camera and if that doesn't scream 'the future' then we don't know what does.
12. Samsung Bot Handy
The Samsung Bot Handy may sound like some sort of sex thing (unless that's just our filthy mind), but it's actually a robot butler. It will do the dishes, sort your laundry out and it'll even pour you a glass of wine after a hard day's work. The 'bot has two digital eyes that can show emotion and the single arm has three joints so it can lift and move items. The robot also uses cameras mounted to its body that allows it to recognise objects.
13. Lenovo Yoga AIO 7
Look, we all know you spend your time off watching seas shanties on TikTok so you may as well spend your working day doing the same thing, with the Lenovo Yoga AIO 7 - an all-in-one that has a monitor that can go vertically. There are obviously more reasons for a vertical monitor (it's great for coding and the like) but this is a computer for the social-media addict and we are more than happy about that.
14. Panasonic's HUD for the car of the future
Panasonic showed us all the future of a car's heads-up display and it looks like it's trying to zap sat nav information straight into your retinas. It will be a few years before we see this augmented reality HUD from Panasonic in cars but it's a great idea and will make you feel like the Terminator when you are driving around.
15. Infinity Game Table
This is a great next-gen way to play board games. The Infinity Table allows you to play classic games of yore through its touchscreen interface. This has been something of a Kickstarter marvel so it was great to see it showcased on the big stage at CES. And it's not just board games you can play on it: other uses include puzzles, card games, colouring books and even comic books.