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January 11, 2018

Presenting the Best of CES 2018 finalists!

by John_A

Our editors have been on the ground for the better part of this week scouring every nook and cranny in Las Vegas to bring you the latest and greatest from CES 2018. And now we’re ready to announce our finalists for the official Best of CES awards. Below you’ll find our selections for all 16 categories, which range from best wearables to the most innovative tech we’ve seen at the show. We’ll announce our category winners tomorrow, which is also when we’ll reveal our Best of the Best award recipient, the most coveted prize of all. That special award is selected from our pool of category winners.

If you want your voice heard too, no worries! There’s an additional category for the People’s Choice, where you can vote for your favorite entry from our compilation of finalists. Just head on over to our poll right here to vote and the one with the most votes will win our special People’s Choice award. All award winners will be announced at a special ceremony tomorrow at our CES stage, so be sure to come back right here on Engadget around 5PM PST Thursday afternoon to watch it all unfold.

Best Accessibility Tech

Xenoma e-skin pajamas

Smart clothing isn’t a novel concept, but Xenoma makes use of the technology in an inventive way: to grant dementia patients more independence. All told, the company’s prototype pajamas can detect motion, monitor heart rate and connect to an ECG. The hope is that eventually patients can roam freer inside hospitals and assisted-living homes without needing to be confined to rooms or kept under observation.

Whill Wheelchair Model Ci

Whill won the Best Accessibility Tech award at last year’s CES after it unveiled a compact wheelchair nimble enough to pull off tight turns and work on myriad surfaces. This year’s Model Ci is even lighter, with a more portable design that can easily be dismantled for travel. Just as important (and this persuaded us last year, too), the Model Ci is more than just a prototype — it’s available now.

Neofect NeoMano

For those who may be wheelchair bound with limited use of their hands, Neofect has developed a robotic glove that connects to a rubber pad that can be controlled with an elbow or arm. When activated, the glove allows paralyzed users to pick up objects as heavy as about 2 pounds. Neofect’s prototype glove is lightweight, easy to put on and simple to use. The company is planning a Kickstarter toward the end of the year and expects it to cost less than $1,000.

My Special Aflac Duck

The My Special Aflac duck is designed to support children diagnosed with cancer. It’s good for medical play, with features like a port-a-cath with an RFID chip for children to familiarize themselves with the chemotherapy process. It has RFID-enabled emoji cards so children can use the duck to express their emotions. It’s also just a fun, cute and cuddly toy. Aflac hopes to get a My Special Duck in the hands of all children diagnosed with cancer in the US, free of charge.

Best Startup

Black Box VR

Black Box VR is a video game that doubles as a strength-training workout, or it’s a workout that doubles as a video game. Either way, it might be the future of exercise. Black Box VR uses HTC Vive, specially designed exercise equipment and a game in which players fight off enemies by doing chest presses and other muscle-building moves. Black Box VR plans to open a boutique gym in San Francisco later this year.

Reflexion Edge

For this Pennsylvania startup, helping schools identify potential brain injuries in young athletes is a personal mission. Its first product — the Edge, a foldable, touch-sensitive light panel — builds a performance baseline through Whac-A-Mole-style tests that can be quickly checked against after a player takes a concerning hit. Two high schools have already signed on to trial Edge, and the device is in the second phase of a clinical study at Penn State University.

Looxid Labs

LooxidVR represents the vast potential of VR at this early stage in its lifecycle. It’s a standalone mobile VR headset with eye tracking and EEG sensors to measure brainwave activity while the user is running around imaginary worlds. LooxidVR might just be the bridge between consumer VR and research-based, medical uses for the same technology.

Arable

Arable has built a $500 sensor for crops that tracks over 40 metrics, giving farmers profound insight into the quality and progress of the foods that will ultimately end up on our plates. Tracking crop health with such depth isn’t just good for business — it helps ensure a steady flow of the ingredients that we rely on every day.

Best Digital Health and Fitness Product

L’Oreal UV Sense

L’Oreal has made a sensor less than 2mm thick that fits on your thumbnail. Its purpose is to monitor ultraviolet exposure, guiding you via an app on when to dodge the rays or apply sunscreen. But besides its skin-health benefits, UV Sense also stood out as a forerunner of where patient microtechnology could go: a self-contained, battery-free sensor that, say, hospital patients can use instead of cumbersome or invasive monitors.

Casio G-Shock Rangeman

Casio’s survivalist G-Shock timepiece is valuable because of its attention to safety. The GPS navigation lasts 33 hours on a charge, and a solar panel can add more juice when you’re off the grid. Coupled with its functioning in temperatures down to -4 Fahrenheit, it’s a strong insurance for the wilderness. Wireless charging capability also gives the classic watch line a modern upgrade.

Black Box VR

If there’s one reason to never spend time in a gym, it’s that exercise is really very boring, and you’d rather be doing plenty of other things. That’s why Black Box VR’s pitch is so exciting — you’re at the gym with a VR headset strapped to your skull. So, rather than spending a tedious session on the chest press, you can be repelling an alien invasion with a weapon that just happens to require you to make some effort to fire.

Best Wearable

Kate Spade Scallop touchscreen smartwatch

Smartwatches designed “for women” aren’t new. But smartwatches made by businesses built on knowing what women like are rare. The Kate Spade Scallop may lack the colorful patterns we’ve come to expect from the brand, but it’s still an attractive Android Wear device that lives up to women’s tastes.

L’Oreal UV Sense

L’Oreal’s UV Sense isn’t a traditional wearable — it’s just a tiny sensor that attaches to your thumbnail. But it doesn’t need any batteries and can still connect to your smartphone to give you data about how much sun exposure you’re getting. If you’re someone who loves being outside, it’s worth keeping track of this data for the sake of your skin.

Xenoma e-skin pajamas

These garments were designed for patients in hospitals, so they’re not for your average consumer — but they could make it a lot easier for health-care professionals to keep an eye on those they look after. The sensors in the e-skin pajamas can detect both vital signs and movement, so professionals can keep an eye on what their patients are doing and how they’re feeling. And they can be washed up to 100 times before showing signs of wear.

Best Transportation Tech

Toyota e-Palette

Toyota hopes to blur the lines on what it means to be a brick-and-mortar business with its e-Palette concept vehicle. Roughly the size of a small bus, with an electric drivetrain and capable of autonomous navigation, the e-Palette aims to be an open platform for a variety of businesses with the flexibility to serve as virtually anything from an on-demand ride-hailing service to mobile pop-up shop.

Byton EV Concept

Startup carmaker Byton wants to build the car of the future, just not of the far future. With cameras for side-view mirrors and a 40-inch monitor for an instrument cluster, the Byton concept vehicle hints at the sorts of features we could see in tomorrow’s autonomous vehicles while not straying far from today’s modern design aesthetics.

NVIDIA Xavier

With the ability to chew through 30 trillion operations per second using 30 watts of power, the new Xavier SoC from NVIDIA brings the world one step closer to an autonomous-car world. According to the company, when two of these chips are placed on the chipmaker’s Pegasus computer, it can power a Level 5 autonomous car. That means no steering wheel, no pedals and everyone in the car is a passenger.

Best Home-Theater Product

Optoma 4K Alexa Projector

With the HD51A’s Alexa support, you don’t even need a remote to set up movie night — just a few voice commands can set the screen and control other smart-home features to arrange proper lighting and sound. Add 4K resolution and HDR compatibility at a price that’s well under $2,000, and you have the reason more people should look at this projector for their next big upgrade.

Hisense 150-inch Laser TV Projector

Thanks to a laser light source, Hisense’s short-throw projector doesn’t need much room to create an immense 150-inch 4K screen. Because the speakers, subwoofer, voice controls and smart-TV apps are all in one box, just add a blank space on the wall and a theater experience is ready to go, wherever you are.

Channel Master SMARTenna+

If the only thing keeping you tied to a pay-TV subscription is weak signal reception, Channel Master may have the answer. Its Smartenna+ uses an internal processor to find the best signal reception pattern for wherever it’s located. And if the signal changes or fades for some reason, it can rescan and adjust with the push of a button — no repositioning necessary.

Best Connected-Home Product

Lenovo Smart Display

Google debuted several smart displays here at CES, but the Lenovo Smart Display is our favorite. The screen quality is top-notch, we like that it comes in both 8-inch and 10-inch variations, and it just looks cool. The Google Assistant implementation is great as well — we love the idea of using it for video calls, following step-by-step recipes and, of course, watching YouTube.

LG ThinQ Appliances

Sure, smart appliances aren’t new at CES, but the way LG’s new line of kitchen products talk to each other is pretty novel. When you select a desired recipe on the InstaView fridge, it will automatically start preheating the EasyClean oven. It even preps the QuadWash dishwasher for a deep-cleaning cycle if you happen to be making something tough to clean, like lasagna. Alexa’s on board as well, giving you step-by-step instructions along the way.

Whirlpool and Yummly Smart Kitchen

Last year Whirlpool bought Yummly, a well-known online recipe source, and now we can see why. The appliance giant has partnered with the site to develop Yummly 2.0, an app that will scan what you have in your fridge and then come up with suitable recipe ideas. But that’s not all — it will even send over that recipe to your Whirlpool oven, which heats up to the appropriate temperature and walks you through step-by-step instructions.

Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator

Samsung’s new Family Hub refrigerator is its most advanced yet. It works with all of your smart cooking appliances as well as the rest of your connected life. If you have a Ring doorbell installed, for example, you can view who’s at your door right from your kitchen without lifting a finger. It even suggests recipes of foods that are close to their expiration date, so you never have to waste food again.

Best Innovation (Disruptive Tech)

Toyota e-Palette

The e-Palette is meant to open up opportunities for businesses to create on-demand services and to “blur the lines between brick-and-mortar and online commerce.” Fully electric, it will support autonomous driving technologies from Toyota or the companies that use it. More specifically, it’s an open platform for ride-sharing, retail, delivery or really anything a business needs.

Byton EV Concept

Byton showed off the near-production version of its electric SUV at CES. According to the company, the Concept (which will start at ¥300,000 in China, or about $45,000) is “85 percent” done and will launch in China in 2019 and the United States and Europe in 2020.

NVIDIA Xavier

The chip that will power future autonomous cars. The Xavier has more than 9 billion transistors with a custom 8-core CPU, a 512-core Volta GPU, an 8K HDR video processor, a deep-learning accelerator and new computer-vision accelerators. NVIDIA says the system-on-a-chip can perform 30 trillion operations per second using only 30 watts of power, making it 15 times more efficient than the previous architecture.

Samsung’s ‘The Wall’ MicroLED TV

The Wall by Samsung uses similar MicroLED tech that is “self-emitting” (read: Each pixel works without a backlight) and can be assembled in extremely large sizes thanks to its modular design. The 146-inch 4K screen we saw promises “outstanding brightness, contrast and close-to-perfect viewing from any angle.”

Best Phone or Mobile Device

Lenovo Miix 630

Lenovo’s new Miix 630 is among the first Windows 10 machines out there to run on one of Qualcomm’s smartphone chipsets rather than a more traditional Intel processor. While it might not be the fastest 2-in-1 out there, the benefits are undeniable: The Miix 630 wakes up almost instantly and boasts nearly 20 hours of battery (at least when you’re watching videos). And unlike other always-connected machines we’ve seen, the keyboard is a dream.

Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra

Sony’s XA2 Ultra is a big, stylish midrange device that packs a handful of features you might not expect to see in a midrange phone. Most notably, there are two front-facing cameras here: one for super-crisp 16-megapixel selfies (thanks to included optical image stabilization) and an 8-megapixel wide-angle sensor for those all-important group shots. Oh, and it’s one of the first Sony phones launching in the US with an always-on fingerprint sensor — trust us, it’s about time.

Planet Computers Gemini

Those of a certain age will remember the Psion, a PDA with a small but chunky sliding keyboard. A British company called Planet Computers is bringing it back, but as a clamshell smartphone that runs both Android and Linux. Will it topple the iPhone and usher in a new era of physical-keyboard handsets? Absolutely not, but its retro inspiration and dual-boot flexibility have won our hearts all the same.

Best TV Product

Samsung’s ‘The Wall’ MicroLED TV

Existing TV technology can only get so big — so Samsung decided to leap ahead with The Wall, a 146-inch MicroLED 4K TV. It delivers all of the benefits of OLED with none of the downsides. And because it’s made up of many different MicroLED panels, if you have issues with one, you don’t have to replace the whole TV.

LG 2018 C-Series OLED

With the addition of Google Assistant and a faster processor for better image handling, LG managed to improve on its already excellent OLED lineup. In particular, the company pointedly claims it can handle imagery even better than Sony (which, notably, also relies on its OLED panels). While it’s not a night-and-day change from before, it remains one of the best TV options this year.

TCL 6-Series Roku TVs

While other TV manufacturers lean on Google and Amazon AI, TCL is doubling down on its Roku platform. That combination produced last year’s well-regarded P-Series 4K TVs, and it looks like the same is in store for 2018. The 6-Series promises its LED backlighting and HDR capabilities will keep the picture quality up even if your TV room lets a little light in, as Roku Connect adds voice control of compatible speakers and soundbars.

NVIDIA 65-inch ‘Big Format Gaming Displays’ with G-SYNC

NVIDIA has come up with the first big-screen TVs for gamers. They have all the tech you’d expect in a premium TV, like 4K and HDR, but they also add features that would help with gameplay, like G-SYNC, low latency and a 120Hz refresh rate.

Best Gaming Product

HTC Vive Wireless Adapter

The HTC Vive wireless adapter turns the company’s tethered VR headsets into wireless devices, freeing players from the shackles of their PCs. The adapter works with both the original HTC Vive and the new Vive Pro — it straps onto the back of the headsets like a pair of tiny antlers. Standalone devices are becoming the new norm, and the wireless adapter keeps HTC in the game without sacrificing power.

HTC Vive Pro

The HTC Vive Pro is a slight, welcome upgrade from the original Vive, but it includes some handy new features. First, the resolution is better at 2,880 x 1,600 combined and 615 pixels per inch, and it features integrated 3D audio, dual front-facing cameras and two microphones. The headstrap got a redesign, too, redistributing some of the headset’s weight in a more comfortable manner.

NVIDIA 65-inch ‘Big Format Gaming Displays’ with G-SYNC

Sixty. Five. Inches. For a gaming monitor, that’s large — but my gosh do we still want one. NVIDIA’s Big Format Gaming Displays (BFGDs) come with a built-in Shield — so yeah, it’s also a console — and G-SYNC technology to reduce screen tearing while you play. They’re 4K, of course, and support high dynamic range (HDR). Video-game enthusiasts will also appreciate the nippy 120Hz refresh rates and full-array backlighting.

Whirlwind FX Vortx

You’re standing at the top of a mountain in Skyrim VR and slowly turn your head. It’s a spectacular view and you can feel an alpine breeze caressing your cheeks. That, friends, is thanks to the Vortx. The fan blows hot and cold air to accentuate what you’re seeing on screen. It works with regular PC games too, though obviously, it’s harder to be immersed when you can see the fan in your peripheral vision.

Best Unexpected Product

My Special Aflac Duck

Corporate tie-in products are usually not worth anyone’s time, but the adorable My Special Aflac Duck is pretty notable. It’s cute, cuddly and packed with sensors that allow it to interact with you — but it’s also been specifically designed to comfort kids with cancer. The duck can even react using RFID cards that have emoji on them; show it a sad face and the duck will put its head down and let out a whimper, while showing it a silly face will make it smile and dance around. It’s hard to argue with Aflac’s good intentions here.

MyLiFi Lamp

LiFi (wireless internet that travels through light bulbs) has been around for a while as a concept, but products using it are few and far between. The MyLiFi lamp hooks into a router and then beams internet whenever the light bulb is turned on. You’ll need a dongle to receive the signal, but the good news is that this technology is a lot more secure than standard WiFi. And the lamp itself doesn’t look half-bad, either.

ASUS ROG Bezel-free Kit

A captivating optical “hack” that makes your existing multi-monitor setup closer to one single screen. It does it all without power, through simple light refraction. The kit comprises several long rectangular lens strips designed to be mounted at a 130-degree angle where your gaming screens meet, pulling (well, stretching) screen images across the bezels to create the illusion of a single screen.

Puffco Peak

Consuming cannabis concentrates has involved clunky or rather dangerous equipment in the past. Puffco Peak modernizes the process, making it much more simple in the process. The Peak is also fast, taking just 20 seconds regardless of your temperature setting.

Dell x Nikki Reed Circular Jewelery

Dell showing up at CES is no surprise, but Dell talking about recycled jewelry made from 14- and 18-carat gold recovered from the company’s own computers is. The rings and earrings were designed by actor and activist Nikki Reed, and they don’t look at all like they’re made from metal that once lived inside a computer.

Best Sports Tech

Black Box VR

Black Box VR is a virtual experience for a gym of the future. With an HTC Vive, custom-equipment and fictional enemies to dress while getting swole, it’s a new way to train. The company is backed by influential fitness figures, and Black Box VR plans to make a boutique gym in San Francisco — arguably the best place for a fitness-minded early adopter.

Sony WF-SP700N Sports Earbuds

Wireless earbuds aren’t novel, but a pair that combines waterproof and active noise-canceling features is still rare — at least at a reasonable price. And that’s exactly what Sony’s WF-SP700N is all about. They’re cheaper than most of the competition, at $180, and come in a variety of colors, including a bright highlighter green/yellow and, of course, rose gold. What else could you want for those morning runs or visits to the gym?

Prevent Biometrics Head Impact Monitor System (HIMS)

With all the controversy surrounding concussions in football, the sport needs innovation to help solve that problem immediately. Here’s where Prevent Biometrics’ Impact Monitor Mouthguard comes in. The device packs a slew of sensors that, once a player wears it, can alert coaches or medical staff on the sidelines as soon as a head impact is detected. This could be crucial to help athletes avoid long-term brain injuries.

Best PC or Tablet

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

In addition to the usual iterative CPU upgrades, Lenovo stuffed the new Carbon with an embedded eSIM radio, a built-in webcam shutter and twin far-field mics for voice control from 4 meters away. This is also the first laptop announced to feature a Dolby Vision HDR display, which renders colors brilliantly. Plus, you’ll also get the excellent keyboard we’ve come to expect from the ThinkPad line.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

Dell’s first 15-inch XPS convertible is also one of the first two laptops to use Intel’s new Core processor with AMD Radeon graphics, which bundles CPU, GPU and dedicated graphics memory on one module. The space saved, as well as an almost-flat maglev keyboard, let Dell whittle down the XPS 15’s profile to a mere 16mm. You’ll also get discrete graphics out of the new chipset, making the XPS 15 convertible a reliable workhorse and gaming machine.

Acer Swift 7

Previous generations of the Acer Swift 7 have been known for their sharp, attractive profiles, but the 2018 model is so slim, it holds the title of “world’s thinnest laptop.” That barely-there design, combined with the premium aluminum chassis, make for a sublimely attractive laptop. This is also one of the first notebooks to use Intel’s embedded eSIM technology for constant connectivity so you can use that feature once the carriers enable it.

HP Spectre x360

It might look like a fairly standard upgrade, but HP’s latest convertible hides some powerful graphics under the hood, thanks to AMD’s RX Vega M GPU. That means it’ll not only be a solid productivity notebook, but you’ll also be able to play some modern games, too.

Best Robot or Drone

My Special Aflac Duck

Every year nearly 16,000 children in the US are diagnosed with cancer. Sproutel and Aflac are hoping to bring them some level of comfort through an adorable robot therapy duck. The My Special Aflac Duck helps children express their emotions, learn about their medical condition and even explore what treatment looks like through accessories and an app that allow them to administer chemotherapy to the toy. But above all else, it serves as a soothing companion for children going through an extremely trying and scary time.

Drone Interactive

Imagine flying real-life drones in a VR/AR world, and you pretty much get the picture. Drone Interactive wants to blend the world of video games and physical quadcopters. Don a VR headset, and your drone appears in a digital world, or mixed reality fighting against virtual enemies. There are options for multiplayers, and the technology is a natural fit for arcades and theme parks.

Sony AIBO

Remember Aibo, Sony’s adorable robot pup? Well, it’s back, and it’s smarter, cuter and literally more pettable than before. In 2018, Aibo’s eyes have been upgraded to OLED, it has a webcam in its nose so pooch doubles as a webcam that can roam your house, and there’s LTE (and WiFi) for always-on connectivity. Extra touch-sensors in its back allow you to pet it like a real mutt.

Best Vision of the Future (Smart City)

Soofa Sign Community Bulletin Board

With a solar-powered e-ink display and the ability to pull data from both nearby smart-city infrastructure as well as the social media feeds of passersby, Soofa Signs serve as community bulletin boards for the 21st century. You can already find them throughout Atlanta and Boston as well as right here in Las Vegas’ downtown “Innovation District,” providing not only helpful information like public-transit wait times but also pertinent social-media feeds.

WiFiber Integrated Streetlights

Budgetary concerns are the bane of cities looking to smarten up their urban infrastructure, but that’s where Wi-Fiber’s Intelli-Platform comes in. This system packs high-resolution cameras, directional microphones, speakers and a slew of connectivity solutions into existing street lights so that cities can collect pertinent data and leverage that information into better governance.

MyLiFi Lamp

Imagine a world in which you no longer have to worry about how skeevy the public WiFi is, or how slow it’s going to be. That’s because MyLiFi is pushing a form of wireless broadband that uses beams of light transferred between bulbs rather than over radio waves. Town squares where the average speed is 1GBps is a potential feature, not to mention that the data is apparently unhackable because you have to have a line of sight with the bulb to affect it.

Matrix Energy Harvesting Sensor Beacon

Matrix Industries has made a name for itself building digital watches that use thermocouples rather than batteries to generate their own power. And now the company has started working on a way of building Internet of Things sensors that uses the same principle to avoid using batteries. Which could be revolutionary, especially because so many Internet of Things sensors only need low power to operate. Imagine a future where worrying about power for your smart-home devices goes away, because it’s what Matrix is aiming for.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2018.

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