Tech Tent: The CES 2018 Techie Awards

Tech Tent: The CES 2018 Techie Awards

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Media caption WATCH: Omron’s ping pong-playing robot adapts its gameplay to suit different opponents This Week’s Tech Tent is a special edition from Las Vegas with the latest gadget show on earth, CES. We meet with a strange disturbing humanoid robot called Sophia, we hear about the latest move to rival Tesla with an electric autonomous car, and China’s Baidu tells us that it’s a huge smartphone. in artificial intelligence. As the show draws to an end, it’s time to hand out some awards – let’s call them the Techies. The winners have been chosen after an exhaustive process by a jury made up of, well, me.

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Best Performance On Monday evening, we are looking forward to seeing you at the Bellagio Hotel. Dozens of tiny illuminated drones were hovering above the building’s famous fountains, flying in formation and weaving patterns in the night sky.
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Media caption WATCH: A total of 250 drones took part in Intel’s Shooting Stars show We’re back to the following evening at Intel’s Natalie Cheun, who runs the project, which has put on shows around the world. She showed us one of the Shooting Star drones, which was far less sophisticated than we imagined – no cameras, just really good GPS, which combined with animation software keeps it flying in training with others in the 250-strong fleet. Now, in a week in which Intel is struggling with negative stories about the security of its chips, cynics would say the drone display is a useful distraction. But it is a harder and harder to create a sense of wonder about new technology, so it’s easy to look good at the sky and say: “Wow!”

Best Robot You could hardly move for robots on the show floor this week. Sony’s latest version of its robo-dog Aibo was charming everybody.
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Media caption WATCH: Sony’s chief executive explains the appeal of its reborn Aibo robot dog But I’m not convinced I will be trading in my real dog, but so chief executive Kaz Hirai proudly told me Aibo was very smart and connected to the cloud. Kuri was one of a number of companion or entertainment robots demanding entry to our homes. You may like the idea that it wanders around snatching five-second video clips of what the family is up to, or you may want to put a bag on its head and lock it in the cupboard. Too many of our friends are in their lives.

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Mayfield Robotics’ Kuri can livestream video, play music and patrol the home
That is why the award goes to Forpheus, the robot tennis table from Japan’s Omron. It knows exactly what it’s about – playing ping pong – and it is also kind. After sending your wheezing, you’ll be able to make a lot of things while you’re doing it.

Worst Idea This was a fiercely contested category, given how many dodgy gadgets pop up at CES. No, I do not want to aerate my wine and my toothbrush is quite clever enough already, thank you. But the winner by a mile is Kodak. As if to compensate for missing out on the digital boom camera, it has leapt aboard the crypto-currency and blockchain bandwagon.

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Kodak is to rent out bitcoin mining rigs to the public
In a move that smacks of desperation, the company wants to save money in the form of a payment card. But it gets worse. The photography firm is also launching the Kodak KashMiner, which will allow anyone to become a bitcoin miner. The idea is you, and pay half the profits to Kodak, with the promise of a decent return on the entry fee for the scheme. As Bitcoin experts pointed out, there are many holes in this idea as a Swiss cheese – the price of Bitcoin is volatile, the energy costs are bound to soar and the crypto-currency is designed to get harder to mine. Still, investors liked it, sending Kodak shares soaring threefold at one point. They may have studied blockchain technology and Bitcoin mining, and have reached a judgment of their value to Kodak. Or maybe not …

Best Snack Selection These will leave you with your feet and indigestion, scoffing unhealthy food proffered by tech firms at news conferences, washed down with terrible coffee. Purpose Baidu did things differently, with an exquisite canapes and Lapsang Souchong tea.

Even better, the Chinese company then cut through the usual tech jargon and corporate waffle with a clear message: we’ve got the experts, we’ve got the data, we’ve got a huge population, we’re going to crush it the battle to dominate AI.

Gender Diversity Award The award for services to gender diversity goes to the show’s organizing the Consumer Technology Association. Huge posters in the Las Vegas Convention Center showed a wide range of women speakers in the conference program. Actually, scrap that. The posters were made to speak to all of you at the CES keynote speeches. Suddenly, the CTA decided to print Intel’s Brian Krzanich and Ford’s Jim Hackett and Richard Yu of Huawei. So, it is here that we have some panels on the bottom of the bill. I’m not sure that this is a trick in the industry.

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These banners said its featured speakers came from “different backgrounds and … different genders”
After all, many of the tech companies exhibiting here are just a few of those who think about “booth babes” – are not such a great idea. Let’s give the award to tech writer Kara Swisher. She dropped in to Las Vegas to – as she tweeted – “show dudes some not-dudes know tech” with a panel of top female tech executives.

The Courage Award Some tech entrepreneurs just do not know when they are beaten. Last year we featured the story of Danny Manu , who jetted in from Manchester on a budget. We thought it would be a good time to go back to the end of the day, and it was going to be a bad thing – a year later, which he said it would go back to early in 2017, are still available to pre-order.

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Danny has delivered his earbuds to some of his crowdfunding backers
But he was back at CES in the Eureka Park start-up area with his own little stand that had a pretty penny. He is still optimistic that his earbuds can be a huge success. Given the fact that Google’s Pixelbuds turned out to be pretty lame , maybe he stands a chance.

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