If your home is your castle, during the pandemic it’s also your office, classroom, coffee shop/restaurant/bar, gym, entertainment venue, spa, and, yeah, that place where you sleep.
Several panel discussions at CES 2021 touched on how technology played a huge role in making the abrupt transition to remote work. So, what can we expect moving forward? A different approach to working, but probably an old-school approach to education.
“I don’t think remote learning for K-12 is going to stick long term,” said Jennifer Kent, Senior Director of Parks Associates. “I think this has shown that kids generally benefit from socialization.”
For adults, however, remote working offers benefits like greater flexibility and the end of lengthy communities. But the lack of spontaneous conversations that spark creative ideas and the inability to pick up on body language in a videoconference call will limit the appeal of purely remote work, said Paul Lee, Head of Technology, Media and Telecommunications Research for Deloitte.
“Zoom and others are great at replicating meetings, but business is not just the boardroom,” he said. “What’s really hard is communicating using a 2D screen. It’s difficult not having the physical feedback. You see visual rectangles of faces, but you can’t see whole body language. I expect most people who can do so will go back to the offices as much as they can.”
Most of the experts at CES expect work to take a “hybrid” approach – a mix of remote and in-office work.
But despite spending a ton of time in our homes, they are not changing all the much. According to Kent, less than 30 percent of consumers have at least one smart device in their home. The biggest growth area in smart home tech has been in security, where costs have come down dramatically, as well as the fast adoption of smart TVs.
“Smart home devices are amazing but don’t really contribute to helping address real-life problems,” said Megan Wollerton, Senior Writer for CNET. “They don’t help with the chores like cooking and cleaning.”
So, what will stick? Adoption of online shopping exploded during the pandemic. Older consumers who were wary are now largely used to ordering online. Call-ahead or online ordering and grocery or retail pickup provides real time savings that Kent thinks people will expect from now on. In the future, she expects pickup lines to be built into the infrastructure rather than the cobbled-together approach most groceries and retailers used to address the sudden demand.
Here are some of the cooler technologies at CES for your castle/office/everything:
Linksys Wi-Fi 6E Router
One of the biggest frustrations of working from home is slow, spotty Wi-Fi. A new Wi-Fi band is available to help ease mobile congestion. The 6GHz band (6E) promises more capacity, stronger signal, and faster data transfer. Linksys says 6E provides a “crystal clear signal” and “ultra-fast” speeds for all devices, including the latest AR and VR and 8K streaming devices with “nearly limitless” bandwidth. Its $450 mesh router employs all three Wi-Fi bands for better speeds with any device, but if you want to take full advantage of 6E you’re going to need new hardware.
Are you all thumbs when it comes to typing on a mobile device? The Typewise app may be just what you need. It’s a next-generation smartphone keyboard with larger keys which the company claims leads to 80 percent fewer typos. Best of all, it’s free.
X Chair X-HMT
Along with crappy wireless, one thing most of us have experienced over the last few months is a sore bottom and tired lower back after sitting on a dining room chair for eight hours of computer and Zoom joy. The X-HMT Heat & Massage Therapy Chair is sort of like ergonomic furniture porn – it promises better circulation, improved productivity, and stress/anxiety reduction for just $900 or more. It features several settings for massage along with continuous heat in 15-minute intervals. It also whispers affirmations in your ear … Actually, it doesn’t but that would be cool, wouldn’t it?
Dell UltraSharp 40 Curved Monitor
Is your home office (or dining room table) cluttered with multiple monitors? Well, you could trade those in for this ginormous monitor with 5120 x 2160 resolution. You can fit the equivalent of three to four screens on this baby at full size. You might also be able to actually see facial expressions among the Brady Bunch-like multiple screens during large Zoom meetings.
Cuzen Matcha Machine
Working from home means no more office coffee or stopping by your favorite spot before or after work for a little pick-me-up. The media covering CES has been going absolutely nuts over this matcha machine from Cuzen. It grinds the tea and prepare a perfect cup. We will admit to being ignorant about the joys of matcha and how much a prepared cup costs, but at $369 you probably need to like it a lot to justify buying this machine.
Home personal trainers
After the huge success of Peloton in the last few years, it’s not surprising that NordicTrak, Bowflex, and even Apple are getting in on the act with streaming fitness services featuring guided workouts paired with smart home fitness equipment. With so many people concerned about the safety of going to the gym, the combination of hardware and content is a popular one.
LG InstaView Door-in-Door with Craft Ice
InstaView door, meh. Giant balls of craft ice that melt slowly in my bourbon at the end of the day? Now we’re talking! The spherical ice and large cubes that are preferred for many cocktails typically require a mold or old-fashioned ice cube tray (or carving blocks of clear ice if you’re really hard-core). This LG refrigerator automatically creates crushed, cubed, and round ice. It’s not crystal clear, but you’re not going to get that at home (or most bars) anyway. It’s $4,000, so make sure you drink a lot to get your money’s worth.
JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam Dolby Atmos soundbar
You’re limber from being massaged all day while you work, you’ve got your glass of bourbon with bougie craft ice – now it’s time to relax in front of your smart TV (and as always there were a ton of them at CES) and stream a movie. JBL claims its new compact soundbar, which will be available in the spring for around $400, provides surround-sound immersion without the need for a separate subwoofer.
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