Each year, we head to CES expecting cool new gadgets from the likes of LG and Samsung, but we're often just as delighted by the companies just getting off the ground. The halls of CES 2016 were packed with startups exhibiting exciting new technology, from a wearable baby monitor to a virtual-reality exercise bike. Here are some of the event's very best startups, all of which have the potential to be the next household name in tech.
Owlet aims to make parents' hectic lives easier with the power of wearables. The company's $249 baby monitor takes the form of a small sock that tracks your little one's heart rate and breathing all through the night, letting you go to sleep with the peace of mind that you'll be alerted if anything goes wrong. Owlet allows you to monitor your baby's vitals via any iOS device, and even if your phone goes dead, the device's base station doubles as an alarm in case of an emergency.
Immersit doesn't want you to just see your favorite movies and games; it wants you to feel them, too. This French company is creating a set of hydraulics you can attach to your existing furniture, turning your boring old seat into a smart couch that can bounce up and down in sync with every sharp turn and explosion. With virtual reality hitting the mainstream in a big way this year, Immersit's cinematic room-shaking technology could end up being a hit with those looking to fully lose themselves in their entertainment. It's set to launch sometime this year for an unannounced (but probably premium) price.
Why wait for Google's Project Tango? Nexpaq is here to make any phone modular. The company's unique modular phone cases (starting at $99) support a wide range of useful modules, including extra batteries, speakers, microSD card slots and even hotkeys. Nexpaq cases will start shipping early this year, and will support the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6 families.
VirZoom has figured out the secret to making exercise bikes actually fun to ride: virtual reality. The company's $199 bike can connect to VR headsets such as Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, and is complemented by first-party apps that let you race a sports car, ride a horse and (my personal favorite) fly a Pegasus all by simply pedaling as fast as you can. VirZoom gets major points for cleverly combining VR and fitness, and we're eager to spend more time with the company's one-of-a-kind bike when it launches early this year.
There are plenty of apps that let us jot down what we've eaten during the day, but what if our utensils did that work for us? That's the idea behind Spün, a startup crafting a high-tech spoon-fork combo that tracks not just what you're eating, but also exactly how much of it you've consumed. Each Spün utensil utilizes advanced weight-and-gesture sensors that can detect when you've taken a bite and even track when little bits of food have fallen off of your spoon. All information picked up by your Spün gets sent to its companion app, which monitors both what you've eaten and how quickly you've eaten it.
We've seen smartwatches, smart shoes and even smart clothes, but Belty is the first company to sell us on the concept of a smart belt. Belty's unique wearable interacts with you via vibrations, helping you find a good walking rhythm and giving you a slight nudge when it's time to get up or drink some water. Belty can also assist you with breathing exercises and even suggest a quick power nap, and is complemented by a companion app that lets you track your activities and get feedback on them. Perhaps most impressively, Belty manages to incorporate all of these high-tech functions while looking classy enough to be worn to work or on a night out.
While plenty of startups at CES 2016 showed off gadgets that aim to make our personal lives easier, Hydrao is out to make the Earth a better place. The company has crafted a smart showerhead that attaches to your existing shower pipe and lights up in various colors to let you know how much water you've used. Hydrao's companion app allows you to customize which colors appear once you've used enough water, and even allows you to organize water-saving competitions among your friends.