In Search of DIY Products at CES 2020

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It’s the start of a new year and that means it’s time for the world’s largest gathering of electronics manufacturers (plus a liberal expansion of what categories are ancillary to “tech” these days). I’m talking about CES, Vegas’ week-long convention that takes over every single square foot of usable space to showcase technology small to large, startup to established, coveted to … not quite cared about.

Make: has made its way to the show various times through the years, looking for DIY-suitable content that would excite our readers. With the scale of the show, it can be a daunting task; this year proved to be one of the more challenging ones in that arena. With a day and a half of time to spare, we ran through the different halls with our camera and notepad at the ready and documented what we saw — even though a lot of it doesn’t end up in a category we’d traditionally call “Maker.” Here are the highlights.

You can’t get into CES without seeing Google’s massive booth.

This year Google added a set of slides that descend into a massive ball pit.

On the other side of the slides, a series of cameras and sensors take photos of the attendees.

Quick stop at the Impossible Burger stand. In the past, CES had a bad reputation for food options for journalists. But now, between Impossible’s freely distributed White Castle sliders, the food trucks parked nearby, and the pretty decent box lunches in the media room, it’s actually become a delicious event. I put away 10 of Impossible’s tiny meatless burgers over two days — thanks, Impossible! Also, congratulations on your keynote (see my above note about the new “ancillary tech” inclusions). I’m truly happy you were there.

As I journeyed through CES’ various halls and showrooms, I spotted not one but two Lamborghinis on display from Amazon, showcasing their Alexa technology.

Amazon also had a captivating, real-time “retail experience” in their AWS area — a car with signage driving around Vegas could be reconfigured by attendees on the fly to show specific information they punched in at the booth.

Autonomous car concept in Toyota’s area.

One of the big announcements at CES, Toyota unveiled “Woven City” — an entirely driverless living laboratory set at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan.

Another shot of Toyota’s Woven City.

Stereo makers Pioneer brought a classic Toyota Land Cruiser with their latest Alexa-powered audio system inside. That rugged exterior will get me to look every time.

The first of two massive personnel quadcopter-style carriers on display. This one is from Hyundai, with Uber branding on it.

Here’s the second flying taxi-type vehicle I spotted at CES, not far from the one by Hyundai. This one comes from helicopter maker company Bell, and uses ducted fans instead of standard propellors. It will likely be many years before we see either of these in the skies.

Maybe the biggest news from CES overall was Sony’s concept car. Yep, Sony made a car, and they packed it with all the technology they produce. There’s no confirmation if they’ll ever produce this vehicle for sale, or it it will simply remain a showcase for their R&D.

Backside of the Sony car. Won’t lie, it looks pretty cool.

I’m a sucker for a flip-dot display. This live monitor came as part of the Ansys booth.

Still in the electronics area, this tiny electric firetruck was begging me to take it home. So fun.

Lots of international showcases this year, and most of them quite large — I spotted France, Italy, Switzerland, Egypt, Japan, Korea, Turkey, Qatar, and others.

Adorable companionship robot in the Japanese Start Up area.

One of the other “big” stories from CES is this Smart Potato — a prank from Nicolas Baldeck, who traveled from France to make a statement about the growing ubiquity of IoT products. He had a huge crowd around the booth taking photos, and is selling the gag item for $29 on IndieGoGo. I want to buy one — I suddenly get how the Pet Rock became a thing.

Also in the smaller-than-previous-years 3D printing section, Formlabs had their two newest resin machines on hand. The 3L is gigantic in person.

Lots of cool prints on the Formlabs wall, including a long list of companies like New Balance and Quib that use their printer for development.

Ultimaker 3D printers on display in the Dynamism (3D printer distributor) booth, shown by former Make: colleague Kirk Matsuo.

Hey look, it’s Astrobee, the NASA ISS robot from the cover of Make: vol.69. Seen here in the Bosch booth, as their team is working on a lidar-esque sound module that will help it identify and investigate unusual noises on the space station.

Electric surfboard fin from Boost surfing. 

Arduino was one of the only prototyping board companies I came aross. Here, Massimo Banzi shows off their newly announced pro-grade module, the Portenta.

With Sphero’s recent acquisition of LittleBits, the company is going all-in on education. They moved from last year’s show floor location to a suite in the Venetian to display their products.

Look who I bumped into, roaming the CES showrooms— Josef Prusa and teammate.

The Google Coral team (which grew out of their AIY project) brought a screw-sorting contraption, among other pieces, to show the computer vision capabilities of their board.

Another Google Coral example activation, their room surveillance camera can blur out the people it sees (for privacy) while still tracking where they are looking or gathering, to generate “heat maps” in a space.

Semiconductor company NXP hosted a number of companies into its space, set up in front of the LVCC. This robot sports stickers from various participants.

A full moon graced the night sky at the end of the week.

…and a golden sunrise greeted the final day. In the center of the photo, the long, low, white building is an entirely new wing of the LV Convention Center, extending its already massive footprint by a considerable amount.

A shape-shifting robot for coding education.

AI-focused company Kneron had a realistic mask of one of its team members. I was sprinting past at this point so didn’t get to stop and dig into the details.

ZeroZero Robotics showed off their bi-copter drone, rotating the propellor motors to allow for flight control.

DJI’s booth brought their usual lineup of quadcopters, gimbals, cameras, and their newest line, the Robomaster S1 robots.

Robomasters itself is a league similar to FIRST, where international teams build and battle robots for glory. DJI brought a small piece of that to CES this year.

Hey look, it’s the Make: 3D Shootout badge in the Raise 3D booth!

Full-sized 3D-printed motorcycle. Built with a BigRep Studio large scale printer.

Two pieces produced by Desktop Metal’s machine — one pre-polishing, and the other after the full post processing.

The My Arcade gang showed off their miniature retro game boxes (and full-scale originals). Always popular booth with CES visitors.

An AR-based DJ battle getting ready to take place.

OMRON’s ping pong robot was once again a big hit.

As was their high-speed pick-and-place machine, spotting and grabbing components with alarming ability.

Another metal printer creation, this one from Markforged. It’s a brake lever for a Ducati motorcycle.

The full Markforged system will set you back as much as a house, but who needs a house when you can make production-grade metal pieces on a whim?

That’s a wrap — time to run back to the airport and get home. See you next year, CES.

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