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What the Tech: Whatever happened to these quirky CES showpieces?

CES is the annual tech showcase where all the latest big ideas from the big brands are on display for our appreciation. Here are some of the very best concepts that we saw in the showroom, but not on store shelves.

The Consumer Electronics Show takes place every year, and this year it will run from 11-14 January, taking a virtual format for the first time due to coronavirus concerns. Previously the exhibition was a standard fixture in Las Vegas and as befits the setting, some companies would take a gamble that didn’t quite hit the jackpot. Looking back over previous events, here are some of our favourite concepts that haven’t (yet) made it to the mainstream.

Royole Flexible Screen Top Hat

One of the weirdest tech products we’ve ever seen arrived at CES in 2019. Back when folding phones were in their infancy, Royole was the first on the market with the FlexPai. But here the company went even further, offering a top hat with a screen. Why? Well, it’s one way to help you stand out in a crowd, like former Recombu contributor Tom Newton in the above picture!

Energizer Power Max Mobile Phone

This enormous brick-like phone offered an incredible 18,000mAh battery, which was enough to give you 90 hours straight call time. If battery life was your number one priority at the expense of all else, then maybe this would hold some temptation, but there weren’t many additional home comforts besides that. Incredibly, given its size, apparently there wasn’t even room for a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Charmin Rollbot

This product’s entire purpose is based around the nightmare scenario of being stuck on the toilet without any loo roll to hand, whereupon this little robot will bring it to you. It almost appeals to my lazy nature in the same way as Samsung’s new TV remote. But this is a step too far to the degradation on droids – C3PO and R2D2 never had to deal with this nonsense.

Despite the weird and wacky stuff above, there were a couple of concepts that truly intrigued us for the new possibilities they offered. Perhaps they’ll even be developed further at this year’s event.

OnePlus Concept One

The OnePlus Concept One introduced us to the idea of hidden cameras in your smartphone. Now this doesn’t mean to evoke international espionage or peeping toms but rather, the back panel which housed the cameras could turn completely black. The result would give no hint of the lenses which lay underneath, for an elegant, luxurious look. The implications are also wide-ranging – could it be the first step towards a proper under-the-screen selfie camera with no annoying notch or holepunch? But unfortunately, we’re yet to see the concept being built upon to the extent we hoped at the time.

Alienware Concept UFO

This groundbreaking console idea was a portable PC that took a format very similar to the Nintendo Switch. It ran full Windows 10 software – you could use it as your daily driver if you added a keyboard – but of course the main draw is of playing full-blooded PC games when you’re on the move, giving an even wider selection of titles to a market dominated by Nintendo’s library.

So that’s why we’re looking forward to when this year’s event kicks off on January 11 for the chance to see a plethora of new products, both weird and wonderful.



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