Heather Sidorowicz Tag

CES 2018: Beyond the Usual Suspects

Most people equate CES with fancy large TVs with crazy high resolution. But if you go beyond that, to the back of the main exhibition halls or over to the Sands Expo Center, you can find off-beat products and prototypes, and ideas that aren’t always reality—yet.

 

VR was everywhere this year, and there were plenty of robots to entertain us. Wearables are evolving—instead of trying to do all things, they’re branching out to take on specific tasks; and they’re finally beginning to show up in places beside the wrist. As expected, voice control also dominated the show.

 

Here are a few of the more unusual products I found.

CES 2018--Mira VR goggles

The Mira Prism VR unit ($149) has clear goggles and uses your smartphone as the processor so you’re no longer socially isolated when you experience VR. That made it different from the countless other VR units on display at CES—and for a girl who gets a bit motion-sick, a more likable experience.

 

Spire was one of my favorite finds this year. It makes wearables, well, wearable. The units are small devices that fit onto your clothing, like your bra. They’re sold in packs of one, three, or eight, and last up to a year and a half with no battery to change or charge—ever. The unit syncs to your phone when in range, but can retain information up to 24 hours if you’re not within range. The best part is you leave it on your clothing, even in the washer. I would love to test this item when it begins shipping in March.

 

Another wearable was Geo Sentinel’s Alzheimer watch. This device can collect and transmit data in real time, from heartbeat to blood pressure, and helps make sure your loved one doesn’t wander away.

 

The $100 Styx bracelet calls for help if you’re ever in trouble. I’m sure any parent would feel better if their daughters had this on their wrists when leaving for college.

 

Vivant launched an app called Steety that lets you share information with your neighbors about what’s happening around you. Did that mailbox get knocked over? You may not know what happened, but maybe Jim next door does and he can share it via the app.

ShadeCraft’s Sunflower is a remote-control outdoor umbrella complete with sensors that automatically open and close it. It also turns itself to keep you in the shade as the sun moves, and a neat bonus is that the shading fabric is made from 3D printing.

CES 2018--Hease robot kiosk

Hease is a robot kiosk that interacts with a client when they come into a building—not replacing the secretary, but providing information while simulating emotional reactions.

 

There was even a company named VocalID that collects, transforms, and regenerates voices. Anyone ever seen the Black Mirror episode where a loved one passes and a company takes their voice data to allow the person to still communicate with you?

CES 2018--Hypnos sleep mask

Want to keep those New Year’s resolutions? Dreaminzzz’ Hypnos eye mask ($99) uses light and vibration to help you sleep and teach you to breathe, and promises it can help you break your addictions.

 

Help was available in all shapes and sizes at CES. From the robots to Bite Helper, which promises to ease pain and itchiness from insect bites using thermo-plus technology.

CES 2018--Xoopar speakers

An honorable mention must go out to Xoopar for cutest mini speakers, which are shaped as little aliens in multiple colors. I can’t promise great sound because the area was packed, but man were they endearing.

 

Why put pictures of your children just on your phone? Now you can print them on your finger nails using a mobile printer by O’2Nails.

 

Another device that caught my eye was Grobo, a pod that allows you to grow great cannabis automatically. Because, why not?

 

But of all the fun, brilliant, surprising ways to use technology, my favorite at the show was Opcom’s Cube, a hydroponic herb and vegetable wall that lives inside your home. For $700, you can own your own wall and eat healthy all year long. Opcom also has a smaller unit for vine growing called the Grow Tent ($500).

—Heather Sidorowicz

Heather Sidorowicz is a frenzied mother of two who happens to also own an audio/video
technology company (Southtown Audio Video) in Buffalo, NY. When not designing or
selling or project managing or pretending to do financials, you can find her attempting to
stand on her hands at the yoga studio or writing in the third person.

Heather Sidorowicz’s Best of ’17

Sure, I could dazzle you with talk of new and exciting tech for the home, but just because something is fresh and fun for the first week or two doesn’t mean it will continue to make a difference in your world. So here instead are five technologies I could no longer live without. OK, I could live without them, but I don’t want to.

 

Keyless Entry

There are countless options out there for keyless entry to your home. Mine is pretty simple—punch in a code to enter your house. Never again do I have to search my purse for the keys—and when you live in Buffalo, NY, where the temps dip into the teens, getting into your house that much quicker does make a difference!

Alexa

Smart Assistant (or as I like to call it, my Personal Robot)

We have Amazon’s Alexa, but you could choose Google Home, and next year Apple will release the HomePod. Whichever flavor you wish, there are some basic, yet amazing, advantages to having an assistant. My favorites are adding items to my shopping list while my head is in the fridge, setting a timer for more than one time while I’m cooking, creating reminders for my kids to remember their instruments—and then, of course, there is music. Which brings me to my next item . . .

Best of 2017--Sonos One speaker

Music in the House

Never before has it been so easy to add music to your life. An avid listener, I use Alexa to control the Sonos Connect:Amps wired to my in-ceiling speakers. I implore you to at least try a powered speaker (like the Sonos One or Amazon’s Echo) and enjoy your tunes throughout the holidays and beyond. Definitely something I could no longer live without, for music sets the mood, the flavor, of life.

Best of 2017--Apple TV 4K

Streaming Player

We own the new Apple TV 4K streaming player because Apple’s interface is the most user-friendly. We began streaming TV three years ago come January when our DVR crashed, and we’ve never looked back. Honestly, the only time this year I desired live TV was for the kids during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. For that reason, I would suggest an off-the-air antenna as a complement to a streaming player.

 

Enhanced TV Audio

It hurts my soul when I hear of a poor human listening to TV only through their TV’s speakers. Of course, there is nothing like the all-encompassing sound of an actual surround sound system. (Full disclosure: I truly could not live without my surround system). However, for those who don’t crave the effect, there is a plethora of soundbar options available. These units range in price, but as long as you stick to a decent audio brand, chances are it will be leaps ahead of the rest.

There you have itfive technologies I choose to not live without!

—Heather Sidorowicz

Heather Sidorowicz is a frenzied mother of two who happens to also own an audio/video
technology company (Southtown Audio Video) in Buffalo, NY. When not designing or
selling or project managing or pretending to do financials, you can find her attempting to
stand on her hands at the yoga studio or writing in the third person.

What is the Price Tag of Experience?

Opus One

About a year ago, one of my manufacturers invited me to attend training in California. Since I was going to be flying across the country, I called up a good friend who lives just outside San Francisco to extend my stay.

 

What does one do when hanging out in northern CA? Wine tasting, of course!

 

We planned a grand day of tasting some delicious, exquisite wines, as reservations are required. As we were driving through Napa finishing up our day, we passed Opus One.

 

“Man, I wish I could have gotten us a reservation there,” my girlfriend chimed in. “They were booked.”

 

“Let’s try right now!” I pushed. “What do we have to lose?”

 

“Heather, their last tasting is at 5, and it’s already after 4:30,” she scolded.

 

Luckily, my husband was driving and knew I would not be satisfied unless I tried (I can be pretty persistent), so he swung the car around and drove us up the grand drive to Opus One and dropped me off at the door. I rushed in and beelined for the hostess. (Yes, there was a hostess at this elaborate estate.)

 

“Hi. My name is Heather, and I’m writing an article about”I paused slightly as my brain searched for a good story“on wine cellars and would love to taste your Opus One for my article.” Oddly enough, it worked! They let us in–not for free mind you, but for $75 a tasting!

 

For those of you not aware of what it costs for a typical wine tasting, I assure you it is not $75. That is more than any bottle of wine I think I have ever purchased.

“That would be splendid,” I told the hostess as I handed over my credit card. At Opus One, they do not pour where you pay. As my party joined me, we were first escorted to the tasting bar, but then invited up to the second floor to the open-air patio to enjoy our prize.

 

The wine was fantastic. The experience, along with the story, made it priceless.

 

We often get so caught up in the price of something that we miss the experience. I’m sure many would have passed up this opportunity and choked on the fee instead of just letting the story lead. I, on the other hand, have never regretted it.

—Heather Sidorowicz

Heather Sidorowicz is a frenzied mother of two who happens to also own an audio/video
technology company (Southtown Audio Video) in Buffalo, NY. When not designing or
selling or project managing or pretending to do financials, you can find her attempting to
stand on her hands at the yoga studio or writing in the third person.

Those Movie Moments

A Monster Calls

There are movie moments in your life. These are the moments that catch you—they make you cry, sob, laugh, scare the crap out you. And they taste good. You want to hold on to them, and you want to share them.

 

Around the dinner table, you tell the story of a movie you witnessed and regal the others with just enough of the story so they will want to see it too. I still remember bawling like a teen who just lost her first love after seeing Big Fish. I remember the weather—cold and chilly—on that murky dark evening after the credits rolled. 

 

Last week, my youngest daughter was invited to a sleepover, which left our eldest to become the only child for one brief evening. We asked her to choose how we would spend the date night, just her and her parents. My homebody picked dinner in, and a movie.

 

Earlier this year, we remodeled our living room into a livable theater, complete with a Sony 75 Z Series TV and an Atmos surround sound system. That evening, we decided on the movie A Monster Calls.

 

The story is about a boy who is not yet a man but is still forced to deal with the overwhelming sadness of this world. He is visited by a monster who tells him three stories and requires him to narrate the fourth, and through this he begins to heal.

 

The tale captures you as the sound envelops you, pulling you into the story. The visual effects are stunning, and yes, my eyes welled up at the end—OK, I all-out cried.

 

Our little evening was unexpected and heartfelt, and I suspect when my dear daughter looks back on our date night, her sentiments for the movie will return, for she has experienced one of those movie moments.

—Heather Sidorowicz

Heather Sidorowicz is a frenzied mother of two who happens to also own an audio/video
technology company (Southtown Audio Video) in Buffalo, NY. When not designing or
selling or project managing or pretending to do financials, you can find her attempting to
stand on her hands at the yoga studio or writing in the third person.