Family Fun at CES

At last week’s annual and increasingly massive CES show in Las Vegas, I skipped the razzle-dazzle of thinner TVs, smarter cars and VR headsets. Instead, I looked for products specifically designed for kids and parents. This year, I found plenty – a sure sign that tech is truly becoming an integral part of family life for all ages, from the “connected nursery” on up.

Pregnancy and new motherhood inspired some of the more interesting innovations.

  •  Willow introduced a breast pump requiring no wires, no external tubes and no cords. In fact, it’s designed so that women can actually wear it under their shirts and go about their day during the pumping process, which is silent. One result is that they can finally pump without the need for a private place. If it works as well as it sounds, this product is a huge breakthrough.
  • Before baby arrives, parents can rent Babywatcher to make their own ultrasound photos and videos at home. From 14 weeks of pregnancy on, Babywatcher shows real-time images that can be scanned, saved and shared. According to the company, the Babywatcher is well within current safety standards.

Robots were everywhere, along with opportunities for kids to build and program their own.

  • With UBTECH’s Jimu Robot kit, youngsters can build a robot from an array of interlocking pieces that snap together to form pre-designed animal characters or anything else kids can imagine. With the Jimu app they can then program an “endless” sequence of actions to keep things interesting.
  • I especially liked SAM’s Curious Cars kit from SAM Labs, because of the variety of designs and the different levels of coding skills it supported. Described as a “smart construction kit,” SAM blocks connect wirelessly to the SAM app to enable kids to build and program cars and games. The Curious Cars kit contains enough for 20+ starter projects.

Augmented Reality was also big overall at the show and made its way down to the kids’ space.

  • With NeoBear’s AR Globe, kids can use a smartphone or tablet to see various aspects of the planet,including territories, buildings, animals and natural disasters, in all countries around the world—for Gen Z, perhaps a more natural and effective way to learn.

And digital assistants made a big splash, including in the nursery.

  • Called “half Amazon Echo and half virtual nanny” by one reviewer, Mattel’s voice-enabled Aristotle can identify individual children from their voices and recognize speech from toddlers up to middle school-aged kids. Designed to perform different tasks based on a child’s age, it can play a lullaby or turn on a night light when a baby wakes up, log wet diapers and automatically order more from participating retailers, read bedtime stories to toddlers, and help older kids with homework. It also doubles as a baby monitor.

Definitely not the kind of baby monitor my son had growing up.