CES 2019

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Mental well-being took center stage at CES 2019

This week, the Las Vegas Convention Center was packed with many of the year’s biggest new devices. But over the last several years, The Sands has become the place where the real magic happens. The segment of the show known as Eureka Park is where the startups and accelerators congregate, often times showing off products that are still years away.

A quick walk around the floor (insofar as someone can walk quickly with that much humanity slowly shuffling through the halls) sheds a lot of light on the industry’s biggest trends. Plenty are holdovers from previous years — smart home and wearables continue to dominate —  but others offer insight into where the next several years of technology may be going.

One key trend that absolutely exploded this past year is mental well-being. Between the sleep, relaxation, concentration and meditation products on display, you couldn’t walk five feet without encountering another pitch. The list includes some familiar faces (to us, at least) like the Muse meditation and sleep headsets and a whole slew of new entrants.

The trajectory tracks if you consider many of these products a kind of extension of the fitness trackers that were all the rage a few years back. First startups pushed to keep our bodies in shape, moving on to sleep tracking and, eventually, our minds. The accessibility of sensors that can track things like basic brain activity have helped push the concept along.

It’s a worthy cause, of course. The proliferation of many technologies has done some pretty rough stuff to our bodies and brains over the years. Wouldn’t it be great if tech could also turn that around.

In many cases, the use is clear. Decades of scientific studies have demonstrated the value simply sitting quietly during meditation practice can have on your stress levels and mental health. If a product can help you get into a routine, great. But there’s an even larger opportunity for snake oil salespeople than we saw on the fitness side.

Certainly the FDA has a role to play, ensuring that companies can’t make untested medical claims for their products, but much of the burden here will ultimately be placed on journalist and consumer alike. When it comes to this category, the placebo effect is very real.

Samsung steps up its game with the new Notebook Odyssey

Reviews of the Notebook Odyssey line have been…mixed. Hopefully the electronics giant can right the ship as it navigates the tricky waters of high-end gaming systems. At very least, the latest version of the line — unveiled tonight at CES in Vegas — certainly looks the part.

The 15.6 inch laptop features an aluminum design and a display attached with an innovative hinge connected only in the center to mimic a standalone monitor. The bezels have been shrunk down considerably as well, at 6.7 millimeters. The typewriter-style keyboard is backlit, as one would expect from their gaming laptop.

There are a few different performance pre-sets on-board here, too. Per Samsung,

Odyssey Mode allows users to save settings presets under different profiles for various types of games. Beast Mode lets users modulate the Samsung Notebook Odyssey’s performance depending on the software it is running, and the Black Equalizer helps users get a leg up on the competition by improving in-game lighting.

Inside you get an eighth-gen hexa-core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and either 256GB (SSD) to 1TB (HDD) of storage. Graphics-wise, you’re getting an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080, featuring the new Turing GPU. There’s a fairly healthy selection of ports, as well, including USB-C, three full USB, HDMI and Ethernet.

The new Odyssey is due out at some point “early” this year. No word yet on pricing.