Beyond the Headlines: This Year’s Outliers of Interest at CES

If you look hard enough, CES is often the place to discover smaller, less publicized technologies and products that could become the seeds for something practical and useful to the ETC member companies. This year I came across several that fit this description, including a technology called SynTouch that could prove beneficial to haptic feedback R&D and physical product quality control, a simple and elegant method from ManoMotion to use hand gestures as a user interface, an OLED necklace that could lead to the launch of a social e-collectible marketplace, and a tiny chip from Chirp Microsystems that could provide a compelling motion capture solution.

The LA-based PhDs behind SynTouch have developed objective, orthogonal parameters to quantify the texture and ‘feel’ of a material, and a device to measure those parameters in materials, surfaces, and substances. They can quantify the feel of a material, make sure that exact sense of feel is maintained during a production run, and compare products to potentially find cheaper substitutes that offer the same feel to the consumer.


For the entertainment technology industry, SynTouch’s tech could be used to develop and evaluate haptic feedback simulations of different textures and surfaces.

ManoMotion has developed a simple but elegant camera-based user interface design. The approach captures the outline of a hand and fingers, and can turn hand and finger motion into controls within a user-defined depth range.


The company envisions a new approach to 3D gestural interaction for virtual and augmented reality devices, 3D gaming, medical applications and more. According to its website, its tech “is compatible with ordinary devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. It does not require any extra sensor, wearable gadget or additional hardware.”

The Say Necklace uses a 1.5-inch passive matrix OLED screen as the foundation of an entire social media ecosystem. Using the company’s app, you can post images to this little wearable e-frame. Once you subscribe to any free channel of images, you begin creating a personality profile, and can find and share images with other Say Necklace owners who share one or more of your interests. Entertainment companies could create their own channels for marketing and monetizing digital collectibles.


Chirp Microsystems has developed a tiny ultrasound transceiver chip that uses time-of-flight to continuously monitor the distance of surfaces around the chip. The system can determine the position of fingers dynamically by placing a chip on the top of a person’s wrist and monitor reflections from the skin deformation on the back of the user’s hand. Beyond the obvious applications like touch-free hand waving user interfaces, the tiny chip and ultrasound approach could be for a self-contained full body motion-tracking suit.

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