ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno
While flying cars were the big stars of the 2021 CES, this year a technology that can change a vehicle’s colour at the touch of a button has wowed attendees. At the world's largest consumer electronics show, held in early January 2022 in Las Vegas, other gadgets also grabbed the attention of visitors: from a vest that lets you feel hugs and gunshots in the metaverse to a glass façade that plays videos and controls how much light it lets through for greater energy efficiency.
Imagine you can press a button and make your car magically change colour thanks to electronic ink. That's the ambitious goal BMW is pursuing. Frank Weber, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, is convinced that "digital experiences won’t just be limited to displays in the future. There will be more and more melding of the real and the virtual. With the BMW iX Flow, we are bringing the car body to life." The technology, unveiled at CES and still under development, is stimulated by electrical signals to bring different pigments to the surface.
As well as allowing the driver to change the car's appearance, the BMW iX Flow can contribute to its energy efficiency. Choosing one colour or another can influence how the car reflects sunlight and absorbs thermal energy. "Heating of the vehicle and passenger compartment as a result of strong sunlight and high outside temperatures can be reduced by changing the exterior to a light colour," says the manufacturer. In cooler weather, a dark exterior skin would serve to absorb more heat from the sun. These changes could therefore help reduce the cooling and heating required by air conditioning. "This reduces the amount of energy the vehicle's electrical system needs and with it also the vehicle’s fuel or electricity consumption," BMW claims.
BMW is working on technology to allow drivers to change the colour of their car at the touch of a button. Credit: BMW.
Vests that can simulate physical blows and hugs
Beyond advances in automobiles and autonomous vehicles, one of the big tech trends that will dominate the coming year is the metaverse. This is an immersive virtual environment in which it is possible to interact with avatars, be entertained, learn things, or buy products or services. Although at first glance it may seem a bit futuristic, many companies have been working for years on the building blocks for this universe: from 5G and augmented reality to volumetric video recording equipment, motion sensors and wearables that can recreate senses such as touch.
Among the devices recognised by the organisers of CES, one that stands out is a wireless haptic vest that allows users to experience more than 30 different physical sensations in real time in the virtual world, from a gunshot, a punch and an insect bite to someone grabbing your arm and even a hug. This garment, developed by Spanish company OWO, allows the wearer to feel in 10 different areas of the upper body, including the arms. "Before, we had to rely on vision and hearing to create experiences," say its creators. The vest, which can calibrate sensations and has a battery life of about eight hours, promises to bring to the virtual world "a new sense that only existed in the physical dimension: touch."
OWO has created a vest that lets you experience a gunshot, a punch or a hug. Credit: OWO.
Windows that turn into screens to save energy
Upcoming technological innovations will include those aimed at sustainability, according to Steve Koenig, vice president of research at the CTA, the association that organises CES. In addition to solar shingles, other marvels unveiled at the show include devices to charge electric and hydrogen vehicles, and burgers and sausages made from vegetable or mushroom protein. There are also devices for controlling home energy and achieving greater energy efficiency in all types of buildings.
This is the aim of VideowindoW, which turns glass facades into giant transparent screens that can play videos and control the light coming into the building to save energy. Remco Veenbrink, one of its creators, says that this façade allows companies to "achieve their sustainability goals in a fun and cost-effective way, as they can play advertisements on the glass." In theory, it is possible to save up to 30% of the total energy consumption of the building's systems by reducing the need for air conditioning by 20% and the use of interior lighting by 10%. Such glass is already present in some airports and, according to Veenbrink, could also be useful in museums or hospitals.
This glass façade can play videos and control the amount of light entering the building for greater energy efficiency. Credit: VideowindoW.
More than 45,000 people and 2,300 companies from 119 countries attended this year's CES, after it was held exclusively virtually in 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Beyond advances in automotive and autonomous vehicles, the metaverse and sustainable technology, there are other trends that will shape 2022: from 5G to artificial intelligence to digital health and space technology.
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Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation. Devised by Materia Publicaciones Científicas for Sacyr’s blog.