Billed as “America’s fastest growing tech conference,” the Collision Conference has grown into an influential industry event that some have compared to South by Southwest, Austin’s huge music-and-tech gathering. The confab in New Orleans attracted nearly 19,000 attendees this past week (compared to the more than 37,000 that descended on SXSW Interactive in 2017).
As its name suggests, Collision is designed to foster the intermingling of ideas and people across various interests, including technology, transportation, music, the environment, education, sports, politics, and more. Much of the convention floor was taken up by rows and rows of digital startups trying to entice investors and customers to check out their offerings. We’ve rounded up some of the more notable products and services here, focusing on connected devices.
Ecobee unveiled the latest version of its smart-home thermostat. Thanks to a built-in microphone, it’s the first Ecobee that comes with the full functionality of Amazon’s Alexa voice-recognition service. It’s like having a wall-mounted Echo Dot that can also control your home’s climate. Available on Amazon starting May 15.
A startup called Matrix showed off its smart mattress that promises to measure the quality of your sleep based on monitors built into its memory foam construction. Because it can sense whether you’re in light or deep sleep, Matrix can wake you up at the most optimal time, according to its designers. The companion app will also give you recommendations for getting better rest based on your specific sleep habits.
Matrix also says its product is more comfortable to sleep on than similar smart mattresses on the market, such as Eight Sleep. Manufactured in the U.S., Matrix will sell for $1,500 for a queen-size bed.
Aiming for the high-end “audiophile” market, Recreation Sound Systems came to Collision toting its intricately designed, wooden “Seed” speaker. The custom-made, 600-watt speaker is meant to be a “portable party on wheels,” and features a large metal handle that makes for easier hauling. The Seed sells for a hefty $2,000.
Recreation will also sell the “Harmony Block,” touted as the “world’s first yoga block speaker.” The $400 speaker is expected to appear as an Indiegogo project sometime in July.
“Our mission is to make the world a better sounding place,” said Emily Kussman, Recreation’s marketing manager. “We weren’t satisfied with all of the Bluetooth speakers out on the market so we decided to create our own high audio fidelity portable speakers. We use wood, which resonates sound better, and the components that we put inside the products create richer, cleaner, better sounding speakers.”
In another apparent “first,” the world’s first robotic tennis ball collector made a showing at Collision. While there have been one-off attempts to build an autonomous ball collector, the Tennibot is the first serious product of its kind for the consumer market.
Designed by recent Auburn University graduate Haitham Eletrabi, the device runs on rechargeable batteries and can pick up 70 balls per load within minutes. Think of it as a Roomba for your tennis court. Eletrabi says production on the Tennibot will begin by the end of the year and will be priced at $1,000 each.
Tennibot wasn’t the only robot at Collision. Pepper, the humanoid robot from Japan’s SoftBank Robotics, made a splash with its cute gestures and apparent ability to understand some human emotions. SoftBank says Pepper can read signals like a smile, a frown, the way your move your head, or the tone of your voice. More than 10,000 Pepper robots have been sold in Japan, mostly to businesses that use them to greet and entertain customers.
You can now buy Pepper in the U.S. — for a mere $25,000. With the goal of having a “robot in every home,” Softbank plans to roll out more consumer-level robots in the coming years.
Continuing the unstoppable Internet of Things trend, Cujo showed off its smart firewall for the connected home. The adorable little gadget aims to protect all of the networked devices in your home from hacks, malware, and other cyber threats. It also boasts parental controls to keep your content kid-friendly.
Shipping for $99, Cujo touts “enterprise-level” protection for the consumer who’s worried about privacy and data leakage.
“These days, you never know what’s happening to your devices or your data,” says Indre Deksnyte, Cujo’s vice president of e-commerce. “We hear a lot of user stories. We heard from a customer in Canada who was getting a lot of notifications from Cujo. The security cameras in his house were being hacked. You may get hacked and never know it.”