George Jetson would have felt right at home.
Flying cars, eight-foot televisions and an AI device promising to tell you just why your baby is wailing all dotted the landscape at his week's annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, once again serving up the world's biggest spectacle of techno-gluttony.
From the sublime to the surreal, the realm of the possible bumps up only against the bounds of the imagination at the show, where companies from the around the world show off their latest technological advances and prototypes. This year's footprint is 70% larger than last year's show, and it's nothing Luddites should try to stomach.
The flying car -- more like a flying SUV, judging by its size -- made an appearance thanks to a company named Aska, flaunting a $789,000 price tag. Aska has started taking preorders for its A5, which company founder Guy Kaplinsky said could receive Federal Aviation Administration approval within a month.
Then there's Candela's C8 electronic hydrofoil foil boat. Yours for a cool $390,000, the marine answer to Tesla glides across the water and can maintain a pre-set course if the beer cooler proves too tempting.
Back to cars: BMW seems to think it's boring to drive the same-colored car every day. That's where its i Vision Dee concept car comes in, allowing drivers to change and mix 32 different auto colors.
Glamour and glitz, though, aren't all that define CES, which over the years has launched some of humankind's most important and most outrageous innovations.
Where's the Stuff I Actually Can Use?
The show also appeals to the down-to-earth and incurably practical. Worn-out John Deere hats fit right in -- especially while contemplating the cost-saving benefits of the ExactShot, the farm machinery giant's new sensor-oriented technology that places fertilizer precisely where seeds need it, eliminating the need for continuous application.
Consumer electronics, of course, always seem to hog the show. This year, LG unveiled a wireless, portless 93-inch TV. And Roku announced its entrance into the TV world with its own versions ranging from 24 to 75 inches that will run on its popular software -- all for under $999.
This year's show also throws a bone to hopelessly lost first-time parents wanting some peace and quiet so they actually can enjoy those TVs. Taiwan's Q-bear is touting an AI-powered device that it swears will tell you WHY your baby is crying. It offers four guesses -- hunger, diaper needs changed, tired or needs comfort. (First-time parents will quickly realize they don't need AI to determine why they are crying).
George Jetson doesn't need that; his kids aren't babies some six decades after the debut of Hanna-Barbera's futuristic animated comedy. But he is getting older. Before he heads out, jet pack in hand, he might need one more trip to the boy's room. That's where he could encounter a different take on streaming: U-Scan, a smart device that analyzes urine in real-time. Users can attach it inside their toilet and use it to track health, fitness and fertility.
No word on whether U-Scan is portable, though. Maybe that's an innovation for next year's CES.