TIME Video Games

Why 2014 Was the Year Sex Got Real in Video Games

BioWare

At least sometimes and in some titles

What can last year’s mainstream video games tell us about the state of sex in gaming? Attempts to grapple with sex maturely in gaming remain elusive—though there were some standouts in 2014.

Cable and even old-fashioned broadcast TV now feature explicit sex routinely, whereas games, on balance, offer cruder visions of humans in erotic scenarios. In part, the industry’s hands are tied by technological limitations that can make graphic sex feel clumsy or inhuman.

Worse, games are still judged by double standards. A BDSM-explicit “erotic romance” like E.L. James’ novel 50 Shades of Grey or the rape scene in an episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones provoke at best passing social media chatter. By comparison, the option—that it’s a choice and an inessential side activity are crucial distinctions—to follow implied sex with violence in a series like Grand Theft Auto leads to widespread outrage, not to mention sending legislators scrambling to introduce censorial bills. Consider the row that erupted in 2005 when someone unearthed a crude sex-related mini-game in Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the presumption being that mere exposure to these things in a game (as opposed to a film or movie) somehow guarantees bad behavior.

On the other hand, agency in games gives players broader authorial control over their experience. One’s behavior in a roleplaying game, for instance, can modestly or substantially alter the evolution of a romantic journey that might culminate in scenes of physical intimacy. A player can spend dozens of hours with a relationship-driven game, examining (if the game supports it) the ramifications of choices for both the gameplay and story, perhaps exploring romance-related avenues that broaden appreciation of the game’s characters or plot dilemmas. The payoff might be the act itself, a typically non-interactive sequence in which lovers are depicted doing what lovers do. Or it could simply be the sense of having explored an optional storyline that didn’t relegate sex to a tawdry stereotype or crass objectification.

Here’s a closer look at sex in games last year:

Dragon Age: Inquisition

BioWare’s been at the fore of grappling with mature sexual themes in its roleplaying games for years, challenging cultural assumptions about sex both in and outside gaming. Dragon Age: Inquisition continues that tradition, allowing players to pursue friendships that can morph into romantic relationships with its cast of secondaries, be they male or female, human or not. The sexual choreography itself still feels awkward (again, technological limitations: when the act ensues, it’s a little like watching marionettes couple), but writer David Gaider raised the bar by including what he describes as the “the first fully gay character” he’s written. (You could have same-sex relationships in BioWare’s Mass Effect, but the characters were apparently bisexual.)

Wolfenstein: The New Order

You’d expect a sequel to a series of all but plotless games mostly about shooting Nazis to treat sex cheaply, but Wolfenstein: The New Order‘s two sexual liaisons (render and animation limitations notwithstanding) wouldn’t be out of place in a film or television show. The New Order‘s story won’t win any Emmys, but the sex scenes feel more like intimacy variables plugged into broader character-development exercises than mere titillation. And, who would’ve thought a Wolfenstein game could be as much about character-building as enemy-butchering?

Grand Theft Auto V

Sometimes humans behave very badly, and sometimes holding up mirrors involves guileful irreverence. (As Emily Dickinson wrote, “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.”) That, it seems, to me anyway, is Rockstar’s point throughout Grand Theft Auto V. You can argue the studio’s overplayed that hand, that the point is made crudely, and that making the same point game after game moves too freely between expressive and exploitive. There’s room for debate here.

But sex in Grand Theft Auto V—often raucous, violent and ridiculous—is hardly a celebration of bad behavior. This is a game that views both women and men through a lens absurdly. I tend to hold with Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick when, responding to a question about sexual violence in the game, he said: “Look, this is a criminal setting. It’s a gritty underworld. It is art. And I—I embrace that art, and it’s beautiful art, but it is gritty.”

TIME Gadgets

Consumers Want Better Smartphone Batteries, Survey Says

mobile-battery-screen
Getty Images

The top tech need on the mind of most Americans isn’t sharper televisions or smarter watches. It’s better batteries

You wouldn’t guess it wandering the endless displays of gadgets here at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show, but the top tech need on the mind of most Americans isn’t sharper televisions, smarter watches, virtual reality glasses or connected refrigerators.

It’s better batteries.

Watch more about better batteries from Fortune’s video team:

That’s the conclusion of a new Fortune-SurveyMonkey study, released today in Las Vegas during the annual show.

When asked “what new or improved smartphone feature are you most excited about,” “improved battery life” was the leading answer by a long shot – 33% . Faster processors came in second, with 16% of respondents.

Meanwhile, amidst a flurry of fitness bands and smart watches, only 12% said they were “extremely likely” or “very likely” to buy such a wearable device in 2015, while 74% said they were “not so likely” or “not at all likely.” And only 2% said they were extremely or very likely to buy Internet-connected glasses, such as Google Glass, in 2015, while 92% said they were “not so likely” or “not at all likely.”

Some 75% of respondents said they hadn’t even heard of 4K Television – another hot item at CES this year.

The survey also showed a yawning gap between generations on technology use. For instance, 40% of those 60 and older said they were extremely or very concerned about the potential privacy risk posed by consumer use of drones. But only 23% of 18-29 year olds expressed the same concerns.

The survey of 1,000+ adults was conducted Dec. 30 to Jan. 2, using SurveyMonkey Audience, a proprietary online panel. Respondents for this survey were selected to mirror the age and sex proportions of adults according to the U.S. Census.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

TIME Tech

Intel Pledges $300 Million to Increase Workforce Diversity

Inside The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Brian Krzanich, chief executive officer of Intel Corp., during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. (Patrick T. Fallon--Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Only 24% of 2013 employees were female

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich pledged $300 million to increase the company’s workforce diversity during his keynote address at the Computer Electronics Show (CES) Tuesday.

“It’s time to step up and do more,” Krzanich said, acknowledging that the task of achieving “full representation” of women and minorities by 2020 will be “difficult to achieve.” Seventy-six percent of Intel’s employee were male in 2013. And the company’s diversity filings from the same year showed Intel’s workforce was only 24% female, 8% Hispanic and 4% black, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“It’s not good enough to say we value diversity and then underrepresent women and minorities, Krzanich said, “Intel wants to lead by example.”

Krzanich did not set any specific quotas, but noted that the money would be used to fund programs that could help get more diverse candidates into jobs at Intel, while attracting talented and diverse job candidates.

Silicon Valley has long been considered a boy’s club, with major tech companies like Twitter and Google revealing demographics that skew toward white, male workers.

TIME ces 2015

The 15 Best Props at CES 2015

A model displays the LG G Watch R during the 2015 International CES on Jan. 6, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
David Becker—Getty Images A model displays the LG G Watch R during the 2015 International CES on Jan. 6, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

#1 will surprise you

No CES booth is complete without props—people or things companies use to grab your attention, whether it’s a giant puppet, celebrity guest, or larger-than-life cardboard blow-up of the product itself.

We stomped around CES for a full day in order to crown a winner. Which booth would feature the most awesome, crafty, or ridiculous visual aide? Before we run down the list, a few rules:

1) Props are props, not products. If your company sells cars, and the car is parked at your booth, that’s cool, but that’s not a prop.

2) Props that say something important about the product or brand beat out products that simply caught our attention. Smarter is better.

With that out of the way, here are the best props we found at CES 2015, from number 15 to the very best.

15. Samsung’s SUHDTV Helix

Samsung’s SUHDTV is the company’s new flagship TV, and it’s got a bizarre, DNA-like helix right behind the displays. We still don’t know what the “S” stands for, and we’re clueless about what the helix means, but we can’t deny we’re intrigued.

14. ZTE’s Basketball Trampoline Setup

Basketball hoops are pretty common at CES, so ZTE loses a few originality points, but give them credit for the ball rack, runway, and trampoline, an ambitious setup that beats out every other ball-related CES exhibit.

13. Qualcomm’s Wheeled Dragon Robot

Semiconductor-maker Qualcomm couldn’t be more important to the industry, even if most casual consumers have never heard of them. So what better way to capture that unique combination of obscurity and importance than in a dragon robot with wheels? We can’t explain it, but we love it.

12. Panasonic’s Giant Headphones

Panasonic has all kinds of things going on at this year’s CES, from scooters to Blu-ray players to connected homes. But their biggest prop of all is a giant pair of headphones, which provides an appropriate nod to the company’s classic products.

11. LG’s Massive G Watch R

With the explosion of smartwatches, gadget displays are getting smaller, but LG wants to remind us that they’re excited about wearable tech. Really excited. And so we get a massive blow-up of the new LG G Watch R.

10. Ecovacs Robotics’ Solar Panel Cleaner

Robo-vaccuum displays tend to be small and understated, featuring simple household devices a few unimposing dust bunnies. Not so for Ecovacs. The robotics company plopped a full-sized solar panel in the middle of the show floor, complete with an always-running Raybot cleaner. Bold but effective.

9. 3D Systems’ Drum Set and Warrior

3D printing companies tend to make small products, like necklaces, keychain fobs, and display shelf trinkets. 3D Systems goes the other way, featuring a massive 3D alien warrior and a slickly designed guitar-drum set combo.

8. Sony’s Train Set

It’s easy to dismiss Sony’s train set at a glance, but the prop—located near the middle of Sony’s show floor—is smart for several reasons. For tinkerers and gadget enthusiasts, the set might spark a bit of train set nostalgia, the sort of toy you might have built in your basement or garage. What’s more, the prop helps illustrate how Sony’s cameras can capture the passage of time. It’s a neat display that works even better the longer you spend with it.

7. Mo-Fi Headphones’ Microphones

While many of Mo-Fi’s competitors are focusing on the modern-day (think hip hop and celebrities), Mo-Fi looks back. Their classy display of old-school microphones sets the tone for a booth that oozes retro jazz and classic radio.

6. Sage’s Magician

It may not match the product perfectly, but when you’ve got a real-life magician shuffling a deck of cards in Vegas, what more can you ask for? Bonus points for his uncanny ability to slip Sage talking points between shuffles.

5. WowWee’s Fighting Ring

Most robotics and drone companies simply feature a large playpen for flying, fighting, and driving around their products. WowWee presents a fighting ring, with robotic dragons and a game balls to spar over. The added narrative helps sell the robots’ best features.

4. A Treadmill in a Fitbit

While Fitbit’s overall booth was a bit underwhelming, their central prop was spot-on, a treadmill housed inside an oversized Fitbit device. Fitbit is becoming the face of the industry, and reinforcing their iconic design with an eye-catching prop was a smart move.

3. DisplayPort’s Iron Throne

DisplayPort offers the very definition of a prop: their cable-constructed throne sits apart from the rest of their products, but it tells the company’s whole story in a single glance. Well done. (Though we do feel they are conflating Game of Throne’s Iron Throne and Lord of the Ring’s familiar slogan, which is a bit odd.)

2. Onkyo’s Iron Maiden Action Figure

The Japanese consumer electronics maker takes the CES prop a step further by centering their entire exhibit around it. Featuring an enormous action figure inspired by the British rock band Iron Maiden, the company encourages guests to take a snapshot and share the results. It’s a prop, product, and marketing play, all in one.

1. Canon’s Baller

Canon’s exhibit would still have worked without it, but their basketball-spinning baller ties the whole booth together. With this dynamic, human prop, Canon can show their image quality, motion capture, PC connectivity, and even printing capabilities, all in one seamless process. It’s visually arresting and it demonstrates multiple Canon products, earning Canon the honor of CES 2015 Best Prop.

This article originally appeared on FindTheBest.

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TIME ces 2015

The 20 Most Eye-Catching Booths at CES 2015

Attendees take a break at the 2015 International CES on Jan. 6, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller—Getty Images Attendees take a break at the 2015 International CES on Jan. 6, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

We looked at the big-picture vibe, not any one feature or prop

Standing out at CES is a nightmare. With over 3,500 separate exhibitors and two million net square feet of presentation space, you need much more than a big sign and friendly representatives.

With this in mind, we set out to highlight the most eye-catching booths across all of CES. In order to pick—and rank—the final 20, we walked a combined five miles, snapped hundreds of photos and took between 12 and 15 water breaks.

In order to prevent the big guns from snapping up all the awards, we had a few basic rules.

1) Cleverness is more important than size. Just because you purchased tens of thousands of square feet doesn’t mean you earned a spot on this list.

2) The product or brand should come through. Bright lights and loud music are only good ideas if they match the personality of the company. No easy outs here.

3) We’re looking at the big-picture vibe, not any one feature or prop. How does the whole booth come together?

We’ll start with number 20 and count all the way down to the most eye-catching of all.

20. Vievu

Sure, they might be a wearable camera company for law enforcement and private professionals, but that didn’t stop Vievu from committing to a theme. The checkered green golf attire contrasts pleasantly with the boring gray and black found throughout the show, while the putting green provides the perfect final touch.

19. Objecto

Objecto’s nifty air humidifiers sit quietly near the louder, larger displays from Samsung and Monster, but the tricolor simplicity proves a visual winner. Clever. Plus, it’s nice to get a break from that stuffy Las Vegas convention air.

18. Makerbot

The 3D printing section of CES 2015 is technically impressive in miniature, but predictably, visually underwhelming from a distance. The lone exception this year is Makerbot, whose sleek, backlit display cases make their printers seem more like Louis Vuitton handbags than geeky niche products.

17. Blisslights

Blisslights provides nightclub-esque lighting effects for the home. We’re not sure we’re sold on every use case (they showcase a family Christmas with red twinkles dancing around the room), but they sure have a sense of spectacle.

16. United States Postal Service

What? The United States Postal Service at CES? We were surprised too. But perhaps the biggest shock is the booth’s tasteful, boxy design, which perfectly captures the essence of packaging and shipping. No one can accuse the USPS of mailing it in.

15. 808

A Voxx headphone brand, 808 tries to recreate the modern nightclub, with mood lighting, pumping bass, and yes, go-go dancers. Three for three.

14. Glide

Glide is a mobile video messaging app, and so, naturally, they featured a DJ and beatboxer (he’s a dead-ringer at impersonating Michael Jackson, incidentally). Okay, so it’s not a perfect product-theme match, but Glide knows its target demographic, and they sure know how to create a scene.

13. Go Groove

For most booths at CES, you can avoid a smiley sales rep if you give the stall a 10-foot berth. Not Go Groove. The company’s chatty employees will find you in the crowd, reel you in, and enter you for a free pair of earbuds before you can say “marketing gimmick.” Whatever they’re doing, it’s working.

12. LG

Massive, shimmering, and beautiful, LG’s space (the word “booth” doesn’t do it justice) is a study in contrast: deep blacks next to bright, gorgeous displays. The only reason they’re not higher is because we thought they could have done just a bit more with all that space.

11. ooVoo

The intelligent video chat company sports the most fascinating display at the show, a giant wall made up of tiny flaps, black on one side, white on the other. The whole thing looks and sounds just like the old school flight displays at the airport, but can change images in an instant. A visual marvel.

10. Lowe’s

Of the dozen or so Smart Home mock-ups, the Lowe’s Iris Smart Home felt the most alive, a full, multi-room house plopped right in the middle of Tech West. Props for the chimney logo.

9. Samsung

We’re docking Samsung just slightly for their space’s boring exterior (just a big white wall), but the interior is as colorful and vibrant as you would expect from the Korean electronics manufacturer. Bonus points for the visual allusion to old-school slide projectors.

8. Monster

Monster’s marketing strategy is timeless: take a product, then throw celebrities and popular music at it until it becomes cool. Even if you tend to roll your eyes at modern music videos, the space works. We felt more hip just walking by.

7. iFit

At CES 2015, the only thing more popular than fitness is athlete-models doing fitness. For hours. In hopes of catching the attention of out-of-shape geeks walking by. Among the 30 or so versions of this we saw, iFit made the strongest commitment, featuring an elevated stage and a dozen happy (hapless?) participants running, biking, and weight-lifting.

6. Snail

Snail’s gaming booth—filled with couches, controllers, and gaming demos—has a pitch-perfect green glow that seems emanate from the space and the walls of the center, hundreds of feet away. One of the best mood-setting booths at the show.

5. Sleep Number

By far the most economical display we saw at CES, Sleep Number keeps things simple, but tremendously effective. The hanging mobile of numbers captures the companies brand of precise adjustment, while the simple statement below (“Too Hot? Too Cool?”) tells all the story we need. Smart, clean, efficient.

4. Parrot

We saw nearly a dozen different drone demo areas, each surrounded with netting, most commanding a small crowd of curious onlookers. But no one put on as good a show as Parrot. With a countdown timer, red curtain, and circus-like presentation, Parrot puts on a 10-drone show several times per hour, with a combination of flying, driving, and bouncing robots.

3. Oculus

The most impressive part about Oculus’ booth? You don’t even have to try their virtual reality product to appreciate their CES display. Multi-storied, polygonal, and tastefully shaded, the booth is a design achievement, recalling old-school video games and classic Calvin & Hobbes cartoons. When the architecture is this good, the booth doesn’t have to be flashy.

2. Polaroid

Polaroid nails a combination of modern technology and nostalgic design better than anyone at CES. With walls of classic Polaroids, bright displays with modern photography, and product models hanging from the ceiling, the Polaroid space is a visual treat. Just like a good photograph, Polaroid’s space draws your attention from display to display, intentionally leaving a gap here, a space there. Superb.

1. Intel

Only one space in all of CES is both foreign and inviting, like a time capsule from the future that instantly feels right at home. Intel’s chic space sets the mood with soft blue lighting, then throws in comfortable seats, a pillow-like carpet, and so much open space that for once, you won’t feel crowded. To walk through Intel’s corner is to experience the very best version of the show—the most eye-catching booth at CES.

This article originally appeared on FindTheBest.

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TIME Smartphones

How Apple’s Bigger iPhones Are Hurting Google Android

Apple Unveils iPhone 6
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A member of the media inspects the new iPhone 6 during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on September 9, 2014 in Cupertino, California.

New sales data suggest Apple is making gains thanks to the "phablet" craze

Android’s U.S. market share dipped for the first time since September 2013, as Apple’s new large-screened phones made inroads in the market for “phablets,” according to new data compiled by market research firm Kantar Worldpanel.

Apple’s market share expanded globally in every surveyed country, except Japan, over the past three months ending in November. U.S. sales increased by 4.3% as the iPhone 6 became the best-selling phone domestically. Android sales, however, slackened over the same period.

“While remaining the dominant global OS, Android’s market share dropped in most European markets and in the U.S.,” said Kantar Worldpanel’s chief of research Carolina Milanesi.

In China, however, Android continued to dominate with 80.4% market share. Sales were buoyed by the explosive growth of Android-operated phones from Xiaomi, a Chinese manufacturer of low-priced phones sometimes called the “Apple of China.” Kantar noted an “astonishing” 18% rise in Xiaomi’s sales over the same period last year.

Read next: These Are the Most Ingenious Gadgets From CES 2015

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TIME Companies

Everything You Need to Know About the Very Ugly Monster-Beats Lawsuit

Apple Said To Be In Talks To Purchase Beats Headphones Company
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Beats headphones are sold in an Apple store on May 9, 2014 in New York City.

Monster is suing because it says Beats duped it out of its fair share of the headphone empire

A former partner of Beats Electronics is suing the company and phone manufacturer HTC for “deliberate acts of corporate betrayal.” Monster, which was involved in the design and development of the original Beats headphones, is alleging that Beats founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre conned Monster out of its stake in the headphone empire through a series of unscrupulous business maneuvers. Now Monster is seeking punitive damages from Beats, which Apple bought last spring for $3 billion.

In its 64-page complaint, Monster unloads a barrage of allegations against Beats, particularly against Iovine. (Beats did not respond to an email seeking comment). Here are the key points you need to understand about the contentious relationship between the two companies that helped grow luxury headphones into a billion-dollar market.

Monster Prototyped and Manufactured the Original Beats

According to Monster’s complaint, Monster CEO Noel Lee and his son Kevin originally pitched the idea of high-end headphones to Iovine and Dr. Dre, who had been considering launching a speaker line, in late 2005. Eventually, Beats and Monster entered into a licensing agreement in early 2008—Monster would handle the engineering, production and distribution of the headphones, and Beats would offer the “Beats by Dre” branding and leverage the clout of Iovine and Dr. Dre to market them to sports and hip-hop fans. Monster says it financed the engineering of the original headphone line and developed at least 30 protoptypes. The combo of headphones of at least decent quality with extremely slick marketing and packaging was an immediate smash hit. Between 2008 and 2012, Beats by Dre products generated $1.5 billion in revenue, according to Monster.

Monster and Beats Cozy Up

As the premium headphones began to gain traction, Monster took a few actions to strengthen its relationship with Beats that the company now says led to its “betrayal.” In August 2009, Noel Lee bought a 5% stake in Beats (at the time, Iovine and Dr. Dre each had a 15% stake, according to Monster). That same year, Monster amended its licensing agreement to stipulate that Beats could terminate its licensing agreement with Monster if there was a transaction that resulted in a “bona fide change in control,” such as someone buying a majority stake in Beats.

An HTC Investment Ends Monster-Beats Partnership

In August 2011, phone manufacturer HTC bought a 51% controlling stake in Beats Electronics. According to Monster, this sale was the “bona fide change in control” that Beats needed to terminate its licensing agreement with Monster. The end of the Monster-Beats partnership was formally announced in January 2012, and Monster says it was “strong-armed” into providing information about its retailer and logistics networks to Beats quickly in exchange for getting to sell Beats-branded products for a slightly longer period.

Iovine and Dr. Dre Buy Beats Right Back

Less than a year after the HTC investment, Beats Electronics bought back half of HTC’s shares in the company, granting Iovine and Dr. Dre a 75% controlling stake in Beats. HTC had also provided Beats with a $225 million loan before the Beats founders bought back a portion of the company. At the time, HTC said the financial decisions were meant to give Beats “more flexibility for global expansion while maintaining HTC’s major stake and commercial exclusivity in mobile.” Monster, meanwhile, believes the entire HTC investment was a “sham” aimed at giving complete control of Beats to Dr. Dre and Iovine. “If the contractual arrangements between Beats and Monster terminated without a change of control, Beats would not have gained control of Monster’s pioneering engineering efforts, as well as Monster’s distribution and sales networks,” Monster wrote in its complaint. Beats bought out the rest of HTC’s stake in the company in 2013.

Monster Misses the Apple Payday

Monster’s Lee had reduced his stake in Beats from 5% to 1.25% following the end of the Monster-Beats partnership. As he was deciding whether to offload his Beats stake entirely in September 2013, Lee claims that he talked to multiple Beats officials who told him that Beats had no liquidity event coming “in the next year or two.” Lee sold his stake back to Beats at a price of $5.5 million. Eight months later, Apple bought Beats for $3 billion. Lee’s stake would have been worth about $100 million.

TIME ces 2015

6 of the Coolest Smart Home Innovations at CES

From security cameras to convection ovens, households are becoming increasingly digital

This year, the year that Marty McFly crash lands into in Back to the Future Part II, holds a lot of water for technologists, since it gave the world a peek at then-fictional innovations like food hydrators, indoor gardens, and video calling. And while some of those home technologies have actually come to pass (hydrators, you have to Oct. 21 until Marty’s flux capacitor shorts out!) these six inventions—currently exhibiting at the International CES in Las Vegas—are ready to bring the future to your door, right now. For more on the smarter, more connected home of the future, check out Time’s cover package.

  • ADT Pulse

    Mark Haworth—ADT ADT Pulse

    Even though CES is packed with tech titans showing off their latest wares, entrenched services like cable and home security systems are often the target of upstart technologies at the event. This year, ADT strikes back with a setup that connects a wide range of sensors together through an intuitive smart phone app. Powered by IFTTT, a wide-ranging web service that already links everything from the Android operating system to Yahoo Fantasy Football (with other technologies ranging from Dropbox to text messaging to weather alerts in between), the company’s Pulse app gives ADT home security subscribers the ability to turn on lights, monitor for carbon monoxide, arm alarms, and even control the heating, with their voice, alone. And with voice passwords, the app itself is locked down as tight as the home’s security system.

  • Budgee

    Budgee Budgee with angled basket

    Move over, Rosie, here comes something better. Alright, maybe this robot, built by Five Elements Robotics, can’t eclipse the Jetson’s legendary robo-maid, but it can serve as an able assistant, carrying up to 50 pounds indoors and out, over sidewalks and up ramps—basically most places you go. Designed to follow a transmitter that the owner (or is it master?) wears, the $1,399 droid can zip along up to 2.4 miles per hour. With a battery life of up to 10 hours, he can run about as long as most people, and when not needed, he can be folded up for easy storage—only weighing about 20 pounds and able to fit into the trunk of a car. When was the last time you stuffed your assistant in the trunk of your car? (Actually, don’t answer that.)

  • Dacor Discovery IQ

    Dacor Discovery™ iQ 30” Wall Oven

    What’s better than one wall oven? If you said a wall oven with the Android operating system baked into it, you’re right. (But “two wall ovens” would also also be acceptable.) Sporting solo and dual doors, Dacor’s Discovery convection ovens are Wi-Fi connected and have a graphic user interface to get your brownies baking like no other. With a Samsung one gigahertz processor and 512 megabytes of RAM, this setup isn’t just tech for tech’s sake. It’s designed to power the Discovery IQ cooking app, which guides users through all sorts of dishes and family recipes. And with the ability to download from Google Play store, there’s many more apps—and appetizers, I hope—to come.

  • Invoxia Triby

    Invoxia Triby

    Finally, some gear the whole family can enjoy. A kitchen communication appliance, Triby is first and foremost a Bluetooth speaker, able to take calls and stream music from your smart phone. But the magnetic-backed, rubber-edged device takes utility a step further by linking two a pair of phones (Mom’s and Dad’s, perhaps) via the Triby app, so people can call them at the push of a button. The app also lets mobile users send hand written notes back to Triby, displaying them on the Wi-Fi connected device’s e-Ink display. And in addition to being able to play FM radio signals, the fridge phone also has a pair of “radio” buttons that lets users pre-program their favorite streaming radio stations. Toss in a battery that lasts a month and a $199 price tag, and you’ve got some smart tech, indeed.

  • Netatmo Welcome

    Netamo Welcome

    Some people are put off by web security cameras in the home, but with a facial recognition feature that can identify the members of your household, Netatmo Welcome does something truly helpful. Notifying smartphone users when family members arrive home, this HD, night vision-capable camera is a must-have for connected latch key kids. And, paired with Netatmo Tags, the system can alert you when doors, windows, mailboxes or even drawers are opened. But perhaps the smartest thing about this camera is that it can store data on an onboard SD card, keeping your video recordings off the internet (and free from subscription services).

  • Samsung SmartThings

    SmartThings SmartThings Devices

    Named as one of Time’s Best Gadgets of 2014, SmartThings is not content to rest on its laurels, rolling out new hardware and premium services that may make it the most clever smart home setup, yet. Available in the summer, a new SmartThings hub will sport a better processor and backup battery power, making this a connected home system that stays in sync even when the power is out. In addition, the company’s motion and multi-sensors are slimming down, providing more subtle home monitoring. But the smart home is all about being inter compatible with other products and services, something this system does better than anyone. For instance, the SmartThings hub will now play nice with everything from August locks to Racchio’s lawn irrigation controller. Beat that, McFly!

TIME ces 2015

These New Headphones Are Hiding an Amazing Secret

Avegant

Proof virtual reality doesn't have to make you look like a massive nerd

Startup Avegant unveiled its latest prototype of a virtual reality headset at the Consumer Electronics Show Wednesday, and it proves the words “stylish virtual reality goggles” do not have to be an oxymoron.

The headset, called Glyph, looks like an ordinary pair of noise-canceling headphones, only with two eye holes tucked discreetly underneath the headband.

That discretion could make all of the difference for shoppers who want an immersive video experience without having to immerse their heads in a clunky contraption. “It can’t look like I’m wearing a pope hat,” Avegant’s CTO Allan Evans said in an interview with Re/code.

Flip the Glyph’s headband down in front of the eyes and 2 million micro-mirrors will project light from an image directly onto the retina. Glyph’s designers say it mimics the experience of sitting in a darkened movie theater at a reasonable distance from the screen, making it uniquely suited for long haul flights, though it might still draw stares from neighbors unaccustomed to seeing headphones strapped across the face (see demonstration video below).

The Glyph is slated to go on sale in Autumn 2015, Re/code reports, for $599.

TIME ces 2015

This Is the Gun You Can Connect to the Internet

A gun that streams video footage to your smartphone or tablet

The Internet of Things isn’t just about smart baby pacifiers, doorbells and thermostats. It’s about everything, now including fire-arms.

Austin-based startup TrackingPoint has announced an app dubbed ShotView, the Verge reports. ShotView is an iOS and Android app that streams video in real time from the heads up display of a TrackingPoint gun to a smartphone or tablet.

“Hunting and shooting sports are now part of the Web fabric. With this new technology, friends and family are virtually transported and immersed in exotic and exciting hunts,” says Danielle Hambleton, TrackingPoint’s vice president of marketing. “Hunters can now share the thrill of the stalk and the excitement of victory in real-time.”

At CES this year, TrackingPoint is showing a precision-guided firearm (its 338TP) that allows beginner shooters to make precise shots at moving targets over long distances. “Once a target is acquired, it is virtually impossible for it to escape,” says the company.

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