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Virtual Reality and Robotic Bartenders: The Coolest and the Weirdest Stuff at CES 2016

Last week was a grueling one, equal parts exhilarating and exhausting, as Yahoo Tech’s staff fanned out across Las Vegas to check out everything that CES 2016 had to offer. Now that it’s over and we’ve had a chance to catch up on our sleep, here’s a list of the coolest and the strangest things we saw at CES 2016.

Cool: Sprimo air purifier

Literally the coolest thing I saw at CES was the Sprimo air purifier. The air flows around the edges of a Nestlike display and touchscreen, which tells you how many particulates it’s trapping. Sprimo claims to filter out 10 times more particulates than a standard HEPA filter. A crowdfunding campaign for the $400 unit will launch this spring. I felt healthier just standing in front of it. Fresh air in Vegas? Believe it. — Dan Tynan

Weird: Ripple Maker 3D coffee printer

3D-printed coffee? Yes, really. Using chocolate “ink,” Steam CC’s Ripple Maker prints a surprisingly detailed image on the foam atop your cappuccino in a matter of seconds. You can choose from preset images or upload a personal photo to the Coffee Ripples app, and then drink a delicious cup of whomever you desire. The company plans to sell the $1,000 unit to trendy cafes starting later this year. D.T.

Cool: VR tech

Sure it’s been said about a thousand times already, but virtual reality blows me away every time I use it. This time my cohorts and I spent time playing with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive Pre in back-to-back sessions of reality-bending awesomeness. OK, so the Rift is going to be a tad expensive, and we still don’t know when the Vive is coming to market. But once, you play it, you’ll know why so many people want it. Dan Howley

Weird: E.Sensory digital vibrator

A French company called E.Sensory came to CES this year to show off an e-reader-connected personal vibrator called “the Little Bird.” (Did we mention they were French?) The device “activates” when a reader is turning through the steamy parts of e-books in the ilk of Fifty Shades of Grey. I have nothing to add. Daniel Bean

Cool: Sleep Number ‘it’ bed

This connected bed aims to make you sleep smarter. Using an app, you inflate or deflate the bed’s foam-filled air chambers until you find your “sleep number” — that Goldilocks moment where the mattress feels just right. Sensors embedded below the mattress track your heart rate, sleeping, and waking periods, and then feed them all into an app to help you raise your SleepIQ. The $1,000 it bed is slated to appear this summer. — D.T.

Weird: Misfit crystal

Misfit has teamed up with gem merchant Swarovski to make a fitness tracker adorned with a single giant crystal. Fittingly, the crystal sits on top of one of Misfit’s Shine trackers. Can a single gizmo say you both love to work out but have absolutely no fashion sense? Yes, yes it can. D.H.

Cool: Holograms

Maybe it’s a funny thing for a technology reporter to admit, but I’d never actually seen a hologram in person before until I walked by Kino-mo’s booth at CES 2016. But even if I had seen, say, Tupac’s holographic 2012 comeback concert at Coachella, I bet I’d still have stopped to watch this startup’s uber-cool demo. Also using holograms to dramatic effect: India-based MAS Technologies, showing off its line of “smart” athletic apparel in the Refinery29 suite (above). — D.B.

Weird: Oombrella

The shimmering pastels of this umbrella from Parisian startup Wezzoo (coming to Kickstarter “soon”) aren’t even the weirdest thing about it. Instead, that honor goes to the circuitry inside, which talks to your phone to allow the Oombrella to tell you when it’s going to rain. Your phone, in turn, can nag you when you’ve left the Oombrella behind … although the odds of overlooking an iridescent contraption that could double as a psychedelic space probe’s antenna seem rather low. — Rob Pegoraro

Cool: Here Active Listening earbuds

Doppler Labs’ upcoming Bluetooth-connected earbuds ($249 list, $199 invite-only price) let you remix the sound around you — from simple graphic-equalizer adjustments to dampen out the treble or bass to site-specific filters like one designed to cut the screech of subway tracks. (Tragically, there’s no filter to cut out Vegas’s slot-machine soundtrack.) If you’d like to feel you’re slowly going mad, you can also apply echo, reverb, and other effects. — R.P. 

Weird: Somabar robo-bartender

At this year’s CES, I was introduced to a robotic bartender called Somabar (now available for presale). The existence of the years-old device wasn’t what surprised me. The fact that it managed to make me a not-terrible-tasting vodka cocktail, however, was a shocker. I still didn’t tip it. D.B.

Cool: BMW gesture control

BMW’s new AirTouch technology will eventually let you navigate your car’s infotainment system using hand gestures. Yes, instead of a touchscreen or knobs, you’ll change the radio station by waving your hands around your car as if you’re in a desperate life-or-death struggle with a housefly. How will this make driving safer and easier? I’m not too sure, but it sure sounds cool. D.H.

Extremely weird: Panasonic smart mirror

Panasonic’s smart mirror prototype can give you an instant virtual makeover with a few taps on the screen. Though this technology is a long way from becoming a reality, we’ll have this virtual image of David Pogue to remember forever. D.T.

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