Drones, Apple clones, and a robot named Pudding at China’s first-ever CE Week

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There was plenty to see at a brand new tech show in China this week, and DT dropped by to check out the kind of gear currently knocking about in the world’s second largest economy.

The show, called CE China, is the work of the same team behind the giant IFA tech event held annually in Berlin and comes in response to the insatiable desire of China’s burgeoning middle class for the latest gadgets and gizmos made both home and abroad.

Taking place in the massive southern city of Shenzhen – think of it as the country’s Silicon Valley – the three-day event also has backing from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, as well as regional electronics retailers Suning and Gome.

The largest stands were taken by German giants Siemens and Bosch, though it’s fair to say the debut show’s 150 or so exhibitors comprised mainly Chinese firms showcasing smaller home appliances and other gadgets – including many oddities that we’ll never see stateside, or even in Europe. Here are some of our favorites.

All-in-one Apple-esque PC

Vargo’s stand received plenty of foot traffic, with many interested in the firm’s “all-in-one PC with global first 34 inches super-wide” – and gently curving – 4K Ultra HD display. Like many products on show at CE China, Vargo’s PC, which costs around 9000 RMB ($1,400), is likely to stay in the domestic market when it goes on sale in the summer, though a global launch hasn’t been ruled out.

If you think the PC looks a bit “Mac,” then wait till you see Vargo’s phones. Its range of Android handsets look remarkably like the iPhone 6, with the similarities extending to the reverse of the device where you’ll find the “ivargo” logo staring back at you. The design of its online store, too, also looks rather familiar.

Specs-style VR kit

As you’d expect, you couldn’t go too far at the exhibition without seeing a visitor with VR gear strapped to their head. Dlodlo, for example, caught our eye, though admittedly as much for its name as its product. With most of today’s headsets still resembling something close to a shoebox, a specs-style unit from Dlodlo (pronounced “dodo” – hopefully the company won’t go the same way) drew some attention.

Dlodlo claims the 78-gram specs offer a VR experience akin to the bulkier offerings on the market today. We say “claim” because we were only offered a glimpse of the kit. The company says it’s going to unveil a working model at a special event in New York City later this year. We’ll be waiting for that.

Bikes

Transportation tech included a funky-looking electric skateboard/bike/scooter contraption capable of covering 50 miles on a single charge at speeds of up to 12.5 mph. And no, like much of the stuff at the show, you won’t be seeing it outside of China anytime soon, though if you live there you can grab one for 5000 RMB ($770).

Livall, a small Shenzhen startup that we covered last year, was also at CE China to show off its latest bike helmets. This company does sell globally, with its $119 headgear offering features such as safety lighting that flashes to indicate upcoming maneuvers, call functionality when paired with a smartphone, speakers designed to let you hear external sounds as well as your music, and an SOS alert system that automatically notifies your closest contacts if you have an accident. Another design launching in May for $199 also incorporates a heart-rate sensor.

Health

Speaking of health, Chinese startups, like their Western counterparts, are also making a big push for this particular market, with a myriad of related gadgets appearing on stands throughout the hall.

Drones

Surprisingly, there were few drones at the show, though this was partly because Chinese drone success DJI wasn’t present. However, we managed to track down at least one flying machine, a follow-me quadcopter called Skye Orbit. Currently a Kickstarter project, Skye Orbit is aimed at outdoor enthusiasts and features a patented auto-follow system, flight control system, and integrated tracking system. The on-board camera shoots at 16 megapixels, sending images back to your smartphone “with a mere 170-millisecond delay.”

Mini bots

Small robots designed to keep the littl’uns happy seemed particular popular, with most of them able to sing, dance, play videos on built-in displays, take photos, respond to various commands, and translate simple phrases into English.

Another mini robot, with the interesting name of “Pudding,” acts as a home monitor. Controllable via a smartphone app, you can rotate Pudding to get a view of an entire room when you’re out, and should you spot any thieves rummaging through your belongings, its speaker will let you deliver messages like, “Please stop burglarizing my home, I really don’t have anything worth stealing.” Though they might take Pudding.

Compact projector

Presenting at a pre-show event, ZTE unveiled a working version – save for a little trouble with focusing – of the Spro Plus portable projector we first heard about back in September. The tablet-like device lets you project straight onto any surface, giving you a 720p picture of about 80 inches from a distance of three feet. ZTE is particularly proud of the improved speakers over the Spro 2, while the latest device also comes with a bright 500-lumens laser for a superior picture, replacing the earlier model’s dimmer LED lamp.

360-degree camera

Panono co-founder Jonas Pfeil was also in Shenzhen this week talking about his spherical panoramic camera, which claims to be “the highest resolution 360-degree camera on the market.” The device incorporates 36 cameras that each shoot 3-megapixel pictures to create a single 108-megapixel image. DT wrote about an early version of the device back in 2013, though the Berlin-based startup has clearly come a long way since then. The camera’s been on sale since September last year.

Extras

The show also featured what must be the world’s largest karaoke screen, a wandering one-eyed Minion, and some wacky electronic instruments that, should you need any assistance, help you play along. And we mustn’t forget the troop of dancing robots, multiple food blenders, vacuum cleaners, kids’ smartwatches, a vast array of massage chairs, Bluetooth headsets masquerading as jewelry, and ultra-long Lightning cables for iOS devices.

Globally famous Chinese brands such as Xiaomi, Huawei, DJI, and Lenovo opted to skip CE China’s inaugural event, perhaps preferring to see how it develops over the next few years before deciding whether to commit. Likewise, other Asian giants, among them Japan’s Sony and Korea’s Samsung, also chose not to join.

Perhaps with CES China kicking off in Shanghai last year, IFA felt compelled to get involved, and is now banking on China’s fast-expanding middle class to increase its interest in consumer tech in the coming years. Compared to IFA’s Berlin event, this week’s CE China event was tiny, but as the Chinese saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles is started by taking the first step.”

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