The Manual’s Best of CES: Part 2

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This year at CES, improving lifestyle through technology and design was a common theme. From next-generation TVs to smart glasses, 3D-printed food, and self-driving cars, manufacturers proved that devices can be more than just fun — they can improve life through smart design. In fact, there were so many great examples that we can’t fit them all in one roundup.

You don’t know Jack … well not yet, anyway. Allow us to introduce you. Jack is the name Audi has given its latest project, a revolutionary autonomous, self-driving Audi A7 prototype, which practically drove itself the 550 miles from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas. The A7 uses an array of sensors to orient itself, and can operate autonomously at speeds up to 70 mph. It can even change lanes and pass other drivers without any human involvement. If a human needs to take over, it will notify the person behind the wheel. The best news? All that sweet, let-you-sit-back-and-read-the-news-while-sipping-coffee-as-Jack-drives-you-to-work technology is planned for inclusion in the Audi A8, a gorgeous luxury vehicle you’ll actually be able to buy soon.


There is perhaps no purveyor of hi-res audio gear more luxurious than Astell & Kern, and when it comes to media servers that can play back any digital music file in your collection, none do it quite so beautifully as Astell and Kern’s AK500N. This $12,000 network music player hides a cornucopia of premium audio components beneath a sleek, futuristic-looking box that was patterned to mimic the Swiss Matterhorn. Sitting up top is a tablet-style interface that makes ripping CDs or finding and playing any and all of your music a piece of cake.  If you’re going to replace your CD player, it might as well look beautiful.

Whether you spring for the Astell & Kern AK500N or decide to simply stick to your laptop, there is perhaps no finer digital music playback amplification (or any other sort, for that matter)  in existence than Mark Levinson’s new № 585 Integrated Amp. Outfitted with only the absolute best components, and more power than you’ll know what to do with (don’t worry, your speakers will) the № 585 is what happens when a team of top-notch engineers go about developing a digital music-friendly system where cost is no object – and its lean and mean look doesn’t hurt either. We had a listen to some hi-res audio files through the № 585 mated to a pair of JBL Synthesis speakers at CES, and the resulting sound was superb. Talk about luxury for the ears!

This year, Samsung called in one of the big guns in design, Yves Behar, to help with the development of its concept television, the S9W. Behar, who is the designer behind One Laptop per Child and the Jawbone headset, head of the dynamic industrial design firm fuseproject, and responsible for untold  Apple designs from his days at Frog Design, collaborated with Samsung on the design According to Behar, it’s meant to pick up touches of the unexpected: moments, details, materials, that add an element of surprise. We think he succeeded. It remains unclear when this TV will be sold, or for how much, but with Behar’s involvement, you can be sure each unique piece will fetch a pretty penny.

Star Trek’s replicator isn’t here just yet, but CES 2015 brought us a whole lot closer. This 3D food printer from XYZprinting was busy at the show cranking out pretty cookie and cake decorations, but its creators suggested that a 3D-printed pizza might not be so far away. XYZprinting isn’t the only 3D printer company chasing the food dragon, as it were – we also caught ChefJet on the show floor, for example, printing out candy and other sorts of sweets. Forget sweets and pizza, we’ll take this tech just a little more seriously when we can bark “Tea, Earle Grey, HOT!” at an empty window and be sipping in mere seconds. Soon, folks … soon.

When was the last time you saw a so-called “desktop PC” actually sitting on a desktop? Most desktop PCs end up on the floor, because … well, that’s the only place they really fit. Plus they tend to be kind of ugly. But now that Intel has developed its new Broadwell processors, computers are getting smaller, lighter, faster and more powerful. In fact, Intel made its own Mini PCs for the first time and showed them off at CES. One of them is just barely over an inch thick, and it looks just as natural on a desktop as a book, or that Zen rock garden you’ve been holding onto since the ‘90s. If you’re not into Intel-branded hardware, you can keep an eye out for more familiar brands putting out their own mini PCs later this year.

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