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The 10 Coolest Prototypes at CES 2022

These concept devices might not be available to buy today, but they are a window into the future.

By Will Greenwald

CES is full of announcements for different products and services you will be able to buy and use later in the year. It’s also full of things you’ll never be able to purchase (or otherwise won’t see for some time, and in very different forms). Concepts run rampant at CES, and even if they aren’t always realistic, they’re always compelling.

We rounded up the most fascinating prototypes shown off at CES 2022 below (in no particular order). Some, like Alienware’s new eGPU and Samsung’s QD-OLED technology, will probably go on sale at some point. Others, like BMW’s color-changing car and Razer’s Project Sophia gaming desk, are more likely to remain in the proof-of-concept phase.

1. Alexa in Space!

Alexa might be the first voice assistant in space if Amazon and Lockheed-Martin have anything to say about it. They’re planning to send a version of Alexa up with NASA’s Orion Space Capsule during the upcoming Artemis I test launch. It’s part of a technology bundle called Callisto that is designed to test how software like Alexa can help astronauts. I grew up admiring Majel Barrett’s dulcet tones as the voice-controlled computer on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, so putting a voice assistant on a spaceship seems like coming full circle. Let’s just hope Alexa doesn’t go all HAL 9000 once in orbit.

2. Alienware’s Concept Polaris Water-Cools Your Laptop’s External GPU

Liquid cooling for gaming desktops is fairly common. Liquid cooling for gaming laptops is fairly ridiculous. Liquid cooling for very thin laptops is more or less impossible. With that in mind, Alienware’s Concept Polaris takes the idea of an external graphics processing unit (eGPU) and water-cools it. EGPUs are powerful graphics cards that sit in standalone enclosures and are designed to connect externally to thin laptops that have the CPU, memory, and other necessary hardware for gaming, but can’t fit a proper GPU inside.

Concept Polaris is a significantly upgraded version of the Alienware Graphics Amplifier from 2015; it features a completely overhauled design, external power adapters, and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity. Most intriguingly, it lets you slot in any compatible graphics card. Typically, liquid cooling systems need to be designed around the layout of a specific card, but this does not appear to be the case with Concept Polaris. Of course, this is still a concept device, so Alienware doesn’t have to figure out those logistics just yet.

3. BMW’s Color-Changing Concept Car

We’ve seen cars that can stealthily change color in some of the more terrible James Bond films, but they’ve always been far from reality. BMW’s color-changing concept car puts the idea a bit closer to market. It uses color-changing paint that can be activated with the touch of a button. The effect looks cool, but the paint is extremely sensitive to temperature; if it gets too cool (or hot), it might break.

4. Dell’s Concept Luna Makes Laptops Sustainable and Upgradeable

The portability of laptops is their biggest benefit, but it’s also the cause of their biggest weakness. The easiest way to pack all the necessary components for a fully functional computer into a slim design is to slap them onto a single board. However, as a result, it’s almost impossible to upgrade or repair anything beyond maybe swapping out the hard drive and RAM modules. Dell’s Concept Luna prototype tries to break that trend by making laptops more sustainable and even recyclable.

Concept Luna is a modular laptop that makes most of the major parts easy to remove and replace. That’s already a well-established (if rare) concept that we’ve seen with the Framework Laptop, but Concept Luna goes even further by looking at a bigger picture. While it’s only a prototype now, Dell is exploring ways to recycle laptop components or reuse them in other models as they’re replaced. Being able to use your old laptop parts to repair or outright build other laptops like you can do with desktop components would be a big improvement over the one-and-done nature of most laptops now.

5. LG’s OLED Media Chair Is a One-Person Home Theater

A good home theater requires a quality TV (or projector system), powerful speakers, and comfortable seating. It also requires a whole room to let multiple people enjoy it. LG’s OLED Media Chair concept packs those components into a one-person package with a seat that can tilt, a 55-inch curved OLED TV that tilts along with the chair, and both TV-mounted actuators and a chair-mounted speaker for surround sound. The screen can also rotate to portrait orientation if you want to watch TikTok videos or use phone apps. It isn’t the first home entertainment pod we’ve seen at a CES, but it’s one of the sleekest and most interesting.

6. Razer’s Project Sophia Gaming Desk Mixes Up Controls and Layouts

Computer desks can have complicated layouts, but Razer’s Project Sophia is the first we’ve seen that makes nearly everything, from work surfaces to electronics, modular. Its 13 different modules can be swapped around and enable you to set up monitors, touch-screen control panels, audio mixers, pen tablets, and capture cards however you want. You can move each part around the glass desktop in seconds to arrange the components and controls in different setups.

7. Samsung’s QD-Display Blends Nano Dots With OLED Panels

Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) is a display technology that individually controls each pixel’s color and light emission; most TVs combine liquid crystal display (LCD) panels with light-emitting diode (LED) arrays. Quantum dots are nanotechnology that affect the wavelength of light that passes through them. We’ve seen OLED TVs and LED TVs with quantum dots, but 2022 is the first time we’re seeing OLED TVs with quantum dots. Samsung’s QD-Display is a concept that layers quantum dots on top of an OLED panel to expand color range and brightness beyond what the panel can normally do. This could make the already excellent picture quality of OLED TVs even better.

Samsung might be pioneering the technology, but it may not be the first company to have a QD-OLED TV to market. Sony announced its Master Series XR-A95J at CES as well. That model also pairs an OLED panel with quantum dots. This doesn’t necessarily mean Sony has mastered the technology ahead of Samsung; Sony doesn’t manufacture its OLED panels (most are from LG), so the A95J’s most interesting component might have come from Samsung.

8. See Eye-to-Eye on Video Calls With Dell’s Concept Pari

As conceptual designs go, this isn’t the most technologically revolutionary. In fact, it’s one of the most obvious and simple solutions to a problem we’ve long faced: Because webcams are usually mounted on top of monitors, it’s hard to look at people on the screen while keeping eye contact with the camera. Dell’s Concept Pari fixes that by…moving the webcam to the middle of the screen.

Concept Pari is a wireless webcam with a charging dock mounted on the top of a monitor. When you want to take a video call, just pull the camera off of the dock and stick it to the center of the monitor. Now, when you look at the people on the call, the camera is right there too.

9. Stream Any Game, Anywhere With Alienware’s Concept NYX

Alienware pushes the idea of local game streaming to new levels with its Concept NYX prototype, a monolithic PC tower designed to let you mix, match, and shuffle any game you want to any room in your house. The system serves as a local gaming server, running and streaming up to four different games to a monitor or TV connected to the same Wi-Fi network. It can even stream two games to the same TV, thus letting roommates play their favorite games simultaneously from the same couch. Local game streaming has long been a feature offered by Nvidia and Steam in different ways, but this multi-stream setup is an entirely new concept.

10. TCL’s XR Concept Glasses Put a Micro LED Display in Front of Your Eyes

Head-mounted augmented reality still has a way to go before it leaves the design table and engineering lab and lands on our faces, but TCL’s XR Concept Glasses are one potential route for it. These ordinary-looking glasses use a micro LED display with “full-lens holographic waveguide technology” to project a large, see-through image in front of your eyes. The glasses will offer self-contained apps, supposedly letting them function free of a connected smartphone. TCL showed off only the industrial design at CES but might have a working prototype at Mobile World Congress (MWC). Either way, it’s still a concept device; if you want a wearable screen you can purchase, TCL also announced a new version of Nxtwear, the Nxtwear Air, which looks much less clunky than the previous model.

Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com.

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