I was told there would be Plinko.
Showstoppers is an event at the Consumer Electronics Show that is a kind of mini CES. Except instead of big brands like Microsoft, Sony, and Samsung showing off, it’s for nascent startups. It is not unlike the early rounds of American Idol. Hopeful founders do their very best to make their gadgets sing while reporters watch with quiet judgment. (I was Randy — politely enthusiastic while retaining a healthy dose of skepticism.)
In a preview of the event, insurance firm Assurant had promised to host Plinko, the signature Price Is Right game, on the Showstoppers floor. It had even used rhyme to indicate how delightful this experience would be: “So where do they live, those risks that abound? Play Plinko with Assurant and they’re sure to be found.” I was in.
I never ended up finding Assurant’s booth, so I can’t say for sure what games it had. But I know this: The Showstoppers ballroom featured no giant, triangle-filled boards through which I could drop fist-size chips in hopes of winning thousands of dollars. And if I’m not scaling a flight of stairs to drop a chip down a board the size of an elephant, and then spending five agonizing seconds enraptured by the hope that this right here is the moment my whole life changes, I’m not playing Plinko.
Even though I couldn’t take part in my favorite Price Is Right pastime, I decided to channel the iconic morning game show anyway. I surveyed the most fanciful household appliances on display and tried to guess each of their prices. See if you can fare better than I did based on the product descriptions.
(Note: I am the kind of person who would guess $1 every time in the first round of The Price Is Right.)
Nightfall. You stumble into your pitch-black kitchen for a midnight stack. After you cough, a lone, piercing eyeball stares expectantly at you from your kitchen counter, swiveling to track to your voice. Its name is Hello Egg.
This niche digital assistant is essentially a cooking-focused version of Amazon Echo. Users largely interact with it via voice commands, which it can also use to track your movements around the kitchen. The device helps plan meals according to users’ diets and also keeps a food shopping list. But the main draw is the egg’s ability to display video recipes on its curved screen, along with step-by-step instructions (lists and recipes are accessed via an accompanying app). A conversational AI means users should be able to chat with it like it’s a wise chef rather than a robot. It also functions as a plain old egg timer. That’s a lot of functionality that you could also get with a regular egg timer, a free diet app, and a laptop running YouTube cooking videos, but to each his own.
Victor’s guess: $200
Actual retail price: $350 for the premium version, $120 for the basic version (which plays video on a phone screen rather than using projectors within the egg)
Folding clothes sucks — I mean, yes, people have been doing it more or less without issue for centuries and the vast majority of the world’s population could not even fathom spending money on a device to achieve this mundane but ultimately dead-simple task. But … it does kinda suck, right? Enter the Foldimate. Simply clip your unfolded shirt, pants, or dress to the front of the device, then watch it suck the article into its hull and output the piece of fabric with Dillard’s-level clean folded lines in five seconds (the company won’t say exactly how the device folds, calling the robotics technique its “secret sauce”). There’s even a steam treatment for dewrinkling. Thousands of people have already paid a deposit on the device, which hasn’t launched yet, and some of its most eager early fans may surprise you. “It turns out there’s a lot of single men that don’t like folding laundry,” a spokeswoman for the Foldimate told me.
Victor’s guess: $300
Actual retail price: $700-$850
When was the last time you really looked at your trash can? Is it the best trash can it could possibly be? Could the act of throwing away refuse be made more efficient? Of course it could — this is CES. The GeniCan is essentially a portable barcode scanner that you can attach to the rim of any (rectangular-shaped) trash can. When you run out of an item, scan its barcode on the GeniCan before tossing it, and it will be added to your digital shopping list. Want to note that you’re out of a non-barcoded item like fruit? If you cover the scanner, the device, which uses voice-recognition technology, will ask you what item you want to add to your list. Through a partnership with Amazon, users can also set up automatic purchase and delivery of items right when they’re scanned.
Victor’s guess: $75
Actual retail price: $150
Full disclosure: I know less than nothing about how you’re supposed to feed, clothe, change, or generally ensure the well-being of a baby. So the CloudTot, a smart-baby bassinet, is not for me — it’s for people like Kim Kardashian West and Michael Phelps, who, according to manufacturer DockATot, are already users of the company’s products. The CloudTot can detect when a baby hasn’t moved in 12 seconds and alert parents accordingly. It also detects moisture so parents know when it’s time for a diaper change. And because every modern child-adjacent product must in some way help to keep children quiet, it also plays music.
Victor’s guess: $125
Actual retail price: $250