Orbotix, GeoPalz Lead Colorado Startups at CES in Las Vegas
It’s that time of the year again, when Colorado tech companies leave the winter behind for Las Vegas and the annual Consumer Electronics Show. This year a handful of locally based startups will make the trip, including Orbotix, which is unveiling a new robot, Sphero 2B.
According to the CES media guide, 41 firms headquartered in Colorado will have exhibits at the show. The eclectic list includes mobile device accessory maker OtterBox, several high-end audio equipment manufacturers, and a company that builds massage chairs. Here are a few local startups and one public company worth keeping an eye on:
Back in 2011, Orbotix took CES by storm with Sphero, its smartphone-controlled robotic ball. Now, the company is looking to move beyond the ball with Sphero 2B, a new, two-wheeled robot.
“Sphero has been ’round for a couple years now and we wanted to take the fun experience of driving Sphero, redesign it, flip it around, speed it up, and give fans something completely new,” co-founder Adam Wilson said in a release.
It wasn’t unexpected that Orbotix would shift direction. The company released Sphero 2.0 last summer. The device is a faster version of the original, and at the time Wilson mentioned that Orbotix might be shifting gears, or in this case shapes.
Sphero 2B is appropriately named—it looks a lot like a tube with all-terrain tires at each end. But it’s quite a tube, capable of speeds up to 14 feet per second. The company says it is able to jump three feet in the air, has a one-hour charge, and is connected to iOS or Android phones and tablets with Bluetooth Low Energy.
Sphero 2B will go on sale this fall at a price of less than $100, Orbotix’s press kit said.
Orbotix isn’t neglecting the original version of Sphero, which made the company a hit just months after it graduated from Techstars in 2010. It will release seven new apps for the ball.
Fitbits and Nike Fuel Bands are establishing themselves in the mainstream as a way for adults to track their activity, but what about kids? The founders of GeoPalz, a family-owned startup based in Boulder, think they have an ideal device for the whole family with their “ibitz” activity tracker you can wear on your belt.
GeoPalz has developed apps alongside ibitz in order to keep kids engaged, and at CES it will promote its new tie-ins with Minecraft and Club Penguin. Ibitz Kids will track a child’s physical activity, and the more they walk, run, or play, the closer they’ll get to access special goodies in the game.
Ibitz also works with Ubooly, a stuffed animal that has a slot in its belly for a smartphone. Ubooly is a Boulder-based startup.
If Minecraft, Club Penguin, and Ubooly are meant to be carrots, GeoPalz also has something like a stick. GeoPalz is rolling out LockerBot, a parental control app. The app locks access to a device until a kid reaches physical activity goals he or she has agreed to with parents.
Pivothead is relatively new on the Colorado startup scene, having moved to the state last year, but it’s no less ambitious. The company makes smart glasses that can take pictures, record high-definition videos complete with audio, and upload it all to social networks to share with friends.
Pivothead wants to be one of the first companies to break through in the wearable device market, and its big CES offering, the Pivothead SMART glasses, just might make it so.
SMART glasses place an eight-megapixel Sony CMOS camera over the bridge of the nose, and the battery has enough juice to take one hour of 1080p video, according to the Pivothead specs. By attaching small “smart modules” like a battery pack and wi-fi transmitter, the glasses can go even longer and stream media live to the Internet.
The glasses are also hackable, with an Android software development kit.
Pivothead launched its SMART line in 2012 on Indiegogo and raised more than $140,000.
A lot has been written about Occipital’s Structure Sensor, a 3D infrared scanner for the iPad. Occipital, a Techstars graduate, has received numerous accolades and raised more than $1 million on Kickstarter.
That’s continued at CES, where Occipital already has won an Innovation award in the “Tablets, E-Readers and Mobile Computing” category.
Home automation and smart appliances look to be a hot area at CES, with companies offering up smart locks, thermostats, electric switches, and other devices. The “smart home” is becoming a reality, and Revolv, a Boulder-based startup, is looking to capitalize.
Revolv had developed a smart hub that works with devices and appliances made by other manufacturers like Philips or Belkin. The hub would allow consumers to choose the best or most affordable of each category of device and assemble their own home system. They could use Revolv’s hub to control it all from a smartphone or tablet.
Revolv will be celebrating a new pilot deal with Home Depot, and the company hopes CES helps it build momentum.
“CES is Revolv’s ‘coming out’ party. While we began shipping in November, we feel CES is a big opportunity to get in front of retailers, media, and the tech industry to expand our distribution and build our brand awareness,” Revolv co-founder Mike Soucie said.
Modular Robotics is another robot maker headed to CES. It makes Cubelets, which are robotic cubes that can be programmed and assembled to make a larger robot, and last fall it launched a second line of robots named MOSS.
Last but not least, Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) will be putting in an appearance following its controversial “Best in Show” victory last year for its Hopper with Sling digital video recorder. The device allows viewers to watch videos recorded at home online, on computers, or on mobile devices.
With a market cap of around $26 billion, Dish Network is by no means a startup, but the Englewood-based satellite broadcaster just might be the most disruptive—and sued—tech company in Colorado. The Hopper has inspired numerous disputes with the broadcasting industry, in part because it allows users to edit out commercials from prime time broadcasts.
Regardless of what the networks think, the Hopper is the reigning CES co-champion, besting DVRs offered by direct competitors as well as thousands of other products. Whenever Dish Network heads to CES it’s worth watching, if only to see what fights it might get into.