At all-virtual CES, the spotlight is on touchless tech, robot companions — and smart bathrooms

CES typically draws thousands of people to Las Vegas in January to see and demo the latest gadgets and tech innovations.

One of the largest technology shows in the world, CES has gone completely online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So instead of crowded aisles and gimmicks like giant slides and roaming robots, CES 2021 features virtual press conferences and live-streamed events.

But there's no shortage of digital health and wellness products being showcased at CES this year and the pandemic appears to have inspired new products designed to remotely track health conditions and mental wellbeing as consumers spend more time at home. Companies have developed robots to help around the house and to even keep you company, "smart home" technologies to provide more hygienic, touchless experiences, and devices to help older adults age in place.

The conference kicked off Monday with media day presentations. Here are some of the biggest health tech themes and wackiest new wellness ideas among the product announcements this year:

Remote monitoring

The use of remote monitoring technologies and wearables has accelerated during the pandemic as a way to track health conditions while consumers stay safely at home.

Health technology giant Philips showcased its digital health solutions that focus on moving healthcare outside the four walls of the hospital.

The company has integrated the BioIntelliSense BioSticker wearable sensor into its remote patient monitoring system to help monitor at-risk patients from the hospital into the home. The Biosticker is a disposable, small patch that’s worn on the skin and monitors physiological biometrics and symptomatic events including skin temperature, resting heart rate, resting respiratory rate, body position, activity levels, and cough frequency.

BioIntelliSense BioSticker sensor (Philips)

BioIntelliSense also is collaborating with the American College of Cardiology (ACC) to offer the BioButton as a COVID-19 screening tool to ACC members at its annual conference in May, the organizations announced Monday. 

"We have witnessed the reinvention of our homes as a core element of the healthcare pathway, with telehealth, virtual and remote care technologies as the key drivers for change during COVID-19. And these changes are here to stay," said Deeptha Khanna, chief business leader, personal health at Philips in a statement.

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HD Medical launched a remote monitoring solution called HealthyU that it says can monitor multiple vital signs while providing a built-in 7-lead ECG and stethoscope in one simple device. The technology can track lung sounds, heart rate, temperature, respiratory rate, and cuffless blood pressure trends, the company said.

Wearables also are being designed to help older adults a smarter way to age in place with advanced fall detection. FallCall Solutions designed an Apple Watch app that can distinguish between falls with greater force that are more likely to cause injury and falls that occur from a sitting position. If a high-impact fall is detected, FallCall's medical monitoring service is automatically contacted and will send emergency services if needed. 

Medical device company Omron Healthcare also unveiled its first remote patient monitoring device for hypertension management. The VitalSight solution can be delivered to patients' homes and can include a digital blood pressure monitor with cuff, weight scale, and digital medication tracker, as well as a data hub to share measurements with the patient's physician and care team. The solution directly links to a physician’s electronic health record (EHR) system.

"Smarter" homes to support wellness

As consumers spend more time at home, companies are putting a greater focus on advanced digital living. 

"Intelligent" toilets are not a brand-new innovation—there were plenty on display at CES 2020—but Kohler continues to expand on the trend with a focus on wellness and touchless experiences.

The company's debuted its Innate Intelligent Toilet that offers a heated seat, auto opening and closing, a remote, as well as a personal bidet function. That will set you back about $3,000 when it's available.

RELATED: A look at the most interesting health tech at CES 2020

Kohler also unveiled a touchless bathroom faucet that offers hands-free activation for washing hands to decrease the potential spread of bacteria and germs and a "stillness bath" that includes light, fog, and aromas and "draws its inspiration from Japanese forest bathing." 

The Themis Smart Mirror from CareOS can support home health and wellness including hygiene, mental health, skincare, and preventive healthcare, according to the company. The device collects data from several sensors such as a high-quality RGB camera, an IR temperature sensor, and a UV light for skin analysis. 

The need to take care of hygiene and health concerns at home has intensified since the COVID-19 pandemic, and the smart mirror acts as a personal wellness assistant to perform skin analysis, daily temperature checks, smart alerts, and fertility cycle reminders. The device can interoperate with smart scales, ECG trackers, and digital showerheads, resulting in a fully connected bathroom. 

Digital self-care 

At-home fitness also became a hot trend in 2020. Health and fitness platform Ultrahuman unvieled a new fitness platform that helps people meditate, workout efficiently, and optimize their sleep with the help of athletes, neuroscientists, artists, and psychologists. There's also bedtime stories written by award-winning authors designed to relax users into sleep.

The app also integrates biofeedback via its Apple watch integration to measure and improve the efficacy of meditation and workouts. 

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A startup called AlphaBeats designed a system that uses a person’s favorite music to relax their brain. Based on real-time monitoring of brain and heart activity, an algorithm enables a slight modification of the music, enticing the brain to go into an “alpha mode” and relax.

Samsung Bot Care and Bot Handy (Samsung)

Robots for everyday life

During a keynote presentation Monday, technology giant Samsung presented new products as part of its focus on a "Better Normal for All." The company's solution use AI to make daily life seamless, Samsung said.

“Our world looks different, and many of you have been faced with a new reality–one where, among other things, your home has taken on a greater significance,” said Sebastian Seung, president and head of Samsung Research.

Samsung Bot Care, the latest development in Samsung’s growing robotics lineup, is designed to use AI to recognize and respond to user's behavior. It will act as both a robotic assistant and companion, such as learning a user's schedule and habits and sending reminders about important tasks, the company said.

Samsung Bot Handy will rely on advanced AI to recognize and pick up objects of varying sizes, shapes, and weights to help with work around the house.

Petit Qoobo therapeutic robot (Yukai)

While it might not fall under digital health, robotics startup Yukai Engineering has come up with a product that could count as therapy during these challenging times. Petit Qoobo is a portable-sized therapeutic robot in the shape of a cat, sort of. The robot is in the form of a cushion with a tail that swings and wags at the sound of the user's voice and is designed to help soothe the user.