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Digital Trends Tech For Change CES 2021 Awards

CES is more than just a smorgasbord of new gadgets and flashy concepts for consumers. More and more, it’s also a place where companies showcase innovations that could truly make the world a better place. At CES 2021, this type of tech — what we call Tech for Change — was out in full force. We saw everything from solar-powered remotes that eliminate the need for disposable batteries, to machines that pull drinking water out of thin air. But of all the world-changing tech on display this year, these four innovations impressed us the most:

Valencell blood pressure sensor

Blood pressure is a profoundly useful health metric. With this single measurement, doctors can assess your risk of developing heart disease: The number one cause of death in the world. The only problem, of course, is that most of us only get our blood pressure checked when we visit the doctor, so high blood pressure can go undetected for years before it’s addressed.

But what if that wasn’t the case? What if everyone could monitor blood pressure continuously, throughout the day, and catch any associated health issues before they become problematic?

That’s the promise of Valencell’s latest sensor. By shining a light onto your wrist, measuring how much bounces back, and letting machine learning algorithms make inferences with that data, the company’s sensors can estimate the pressure in your veins nearly as accurately as a cuff.

Better yet, the sensors are set to debut in wearable devices later this year. If all goes according to plan, we might soon have a powerful weapon in the fight against heart disease.

Luci wheelchair autonomy system

You know how automakers make their cars safer by adding features like lane-assist, blindspot sensors, and auto-braking? Luci is effectively the same idea, but designed specifically for powered wheelchairs. It’s an aftermarket accessory that, once installed, can provide the user with advanced safety features like curb/drop detection, auto-braking, and obstacle avoidance. In other words, it makes it easier for wheelchair-bound folks to move through a world that mostly isn’t designed for them.

Best of all? Luci isn’t some big, expensive, full-featured wheelchair that only a few people can afford. It’s a kit that’s designed to attach to a huge range of different wheelchair models, so users can affix it to the one they’ve already got instead of buying a completely new machine. Pretty awesome, right?

EyeQue VisionCheck 2 

Telehealth is a great idea in theory, but in practice it basically means you talk to a doctor on a tablet. We just don’t really have the technology to do full-fledged health checkups from afar right now. But EyeQue is on a mission to change that.

The company’s latest product, the VisionCheck 2, is an exceptionally clever smartphone accessory that, with the help of some MIT-patented technology and an accompanying application, allows you to check your vision whenever you want — no optometrist needed. By simply looking into the device and playing a quick game, you can test for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. You can even update your prescription and order new lenses with just a few taps.

It’s stuff like this that makes us excited for the future. What other tests and health exams will we be doing remotely a few years from now?

Widex Moment hearing aids

Once upon a time, hearing aids were basically just volume controllers that let you crank up the gain and make everything louder — including stuff you didn’t necessarily want to hear, like background noise and voices of strangers across the room. But lately, there has been something of a revolution in hearing tech. Nowadays, many hearing aids are equipped with advanced signal processing software that provides more granular control over what you hear.

Widex Moment takes this idea a few steps further. The device uses onboard A.I. to adapt — in real-time, with nearly zero latency — to whatever listening environment you’re in. Whether you’re in a crowded pub, a quiet cafe, or a movie theater with big swings in volume, the A.I. will recognize what’s going on and only amplify the sounds that are important. Better yet, it also lets you fine-tune the output to suit your preferences, and learns over time how you like to hear the world, no matter where you might find yourself.

Also check out the winners of our Top Tech and Audience Choice awards. 

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