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Masks, Sanitizers And Social Distancing Gadgets: The COVID Tech That Dominated CES 2021

With virtual booths and digital portals taking the place of convention center halls and showcases, CES in the time of coronavirus looked different. So did some of the tech.

COVID-oriented tech products stood out at this year’s CES. Some brands debuted new products made for the pandemic, others found that items they’d been working on all along now have newfound applications and relevance.

But is “COVID tech” really necessary? After all, the best way to slow the spread of the virus is to practice social distancing and wear a face mask, which can be as simple as a bandana or a repurposed old T-shirt — fundamentally low-tech strategies.

“I think that most of what I would have seen there was indeed meant to solve a real and present use case related to COVID; it wasn’t just marketing speak,” Jason Cottrell, the CEO of the software studio and product development company MyPlanet, said.

MyPlanet works with companies to develop new products and studies consumer attitudes to emerging technology. Cottrell found that the strategy of many brands getting into COVID tech has been to tweak, repurpose, or add new features to existing products, such as adding contact tracing capabilities to smartphones. Company surveys have found that consumers aren’t so enthusiastic about specific COVID tech in general, but have found greater usefulness for some futuristic products, like autonomous delivery robots.

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