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The 2021 virtual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) arrived and departed as ephemerally as a former president’’s tweet.

Originally predicted to entice 170,000 people to Las Vegas, it became a virtual worldwide event with all of the glamour of online classroom learning.

Every year, CES debuts head-scratching novelties, but rarely from major brand names.

This year, Samsung introduced JetBot 90 AI+, a robo-vacuum cleaner with a security camera so you can view its travels on your smartphone or tablet.

It inhales dirt while seeing if there’s any dirt that walks on two legs. Samsung did not offer a price.

Not to be outdone, LG introduced the CordZero ThinQ A9 Kompressor+, a robo-vac that empties itself, akin to a potty-trained vacuum.

When it finishes its appointed rounds, it transfers its detritus to a bin in its storage/recharging stand.

After approximately 10 transfers, you still must manually empty the docking station bin. LG announced no price.

If that’s not enough, Proctor & Gamble, maker of Pampers, introduced diapers with sensors and a camera to let parents know when baby requires changing. Oh, joy!

Televisions, as usual, stole the show, absent the ooohs and ahhhs, since most CES participants and journalists only could view them on far inferior computer monitors.

Samsung, ever jealous of LG’s lead in large-screen OLED sets, refined one of its existing technologies as well as offering a new technology for home sets.

Samsung upped its game with Neo QLED (not to be confused with OLED), a technology for brighter pictures while maintaining dark blacks.

It’s still not quite as good with blackest blacks as LG and Sony OLED models, but very close.

Neo QLED uses mini-LED backlights for more precise illumination and less light bleed in dark areas of the picture.

Vizio joined the LG and Sony OLED party, which means OLED prices probably will fall further.

Going the other direction, LG introduced the first major improvement in OLED TV with the EVO OLED displaying a brighter, clearer picture.

The large screen models, 77 inches and over, will cost somewhere north of $30,000.

LG also tantalized with a future OLED model that, when not displaying a TV picture, becomes transparent.

Incidentally, LG manufactures the LED panels for Sony and Vizio, but those two companies design their own electronics, which account for differences in picture quality.

Samsung, the only smartphone company that holds its own against Apple, introduced its newest phones, the S21, S21 Ultra and S21 Plus during CES, but not actually at CES, if that makes any sense in this virtual world.

Most pundits raved about them, especially since Samsung kept the starting price at $800 while topping out at $1,200, much more reasonable than previous generations of its flagship phones.

Samsung eliminated chargers and headphones as part of the price reduction.

These phones surpass previous Samsung flagship models in nearly every respect from processor to display to cameras to improved, more damage-resistant glass.

Competitor LG raised the ante on flexible phones by surpassing Samsung’s foldable screen phone with a phone based upon a roll-up display.

The prosaically-named LG Rollable is promised to arrive later this year. LG provided few details or a price.

TCL also intrigued with its own rollable phone. Perhaps next year a flood of rollables will appear, although they provide dubious benefits.

General Motors rarely joins the lunatic fringe, but it showed its prototype autonomously controlled Cadillac electric air taxi.

It ascends and descends vertically, which is good because it lacks wheels for driving on the ground.

GM offered no production commitment, and if you have to ask how much it will cost, you certainly can’t afford it.

Sony’s electric concept car also returned in a more developed iteration.

Last year, pundits viewed it merely a showcase for Sony’s various technologies.

This year, it left the same pundits wondering if it might be a future real product.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at hifiguy@volo.net.

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