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CES 2016: iOS Robots and iPhone Lenses Take the Stage

The 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas still has one more day to go, but the flood of press releases from the show has finally subsided down to a mere trickle. Since so many of the announcements in the iOS and OS X world have already been covered here at The Rocket Yard, I thought it would be fun to cover some product releases that are just a little out of the usual realm of things we talk about here.

iOS Robots

Double Robotics Double 2
Double Robotics Double 2

Robots that use iPhones or iPads as “brains” aren’t new, but they’re getting better and — in the case of one product — less expensive.

On the high-end side, you might be familiar with the telepresence robots from Double Robotics from seeing character Phil Dunphy rolling around the house “in one” on a classic episode of Modern Family or in the season 6 episode of Community. The Double robot uses an iPad as the face of the robot, so that someone can control the robot remotely and they can communicate — complete with facial expressions — through the iPad’s screen.

Well, Double has doubled down on the iPad robot by announcing the Double 2 at CES, adding better lateral stability control for driving over bumps or cords, Power Drive for speeding around at an incredible 1.6 miles per hour (the original ran at 0.9 MPH), and a wide-angle lens that makes it possible to control the robot and converse without having to switch between camera views. You know you want a Double 2 to go to work for you, so get out that credit card and pony up your $3,000 today.

UBTech's Jimu Robot
UBTech’s Jimu Robot

On the lower end of the price spectrum is the Jimu Robot from UBTech (see above), running between $99 and $499. It’s actually a bunch of kits that let kids build follow plans to build robotic animals or go off-plan and design their own robots. All of the robots use an iOS (or Android) app for control. Sound like Lego Mindstorms? It’s similar, but the motors are faster and more powerful and the programming interface uses a “follow me” method to quickly get the robot up and running.

iPhone Lenses 

There are a lot of iPhone camera accessory lenses on the market, from incredibly cheap plastic snap-on lenses to the popular olloclip lenses. But for the most part, those lenses leave a bit to be desired in terms of optical quality.

ExoLens Zeiss lenses
ExoLens Zeiss lenses

For that reason, it was nice to hear that longtime camera lens powerhouse Zeiss has finally entered the iPhone accessory lens market with a trio of lenses that will be sold and marketed through a company called ExoLens. The lenses feature a Mutar aspheric design that works with the focusing mechanism of the iPhone camera to produce pictures without distortion or chromatic aberration. What’s available? A 2x telephoto lens, a .6x wide angle lens, and a macro lens that features a zoom function.

Most of the lenses I’ve tested over the years suffer from vignetting — a darkening of the corners of images — and focus issues around the fringes of photos. The ExoLens Zeiss lenses promise to finally bring true high-end optics to the iPhone camera. ExoLens has a mounting bracket for iPhone 6/6s/6 Plus/6s Plus that it sells with “off brand” lenses. Although pricing wasn’t announced, expect the Zeiss name and quality to command a premium price tag. The ExoLens Zeiss lenses will be available in the late second quarter of 2016.

olloclip Studio
olloclip Studio

And while this last item isn’t an iPhone lens kit, it works with the existing olloclip lens line. The $90 olloclip Studio (image above, light and tripod not included) will ship in early February and features an accessory kit that works with a protective kit to turn your iPhone into an accessory-packed camera. Theres a finger grip for stability when handholding the iPhone, clips for attaching tripods, grips or handles, cold shoe adapters, and a kickstand for propping up the iPhone. The entire Studio works seamlessly with all of olloclip’s existing lenses.

These are just a few of the wonderful announcements that have been streaming out of CES 2016 this week. What things are you anticipating the most? Let us know in the comments section below.

And click here for more of the Rocket Yard’s CES 2016 coverage!

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Contributing Author
Steve has been writing about Apple products since 1986, starting on a bulletin board system, creating the first of his many Apple-related websites in 1994, joining the staff of The Unofficial Apple Weblog in 2008, and founding Apple World Today in 2015. He’s semi-retired, loves to camp and take photos, and is an FAA-licensed drone pilot.
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