Boston-Area Companies Showcased at CES 2015

WiTricity phone charging station.
WiTricity phone charging station. (Photo via WiTricity)

By Shannon Nargi
BU News Service

Las Vegas — Sunday marked the beginning of a week-long preview of the biggest and most innovative gadgets and trends that will dominate the 2015 consumer tech industry. While International CES annually takes place out West, that doesn’t mean East Coasters aren’t well represented at the show, especially companies that got their start in Boston.

More than  50 companies who call the Hub home will be showcasing their products throughout this week, and we’ve highlighted five that are poised to steal the show. Here’s a closer look of what you can expect out of Boston at CES 15.


A featured exhibitor this year, WiTricity is focusing on wireless charging. The company is giving a behind-the-scenes look at the commercial future of its technology by demoing a Rezence-ready wireless charging hotspot where attendees can power up their devices, Rezence-enabled consumer and automotive demonstrations, and a glimpse at the “Home of the Future.” The Watertown-based company is the only one from Massachusetts to be chosen as a featured exhibitor, and could dominate wireless talk at the convention.


LoopPay debuted in Las Vegas at CES Unveiled on Sunday
LoopPay debuted in Las Vegas at CES Unveiled on Sunday. (Shannon Nargi/BU News Service)

While Apple Pay may have stolen the show this year as the mobile wallet go-to, LoopPay is poised to be a strong competitor. Aiming to replace all your physical credit and debit cards with easy mobile payments stored on your phone, LoopPay is currently accepted at more than 10,000 locations across the US. And unlike Apple Pay, the system is compatible with older iPhone models as well as some Android devices and is offered in the form of a phone case, FOB key chain and LoopPay Card. The company is based out of Burlington, Mass.

Empire Robotics

Empire Robotics, Inc, which got its start at Cornell before moving to Boston in 2013, is a robotics company that specializes in “flexible robotic end-effectors that leverage the jamming phase transition of granular materials.” In plain English, visualize a robotic arm with a squishy grip attached to the end that molds to the shape of an object making it easy to pick it up. The team of self-dubbed “soft robotics experts,” materials scientists and automation engineers from Empire have come to CES to show off what their technology can do for the field; and they’re doing it in the most fun way possible. Empire has brought along a robot that will challenge CES attendees to a game of beer pong, which will show the ability of the ‘bot to grasp the ping pong balls and launch them towards their target.


The 3D printing design and manufacturing company out of Somerville will focus on its Form 1+ printer here at CES. The printer is an all-inclusive, easy-to-use 3D printer that anyone can buy (for a cool $3,299, that is). Using new materials such as Castable, a liquid resin that allows for little friction and more precise printing of pieces, Formlabs and its devices will be in the mix of trendy 3D printing companies at the show.


Following the huge trend of 2014 and leading into 2015, ecovent is focused on smart homes. By adding sleek, unassuming vents around your home, the company helps you manually spot heat and cool those individual areas by controlling the temperatures via your smart phone. By adding an ecovent to places where there isn’t an existing vent built into your home, you can pinpoint specific areas that need more temperature control than others, like a nursery, for example. The devices can also help save money by eliminating the need to heat empty spaces, like a college student’s empty room while they’re away at school.

For a full list of Massachusetts exhibitors, head here.

Harvard/MIT Scientists Invent Light Sabers…Basically.

By Cassie Martin
BU News Service

Hold on to your seats, Star Wars fans, because what I’m about to tell you is seriously cool. Scientists from Harvard and MIT have created a new form of matter that they are comparing to light sabers.

One of the lead researchers behind this discovery, Harvard Physicist Mikhail Lukin, said in a written statement “The physics of what’s happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies.” Excuse me while my inner nerd jumps up and down with joy.

Toy versions of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader battle in this recreated scene from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Photo courtesy of JD Hancock, Flickr Creative Commons.
Toy versions of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader battle in this recreated scene from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Photo courtesy of JD Hancock, Flickr Creative Commons.

But what is happening, exactly?

Essentially, the researchers created an environment where mass-less photons (light particles) interact so strongly with one another that they act as though they have mass and bind together, forming molecules. But Lukin and his colleagues didn’t use the force to bind the photons together. No, they needed something more substantial.

The researchers pumped a rubidium (highly reactive metal) atom cloud into a vacuum, cooled it to just above absolute-zero, and fired two photons into the cloud using a weak laser. The photons emerged from the cloud stuck together thanks to what’s called the Rydberg blockade — an effect where one photon has to pass off its energy to an atom and move forward before a second photon can excite other nearby atoms. This results in the two photons pushing and pulling each other through the cloud, Lukin explained. “…when they exit the medium they’re much more likely to do so together than as single photons,” he said. The research was published in Nature online September, 25.

No word yet on the creation of real light sabers (one can only hope), but there are potential practical applications for this new discovery including quantum computing and the formation of 3-D structures completely out of light.