Live From CES 2022: This Year’s Hottest Trends

JC: Yeah. I mean, one of my most favorite things I think of all CESs that I’ve ever attended was I discovered basically a chess board with moving pieces, the pieces that move themselves through magnets and you’re just … It was crazy. It’s basically Wizard’s Chest from Harry Potter. It blew my mind. I found it at some random booth in Eureka park at CES several years ago. And to this day that’s like one of the things that I think I’ll eventually buy. It’s like $200, so it’s pretty expensive. But one day I’ll buy it. But it’s one of those things that it’s like, I’m not going to see that, I’m not going to find that on like a virtual CES.

Already I feel like I’ve had so much trouble finding a lot of these weird fun gadgets and gizmos that were so easy to come by before. Now it’s mostly the big announcements from the big companies, which we all get in our inboxes. But it’s just hard and difficult to find the fun stuff from the weird French district of CES or whatever, really. So that’s something that I definitely miss and hopefully next I’ll be traversing those halls.

MC: Yeah. La French Tech always has some of the best toys. One of the things that often gets lost in the conversation is the fact that CES is fundamentally a B2B show, right? So it’s like a business deal show. It’s set up so that the person who is the buyer where the big box store chain can show up and meet with the sales rep for Hisense televisions and the sales rep for, I don’t know, TCL vacuum cleaners and put in like millions of dollars worth of orders. So it’s a show where big retail deals get done and big distribution deals get done.

And that as spec pretty much has to be in person. I’m sure that there are a lot of deals done over the pandemic, not in person. But part of the healthy consumer electronics economy, that face to face interaction is going to be critical. For us as journalists covering it, I echo what everybody else just said. I really miss wandering aimlessly through the Las Vegas Convention Center for three days straight, blurry eye, shuffling my feet, undernourished, just collecting content to put onto the internet.

LG: I miss celebrating your birthday in person in Las Vegas, Mike, because every year your birthday falls either during CES or just afterwards. And so I have these great photos of CES 2020 of all of us packed into a restaurant, exchanging all kinds of respiratory droplets before we knew what was imminent. And we get you vegan cupcakes.

MC: Oh, I remember those cupcakes.

LG: I mean, I do miss that. I do miss paying $11 for a coffee at Bouchon Bakery in The Venetian every morning. But I miss that a lot. One of my favorite CES stories similar to Julian’s is several years ago, I think it was 2013, I was on the ground for CES for probably four or five days, very tired. On my way out an editor messaged me and said, “Lauren, everyone’s talking about this thing. It’s being shown in a back room, in a hotel room. You have to go see it.” I mean, I think I was literally on my way out the door with luggage. And I’m like, “OK, I’ll go see this thing.” So I went to this hotel suite and it was Oculus. It was like, blew my mind, like totally blew my mind. It was Brendan Iribe. Am I saying his name correctly? Sorry Brendan I’m butchering your name. It was just this big boxy thing, right. It had been crowdfunded and I’m not even a huge gamer.

North Korean Hackers Stole Nearly $400 Million in Crypto Last Year

The past year saw a breathtaking rise in the value of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, with Bitcoin gaining 60 percent in value in 2021 and Ethereum spiking 80 percent. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the relentless North Korean hackers who feed off that booming crypto economy had a very good year as well.

North Korean hackers stole a total of $395 million worth of crypto coins last year across seven intrusions into cryptocurrency exchanges and investment firms, according to blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis. The nine-figure sum represents a nearly $100 million increase over the previous year’s thefts by North Korean hacker groups, and it brings their total haul over the past five years to $1.5 billion in cryptocurrency alone—not including the uncounted hundreds of millions more the country has stolen from the traditional financial system. That hoard of stolen cryptocurrency now contributes significantly to the coffers of Kim Jong-un’s totalitarian regime as it seeks to fund itself—and its weapons programs—despite the country’s heavily sanctioned, isolated, and ailing economy.

“They’ve been very successful,” says Erin Plante, a senior director of investigations at Chainalysis, whose report calls 2021 a “banner year” for North Korean cryptocurrency thefts. The findings show that North Korea’s global, serial robberies have accelerated even in the midst of an attempted law enforcement crackdown; the US Justice Department, for instance, indicted three North Koreans in absentia in February of last year, accusing them of stealing at least $121 million from cryptocurrency businesses along with a slew of other financial crimes. Charges were also brought against a Canadian man who had allegedly helped to launder the funds. But those efforts haven’t stopped the hemorrhaging of crypto wealth. “We were excited to see actions against North Korea from law enforcement agencies,” Plante says, “yet the threat persists and is growing.”

The Chainalysis numbers, based on exchange rates at the time the money was stolen, don’t merely point to an appreciation of cryptocurrency’s value. The growth in stolen funds also tracks with the number of thefts last year; the seven breaches Chainalysis tracked in 2021 amount to three more than in 2020, though fewer than the 10 successful attacks that North Korean hackers carried out in 2018, when they stole a record $522 million.

For the first time since Chainalysis began tracking North Korean cryptocurrency thefts, Bitcoin no longer represents anywhere near the majority of the country’s take, accounting for only around 20 percent of the stolen funds. Fully 58 percent of the groups’ cryptocurrency gains came instead in the form of stolen ether, the Ethereum network’s currency unit. Another 11 percent, around $40 million, came from stolen ERC-20 tokens, a form of crypto asset used to create smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain.

Chainalysis’s Plante attributes that increased focus on Ethereum-based cryptocurrencies—$272 million in total thefts last year versus $161 million in 2020—to the skyrocketing price of assets in the Ethereum economy, combined with the nascent companies that growth has fostered. “Some of these exchanges and trading platforms are just newer and potentially more vulnerable to these types of intrusions,” she says, “They’re trading heavily in ether and ERC-20 tokens, and they’re just easier targets.”

Mirrorscape Wants to Conjure Your Favorite Tabletop Game in AR

Breaking down cost and technical barriers to the game, as well as organization hurdles, throws open the doors for entire demographics of new players, even subverting certain physical requirements that make the game prohibitive for disabled people.

Ambitiously, Mirrorscape also intends to serve as a springboard for creators too, by integrating the tools to create and share custom content. Players can already share their maps on the prototype, which will one day be able to showcase custom stat blocks, rulesets, character options, environment art, and special effects.

“We want to democratize this process,” Anderson insists, “with low costs of entry, making it affordable and cooperative, supporting creators who want to build something special, and accommodating the infrastructure to get them paid for their time.”

“It’s hard to remember,” McIntire adds, “but before YouTube, independent filmmakers and content creators didn’t really have a flagship platform to go to. It wasn’t really a job as we understand it today before the 2010s. I think homebrewers, tabletop artists, and freelance DMs are still in that position. We want to answer that demand with a platform and social network for tabletop creators and indie game makers, that lets them do sustainable business.”

Mirrorscape isn’t the first virtualized tech project to put developing power in the hands of its early adopters. From Oculus to Tilt Five, developers have shipped dev kits to early adopters, almost as if they’re reliant on the free labor they’re tempting customers into. But Mirrorscape does appear unique in its stance on expanding the homebrew economy and the creative license owed to the fandom.

Anyone reading the news would think ours were a time of franchise owners doubling down on IP protection. As recently as mid-2021. Games Workshop clamped down on nonprofit fan animations, perhaps galled by the success of Syama Pedersen’s Astartes Project.

“We’re not a company that thinks we have all the answers,” concludes Don Bland, COO at Mirrorscape, “we think that our audience does. Enabling and empowering that audience will create the proving ground to build out the future of play on the tabletop.”

This, combined with their collaborate-to-compete strategy, sounds encouraging.

Visualizing the Imagination

The crucial part of visualizing in-depth roleplaying on the table is one of cinematography, something few virtualized entertainment projects have made themselves known for. Naturally, the bar for setting the scene in roleplay is high, having been long defined by the limitless capacity of nerd imagination. With an entirely unproven technology, augmented reality is ill-placed to deliver to such a standard, making this a stumbling block for any developer.

“We’re still working out how to make this a real cinematic experience,” Don Bland admits, “that accommodates the many, many ways this game can be played and enjoyed.”

It’s easy to get excited about the augmented tabletop, for how it might further revitalize tabletop gaming, galvanizing the momentum Dungeons & Dragons has trailblazed in the 2010s, and bringing the alarmingly cool worlds of Games Workshop to life for the first time.

As Joe Manganiello beautifully summed up, “Our success in creative fields was forged out of putting in our 10,000 hours as kids sitting around tables with graph paper and lead pencils developing characters and stories. We were the generation dreaming of this day decades ago and now here we are finally bringing it to the masses.”


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16 Great Deals on TVs, Apple Headphones, Soundbars, and More

With the Super Bowl around the corner and the weather still freezing in most of the northern hermisphere, now is a great time to snag some home entertainment products to help you make it through until the grass starts growing again. This week we’ve found excellent discounts on the best TVs, soundbars, headphones, and some other favorite tech.

Interested in venturing outside? Check out our list of great camera gear on sale right now.

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TV Deals

LG C1 OLED

Photograph: LG

With a 120-Hz refresh rate and super-low input lag, the LG C1 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is the best-looking TV I’ve ever used to play video games. It also has perfect black levels, a very easy-to-use interface, and a remote that you can point and click like the Wiimotes of old. It’s the prettiest screen I’ve seen for the price.

If you don’t need a mammoth screen, this is a solid deal on a very decent Samsung. It has the company’s quantum dot panel for brighter colors and comes with the proprietary image processing to make sports look smoother. It also has Google Assistant and Alexa built in.

You buy a Sony TV for great processing, and that’s what you get with this X85J model. It has a 120-Hz refresh rate for smooth sports and gaming, and Sony’s 4K X-Reality Pro engine upscales standard HD content to look prettier on the 4K panel.

Do you also hate that most TVs come with legs way off on either side, thus making your existing TV stand useless? The Q80A is a great TV that comes with a center pedestal stand, so it’ll fit on legacy furniture.

Sony makes the prettiest TVs that money can buy, and this OLED model is no exception. If you want a TV to use in a small viewing space, or if you want an additional monitor to stream videos and games, this is an excellent choice, even at the still-hefty price for its size. A center pedestal stand makes it easier to place than other models.

Headphone and Speaker Deals

Apple AirPods Max

Photograph: Apple

The AirPods Max are the best sounding wireless headphones I’ve ever heard. Typically, they come with a hefty price to match, but this weekend they very nearly approach what you’d pay for a similar (but worse-sounding) model from Sony or Bose. If you’ve been waiting to snag a pair, now’s a good time.

The new AirPods Pro are the same as the old ones (8/10, WIRED Recommends), but they now come with a MagSafe charging case, which makes them better for those of us who break cables. They’re currently the cheapest I’ve seen them, which makes it a good time to buy nicer AirPods if your older pair is starting to have super short battery life.

In the market for a pair of noise-canceling earbuds? This new model from Sony (7/10, WIRED Recommends) is a bit bulky—I’d avoid if you have smaller ears—but they offer the best noise reduction I’ve ever heard from a pair of earbuds. Pop them in, and the rest of the world will disappear. 

I like the Alexa-enabled Polk Audio React (8/10, WIRED Recommends) because it’s a modular soundbar system. You can start with this bar, then add a subwoofer or surround speakers down the line, as room or budget allows. The Alexa functionality is also great for setting timers and for checking the weather before you step outside.

Everyone needs a soundbar, and this one is very cheap. The wireless subwoofer will make all your favorite shows and movies come to life, and it means this thing is not awful for playing dance music or karaoke. 

Sennheiser’s hyper-expensive Ambeo soundbar is a single thick speaker array that is capable of filling even large rooms with high-fidelity sound. It’s also one of the spendiest single-unit soundbars that money can buy, which is why a $500 discount like this one is worth noting. If you’re in the midst of a remodel and have the budget, this bar sounds nearly as good as a dedicated surround sound system but in a much sleeker package.

It’s not the steepest discount, but I’ve fallen in love with these little speakers from Sony. They’re about the size of a beer can, and they allow you to bring your favorite songs with you, thanks to an IP67 dust- and water-resistance rating and 16 hours of battery life. 

Computing and Home Deals

iRobot Roomba J7+

Photograph: iRobot

Roomba makes the best robot vacuums, and its self-emptying models have been the only ones we’ve found that actually work as advertised. It’s still spendy at this price, but if you are tired of vacuuming, a robot vacuum like this one will be a godsend—take it from someone who owns two dogs.

We’re big fans of the M1 Macbook Air (9/10, WIRED Recommends.) Even at $50 off, it’s a worthwhile buy for those who need a very powerful portable computer with excellent battery life. This deal is also available at Micro Center for an even steeper discount, if you can pick it up in person.

Still spending hours on Zoom calls each week? Consider increasing your audio quality with a mic like this Blue Yeti X, which comes in a sleek black color and will seriously up how good you sound to your peers.

Slow internet has been a struggle for many of us throughout the pandemic, and this Orbi mesh router system from Netgear is our favorite solution for larger homes. It’s rated for homes up to 5,000 square feet.


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10 Great Deals on Outdoor Apparel: Baselayers, Insulated Jackets, Rain Jackets

Now’s the time the outdoor clothing industry starts thinking about spring and summer and offloads the puffy hoodies, fleece jackets, and wool undies. The weather isn’t there just yet, so if you haven’t felt as warm as you’d like outside these past few weeks, you can snag new threads at steep discounts. We’ve found deals on some of our favorite rain jackets, mid- and outer-layer insulation, and base layers.

If you’re an REI member and spend at least $100 on a single purchase by February 13, either at a retail store or at REI.com, you’ll get a $20 bonus card that can be used on any purchase from February 16 to 26.

Special offer for Gear readers: Get a 1-year subscription to WIRED for $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to WIRED.com and our print magazine (if you’d like). Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.

If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more.

Base Layer Deals

Smartwool Merino 150 base layer top

Photograph: Smartwool

Read our guide to the Best Winter Base Layers for more recommendations.

This ranked as my favorite wool base layer when I tested a bunch last year. I like thin base layers for active pursuits, such as climbing and hiking, and the Merino 150 was the perfect blend of warmth and breathability.

Likewise, Smartwool’s matching bottom base layers are warm, but not too warm that they’ll leave you sweating. There’s just a little bit of nylon here to make them form-fitting and stretchy to prevent bunching underneath top-layer pants.

For those who prefer a synthetic fabric for base layers, the Marmot Polartec is made from a midweight polyester, with a bit of Spandex mixed in for a snug fit. Synthetic fabrics dry out faster than wool, although they don’t insulate when wet the way wool does. 

Insulated Jacket Deals

Carhartt Yukon Extremes Insulated Parka

Photograph: Carhartt

Check out our guide on How to Layer Outdoor Clothing for tips on where insulated jackets should fit into your clothing system.

I prefer synthetic-insulation puffies like the Featherless Hoody in damp or snowy environments where temperatures can hover around freezing, because they dry out faster than goose down. There’s also a hoodless version for $131 ($44 off) if you’re not a fan of hoods flopping behind your head.

The Fuego is packed with 800-fill goose down, which is treated with a durable water-repellent finish to help lessen the amount of moisture it absorbs. Fill power is a way of measuring the warmth-to-weight ratio and compressibility of the goose down. A high number (such as the Fuego’s 800) means it’ll be warmer than a garment with a lesser number and can compress down smaller in your pack. The men’s hoodie is also on sale, and there are hoodless versions available for women and men. If you buy a Cotopaxi item for $75 or more at Moosejaw by February 7, you can score a free Bataan hip pack (worth $30) by entering the code COTOPAXIGIFT at checkout (as long as supplies last).

The lightweight fleece still has a place in my heart as mid-layer insulation between a base layer and shell jacket (or rain jackets). Fleece tends to be less bulky as a puffy mid-layer, and it’s durable and dries out quickly.

If you need something more durable, the Yukon Extremes parka packs around 14 ounces of synthetic insulation inside a 500-denier Cordura nylon shell. Unlike lightweight hiking puffies, you won’t have to worry about a branch or fence post slicing your jacket if you’re out doing yard work. 

Rain Jacket Deals

Outdoor Research MicroGravity

Photograph: Outdoor Research 

Just in time for the rainy season, a few of our favorite rain jackets are on sale right now.

The MicroGravity (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is a lightweight, three-layer shell designed for climbing. Its helmet-compatible hood and ability to pack down into its own pocket makes it a worthwhile addition to your climbing or hiking pack, but it’ll also serve you well on rainy days in the city. 

WIRED senior associate reviews editor Adrienne So likes the PreCip Eco for its PFC-free recycled nylon fabric. Its seams are completely taped, so water won’t leak in during harsh weather, and it has armpit zippers for venting the jacket during strenuous activity. The men’s sizing is on sale here.

The Helium is—surprise—a very lightweight jacket, weighing only about 6 ounces, depending on the size. While it’s not as feature-rich as heavier jackets, it still has pit zips and a hood, and it’s fully seam-taped. The men’s version is available on sale for $119 in limited colors.


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The IRS Drops Facial Recognition Verification After Uproar

The Internal Revenue Service is dropping a controversial facial recognition system that requires people to upload video selfies when creating new IRS online accounts.

“The IRS announced it will transition away from using a third-party service for facial recognition to help authenticate people creating new online accounts,” the agency said on Monday. “The transition will occur over the coming weeks in order to prevent larger disruptions to taxpayers during filing season. During the transition, the IRS will quickly develop and bring online an additional authentication process that does not involve facial recognition.”

The IRS has been using the third-party system ID.me for facial recognition of taxpayers. Privacy and civil rights advocates and lawmakers from both major parties have objected to the system. The IRS wasn’t demanding ID.me verification for filing tax returns but was requiring it for accessing related services, such as account information, applying for payment plans online, requesting transcripts, and the Child Tax Credit Update Portal.

The ID.me system is “using Amazon’s controversial Rekognition technology” and had verified 20.9 million users’ selfies by January 25, Bloomberg wrote. The Treasury Department last year signed a two-year, $86 million contract with a vendor to deploy and maintain ID.me software.

US Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, was among those who called on the IRS to scrap the system. “The Treasury Department has made the smart decision to direct the IRS to transition away from using the controversial ID.me verification service, as I requested earlier today,” Wyden said after Monday’s announcement. “I understand the transition process may take time, but I appreciate that the administration recognizes that privacy and security are not mutually exclusive and no one should be forced to submit to facial recognition to access critical government services.”

The IRS process involves uploading a photo of an ID (such as a license or passport) along with a video selfie, which are compared against each other to verify the user’s identity. ID.me explains that, if the process fails, “you will be routed to verify your identity over a video call with an ID.me Trusted Referee … You will need to show your identity documents to an ID.me Trusted Referee along with a selfie (a photo of yourself) to complete your identity verification.”

ID.me verification was already required for people creating new IRS accounts. There was a phase-in approach for people who had previously created IRS online accounts—the IRS said in November that those people can use their credentials until summer 2022 and will be “prompted to create an ID.me account as soon as possible.”

A group of 15 Republican senators last week wrote a letter to IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig, saying the “IRS has unilaterally decided to allow an outside contractor to stand as the gatekeeper between citizens and necessary government services.” The senators objected to “intrusive verification measures” and the fact that “ID.me is not subject to the same oversight rules as a government agency.”

Another letter urging the IRS to abandon the facial recognition technology was sent Monday by four Democratic House members. “Americans will be forced to put sensitive data into a biometric database, which is a prime target for cyberattacks,” they wrote.

The Democrats illustrated the risk by pointing to a 2019 “cyberattack on a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) subcontractor [that] exposed the face images and license plates of thousands of US travelers. The subcontractor cyberattack and ensuing fallout were significant, but the cybersecurity risk with the IRS’s plan is far greater: millions of Americans use the IRS website annually for a variety of vital functions, and, as a result, each of them will be forced to trust a private contractor with some of their most sensitive data.”