Useless, useful or unusual, the world of gadgets gets its groove back this year
If the recession nurtured the netbook boom last year, it's looking a lot like this year is going to belong to 3D technology, the much used and abused "tablet" or "slate", and the e-reader.
While the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which concluded on Sunday, seemed to have gotten its groove back, after a bleak 2009, device makers it seems have given it their best shot – anticipating a resurgent global economy.
Interestingly, two of the most popular companies at this year's event were conspicuous by their absence:
While a host of manufacturers unveiled smartphones, netbooks, or tablets based on Google's Android software, a team from the search giant had the internet star's new Nexus One smartphone available for private meetings and on display one evening at an event in a hotel but not on the CES show floor.
Then, there was (or rather wasn't) Apple. Anticipating the Californian giant's latest product category, rumoured to be made like a tablet or slate, device makers seemed hurried out to get a jump on and the device that is expected to be unveiled later this month.
Then there were a host of iPod and iPhone docks or applications inspired by other Apple devices.
Another highlight was the number of 3D-enabled television screens and devices. While the technology made a few appearances last year, manufacturers seem to have gone all out this year, encouraged by the release of science fiction blockbuster Avatar, a 3D film by Titanic director James Cameron.
While official numbers won't be available immediately, the Consumer Electronics Association that runs CES estimated that more than 120,000 people attended the event in a jump of more than 20 per cent from the prior year.
We've picked some of our favourite new gadgets for you:
Glove game controller by Iron Will Innovations
This futuristic-looking black-and-silver glove replaces a keyboard for PC gaming and lets users control games by touching their fingers together instead. Called the Peregrine, the glove includes five sensors on each finger that replace different keystrokes when touched to the glove's thumb. A magnetic adapter fits onto the back of the glove and plugs into a computer's USB port. The Peregrine can already be pre-ordered online at theperegrine.com for $130.
Wireless charging by Powermat USA
This technology made its debut at last year's CES. The Powermat looks like a mat and charges gadgets set on top of it – as long as the gadgets were equipped with add-ons such as special cell phone cases. This year, the company took things a step farther by unveiling the Powerpack – a battery that replaces the one that comes with your cell phone and lets you charge your handset simply by placing it on one of its special mats. Powerpacks that are compatible with dozens of handsets are expected to be available for $40 in the US in May.
e-Reader by Samsung
One of the star product categories was that of the e-reader. Following Amazon.com's hugely successful e-book reader, Korean giant Samsung has jumped into the fray. These 10-inch (left) and six-inch (right) beauties were on display. No word on availability yet.
Viper SmartStart by Directed Electronics
Remote start or lock and unlock your car just by pushing a button on your iPhone or iPod Touch. Directed Electronics, the company that sells the Viper car-alarm system, has developed an accompanying app called SmartStart that lets customers use their phone to lock or unlock the car, or turn the alarm on and off.
While the app is free, it won't work on your car unless it has Viper's system installed.
For more information and details of availability, go to viper.com/smartstart
3D camera by Fujifilm
Fujifilm is betting that people will want to shoot their own 3D movies and photos, and is selling a digital camera with two lenses, set apart as if they were human eyes.
The screen on the back of the Finepix Real 3D W1 presents, if you squint a little bit, a 3D image using a glasses-free technology similar to the old 3D postcards. It costs $599 from fujifilm.com and can be paired with a 3D photo frame for $499.
Landline internet phone by Ooma
Forget having to pay for telephone bills, the Ooma Telo handset enables residential phone users to make a call over the internet. The device retails for about $250 and will be available in the first half of 2010. Not sure about its practically here in the UAE, given the law with regards to VOIP use. Still, the device is available for $249. For more information, go to ooma.com.
Surface multi-touch computer by Microsoft
Forget keyboards, software giant Microsoft believes the next generation of computer interfaces will be hands-on. Surface multi-touch computers are devices that accept input from multiple fingers and multiple users simultaneously, allowing for complex gestures, including grabbing, stretching, swiveling and sliding virtual objects across the table. Users will soon be able to place objects, such as a digital camera on the screen, and virtually drag pictures in and out of it. The magic of technology, if you will. Go to microsoft.com.
SurfaceDJ by Vectorform
Using 3M Touch Systems 22-inch, 10-finger Multi-touch Display, SurfaceDJ is a fun and simple to use music mixing application featuring more than 40 custom loops created by Vectorform's multi-touch developer and basement musician, DJ Kev.
The 3M unit can be used like many touch screens but is made to handle much more data and aimed at higher end users in the medical and engineering fields. The screen even works when a user is wearing surgical gloves. The unit will be available from March for $1,500. Go to 3m.com
Custom Crystal Clear Collection by Iwave
Iwave showcased a number of new headphones, iPhone/iPod cases, and speakers this week. Their Custom Crystal Clear Collection headphone selling for $2,000 and a case for the Apple iPhone selling for $250 is made with Crystallised – Swarovski Elements. All products to be available in the second quarter of 2010.
For more information, go to iwaveaudio.com
TV hat by SKM Industries
This gadget gives you an "under the brim" look at your favourite gadget. The TV Hat allows the user total privacy and freedom from glare to watch movies or other content on their iPhone or iPod Touch under the hat's protected brim.
The product's websites, which touts a $20 price tag, calls it the next revolution in video viewing. We're not convinced. Go to asseenontvhat.com
ReNu solar charger by Regen
Regen, a company that specialises in solar-powered devices, showcased its ReNu solar iPhone and iPod charging dock. As the name suggests, the device features a panel that generates and stores power when placed in sunlight. Now available for pre-order for $199 at Regenliving.com.
Backflip by Motorola
The Motorola Backflip is an Android phone that will be made available in Spring 2010. Called a reversable clampshell, it features a reverse flip function so the keyboard is actually on the outside. Also included are a trackpad on the back for scrolling, a five-megapixel camera and video conferencing capability. It also has a tabletop mode (as shown) enabling the user to watch multimedia hands free.
For more information, go to motorola.com
Flipower by Powertech
Flipower is a slim USB charger that has been designed to sit between a wall socket and a power plug to draw power for your USB devices. The device is slim enough to be used as a key-chain.
Price and availability currently unknown.
Vitruvian by Coby
The Vitruvian CSMP175 speaker system by Coby is a dock for iPhones, iPods and other devices. The motorised dock rotates to allow for horizontal viewing while the unit is charged. For more information on prices and availability, go to cobyusa.com.
- With input from agencies
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