Every January, the gadgetheads of the world converge on Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show – a huge, exciting and thoroughly exhausting event at which the top tech companies unveil their most prized products for the coming year. It’s a battle royal for buzz – this year’s CES attracted 140 000plus delegates and over 2 700 companies – and only the strong survive. We pick the devices destined to rise above the din, plus a couple of weird items from left field.
Casio TRYX camera
The classic camera brick has long been in need of a refresh, and Casio delivers a deft twist with this contorting 12-megapixel (1080p for video) shooter. A multitude of hinges enables it to fold, bend, hang from a hook, perch on a table and even flip its 7,5 cm screen for a well-aimed self-portrait.
Plug the Autobot into a vehicle’s diagnostic port and it beams any detected mechanical problems to an iPhone or Android app – in plain English, not impenetrable car-manual lingo. Even better: the device’s GPS chip allows you to track your vehicle. You know, just in case.
iHome IWI speaker
This year’s tech forecast calls for a flood of sound systems that work with Apple’s new AirPlay system, which wirelessly streams music between devices. This little number, equipped with a rechargeable battery for portability, is one of the first.
Samsung SP-A8000 3D Home Theatre Projector
3D TVs can provide great visuals, but nothing matches the immersive experience of a projector. Samsung steps up with one of the first units that can bring 2D content into the third dimension. And although the tech is far from perfect (watch any auto-converted 3D for too long and you’ll feel a bit woozy), it’s still an impressive stopgap until more 3D Blu-rays are released.
Iomega superhero dock and charger for iPhone
Backing up an iPhone is painless: just leave it plugged into iTunes and the process takes place automatically. But a surprising number of people forgo this simple step – and suffer if they lose or break their phone. This iPhone dock works double duty, charging while stashing your contacts and photos onto an SD card. Up next: BlackBerryand Androidcompatible units.
Intel Sandy Bridge Processors
The fact that Intel’s latest chips are its fastest yet should come as no surprise. What is novel: they cut in half the amount of time it takes to transcode video, thanks to a new architecture that places the graphics and computer processors on to the same piece of silicon.
Garmin GTU 10 GPS Tracker
A Garmin rep told us that this tiny GPS module had initially been invented for pet owners to track their furry friends. But we think its small size (think Bic lighter), long battery life (up to four weeks) and waterproof construction make it suitable for much more. Stuff it in the pocket of a potentially wayward child, pop it in the glovebox as a low-cost Tracker, or hide it in a suitcase full of cash to relive your No Country for Old Men fantasies. A Web interface makes it easy to home in on the device’s location. (Also see the nu.m8+, featured in “Great Stuff” this month.)
LG LW6500LED HDTV
The active-shutter glasses needed to view most 3D TVs cost a bundle, require batteries and are heavy enough to leave divots on the bridge of your nose after extended viewing. This 3D TV lightens the load – on your schnozz and your wallet – by using the same cheap, lightweight glasses as 3D theatres.
Telescopes that automatically align to their target might seem like they’d bring stargazing to the masses – no more tinkering! – but their reach is somewhat stunted by astronomical price tags and waiting times (it can take 10 minutes for them to align themselves). The automatically aligning Celestron SkyProdigy 130 costs half as much as the competition, and zeroes in on its target celestial body in just three minutes. The secret: an onboard camera that detects where in the sky the scope is pointed.
Samsung LED 8000 Series TV
There’s a lot to like about Samsung’s 8000 Series LED TV – for starters, it’s LED backlit and 3D-capable, and packed with services and apps people might actually use, such as Skype and Facebook. What we love about it is the stunning industrial design. Samsung’s engineers whittled the bezel down to just 0,5 cm, increasing screen size without increasing the overall footprint, and creating a picture that’s more otherwordly portal than TV monitor.
Karotz, a very smart rabbit
Created by Mindscape, a leading publisher of entertainment software, this intelligent, Wi-Fi equipped personal electronic device hides major computing power underneath its cute rabbit shell. Karotz learns its owner’s voice, habits and routine, using this information to change the way users interact with their music, media and each other.
Your verbal request prompts it to provide everything from horoscopes to weather, traffic and news updates. Karotz can also read e-mails, friends’ Facebook status updates and tweets aloud. An integrated webcam allows it to send images directly to a smartphone or work computer, where the user can see everything that Karotz sees. An RFID chip sensor provides instant updates – for example, reporting when the kids get home from school.
Tiwi teen driver tracker
We’re not saying that teenagers necessarily behave badly behind the wheel, but when there’s no parent driving “shotgun”, anything can happen (and occasionally does). This probably explains the thinking behind the windscreen- mounted tiwi, developed by a company called inthinc (what’s with these people and their lower-case names?).
Linked to the car’s onboard computer and equipped with a GPS and accelerometer, it tells the young driver when he’s going too fast, driving or braking too aggressively, or has forgotten to use his seatbelt. It gets better (or worse, depending on your perspective): the device also allows parents to monitor their kids’ location and driving habits over the Web, alerting them of events via text message, e-mail or phone call and producing a “report card” afterwards. For more information, visit www.tiwi.com
Cobra phone tag
Hidden in Cobra Electronics’ booth at CES was a simple but imaginative little tech idea: the Phone Tag, a little keychain that works as a two-way alarm between itself and your smartphone. It establishes a Bluetooth link with any iPhone, BlackBerry or Android device (each platform will have a downloadable app); then, when your keys get out of range of your phone, you get an alert on either device, and can even make both devices chirp like a homing beacon to help you hunt them down. So your phone can help you find lost keys or your keys can help you find your phone. Clever, but no word yet on pricing, Cobra says the device should be available within a couple of months.
Sony 3D bloggie MHS-FS3 camcorder
Previous generations of Sony’s Bloggie were decent takes on the Flip style of dead-simple, Web-worthy camcorders. Now, the Bloggie 3D one-ups the entire category, retaining the slim profile and pop-out USB arm while shooting 3D HD video with two lenses. The display is a 60 mm glassesfree 3D screen – which is fun, but the real story here is affordability. For under R2 000 (in the US), it allows consumers to dip a toe into the supposed 3D revolution. Even if it fizzles, they’ll still have an 8GB pocket camcorder that shoots 2D just fine.
Raw talent guitar
A revolutionary guitar training system for Windows, this product features a guitar-to-USB cable that links to your own instrument and, according to the company behind it, “shapes a guitarist at any level into the type of player they want to be”. The deal includes video lessons and practice sessions, encouraging you to learn at your own pace on whichever guitar feels most comfortable.
What makes it really special is the Real-Time Performance Engine, which grades your guitarplaying ability and delivers immediate feedback. The software’s proprietary RT Evaluator “hears” what you play and compares the performance to the instructor’s to deliver a percentage score in real time..The program also includes jam tracks for warming up and practising solos, and 15 licensed tracks from iconic groups which allow you to remove the lead or rhythm guitar and substitute as the band’s guitarist. Expect to pay about R1 400.