The cool and crazy gadgets of America's tech circus
By Andy Goldberg Jan 11, 2007, 0:09 GMT
Las Vegas/San Francisco - America's gadget fetishists come out every January for the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco. They want to see cutting edge devices that will make them drool and have not been disappointed this year with a plethora of gadgets that are cool, crazy and everything in between.
Maybe it's the fading eyes of the baby-boomers, or the bulging pockets of the young geeks, but huge televisions seemed to be taking up even more floor space than usual at the massive CES.
Queen of the screens is Sharp's 108-inch high-definition LCD television that just pipped a rival 100-inch model introduced by LG. Both TVs adopt a new technology that improve the rendering of high- speed movements, cutting down on the staccato image trails that have so far made LCDs less smooth than plasma models.
Sony also showed off a gorgeous slim-line 27-inch Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) that is expected to go on sale next year. The OLED technology displays uses organic compounds that emit light when exposed to an electric current. They are brighter, have better contrast, offer wider viewing angles, use less power and provide faster response times than liquid crystal displays.
But great screens are just another piece of grey glass unless there's something good to watch, and numerous companies are helping users easily shift the content that they download over the internet onto their TV screens.
Apple's iTV is a small box that wirelessly accomplishes this tricky feat, while Sony announced that its market-leading TVs would now come with an attachable module that can stream broadband, high- definition and other video content with the push of a remote control button.
Another interesting TV concept came from Hewlett Packard, the veteran tech pioneer that is seeking to expand into the consumer electronics market. Its offering is actually a converged TV and PC with a touch screen and a smart, intuitive interface. It's a device that's long overdue and is sure to be on many people's wish list this year.
It would go well with a new surround sound system from Philips. This speaker unit does away with the jungle of wires and unsightly systems that plague most such setups. It projects a convincing surround sound effect from a single speaker.
Another nifty piece of sound equipment comes from RCA: twin, tiny ear buds that according to people who obsess about such things, are the first truly wireless headphones that provide excellent sound quality.
Then there are the endless accessories for the ubiquitous iPod. Among the most impressive is a miniature mixer that allows listeners to record and mix four inputs and create a mobile recording studio. People can even take their creations in the shower thanks to the Ego Waterproof iPod speaker system. The maker is so confident of its waterproofing it says the device can even take a swim.
There's also good news on the DVD frontier. Until the CES, consumers who wanted one of the new hi-definition DVDs were forced to choose between competing standards from Sony and Hitachi. A new DVD player from LG is able to play both formats, while Warner Brothers announced a new kind of disc that can contain movies in both formats at once.
Cell phone developments were dominated by Apple's iPhone, an all- in-one iPod, phone and internet device that works with customary Apple elegance.
But don't ignore Nokia. The Finnish cellphone maker has long championed converged devices. The company's N800 Internet tablet allows great web surfing and is designed to permit wireless phone connections through eBay's Skype internet phone service.
There was also plenty of robot action at the CES. Robot Create is designed to allow users to create their own programmes. The display model quickly became an attraction by automatically fetching beer from the fridge.
Other bots included a lovable Robopanda with an array of motors, sensors and accelerometers that could be the perfect toy for the special mini-geek. Adults might prefer the Elvisbot - a lifesized animatronic bust of the King, whose face moves as he sings. He's even smart enough to mouth the words if someone chooses to sing with the included microphone.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur