Business Today

Gadget Mecca

If there is one pilgrimage all gadget aficionados must make, it is to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held every January in Las Vegas. Sulabh Puri made the trip this year.

Sulabh Puri | Print Edition: February 7, 2010

Las Vegas is known as 'Sin City'; if for nothing else, then for the city's over-the-top exuberance when it comes to virtually anything. And gadgets are on the list as well, because there is nowhere else in the world where a show as over-the-top as CES can possibly be held. Looking at the magnitude of the show and the sheer number of industry giants and newcomers there made you wonder if the world had really been caught in a recession. And to add a whole new dimension, literally, to the show this year, the show-stopper was 3-D; not in the movie hall but a whole 1.2 million square metre pavilion showcasing 3D viewing technology that will start filtering into houses later this year.

All the big names were present in strength showcasing their 3D TVs from 32-inch 3D LCD panels to humongous 56- inch ones. While Samsung had an array of LEDs stitched together to make a big 3D screen, Sony had erected a veritable 3D movie theatre within the confines of their stall. Others like Panasonic, Toshiba and LG weren't behind. The only thing that was a wet blanket in the entire celebration of 3D was the fact that all these sets require people to wear polarised 3D glasses like one would in a movie hall. Yet, the ability to watch something like James Cameron's Avatar in its full 3D glory sitting at home is not something to be scoffed at.

There were quite a few cool prototypes unveiled— Panasonic's new Portable player with a Blue-ray disk slot. Users now can see HD movies on this portable player. Many companies, among them Kodak, showcased consumer cameras and video recorders that can be dunked and even fully submerged in water. Another gadget which caught the eye was the Cideko Air keyboard.

Sized similarly as the Xbox gamepad, the keyboard comes without a mouse. In a way, the keyboard itself is the cursor, since the handheld keyboard has an accelerometer within. By moving the keyboard around in the air you can control the pointer on the screen. Novel control technologies also included the Peregrine hand glove for gesture-based gaming.

And given the chill in Europe and the US, it was perhaps apt that Microsoft chose to exhibit, among other products, ICE. No, this is not a solution to Windows freezing on users, but a technology that they have developed for in-car entertainment. And they attracted interest cleverly, having lined up a bunch of automotive beauties from leading car companies such as the Ford. The other manufacturer who is using it is KIA.

In the context of its bullish approach to marketing in recent years, it wasn't surprising that Samsung had the biggest booth, bang in the middle of the complex. Sitting pretty next to it was Sony, who too are obviously thinking big again. The Japanese giant's SK8iP iPod dock pleased not only because Sony came up with a dock for the Apple player when it has its own range, but also because users can interchange the front panel, with online options for customising more.

And then, there was the 'Apple' area, even though the company itself wasn't there. A whole plethora of small manufacturers making all sorts of accessories and applications for the iPhone and the iPod were out in strength. Some like the ones from Ed Hardy designer cases were quite innovative, others not quite so.

And for those looking for bargain basement deals, there was a special section that had everything Chinese, Korean and Asian that smelt of minimal R&D costs. Everything, from USB drives to TV sets. LED lamps and torches were hot favourites, especially because they were tempting with prices starting as low as one dollar (Rs 47). A number of portable media players and headphones were also available at these stalls. They looked great but, reliability, was still an issue.

Some praiseworthy mentions

Kodak Playsport Camcorder (Price: $180): A waterproof Full HD video camera.

Victorinox 32 GB army knife (Price: TBA*): The strongest multipurpose knife gets a USB drive and Bluetooth, plus a fingerprint scanner that allows only the owner to access data.

Alpine Marine head unit for boats (Price: $450): Fully waterproof, this ICE head unit has a large LCD window that can be used to navigate CD songs and also satellite radio.

Kwickset Smart code lock (Price: $300): An electronic door lock that can be unlocked and locked over the Internet.

LG Wi-Max USB dongle (Price: TBA*): A well-designed Wi-Max dongle for laptops and desktops that can let the users connect to the most powerful wireless broadband spectrum.

MSI Dual Screen Colour E-book (Price: TBA*): Colour touch-screen E-book reader by MSI.

— *TBA: To be announced

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