Top 25 Coolest Gadgets at CES 2013
The annual Consumer Electronics Show just wrapped up in Las Vegas and, as is the case every year it seems, there was an embarrassment of digital riches on hand. Whether your interests cover mobile electronics, stationary electronics, or both, there were at least dozens of things that would have caught your eye. But if we had to pick just 25 gizmos or gizmo accessories that stopped us dead in our tracks and say aloud, “Huh, that’s pretty cool,” the following would be those two-dozen--one.
Replay XD ReView Monitor
If you want a portable action camera that combines compact dimensions and full 1080p HD capability, look no further than the XD1080 from the folks at Replay. And at CES, the company unveiled a range of accessories aimed at making the XD1080 an even more capable device. A waterproof-to-60-meters (198 ft) housing and a pair of external lithium-ion battery packs (that extend power-on time by three or six hours) are among these add ons, but the one that excites us the most is the Replay XD ReView. This 4” color LCD monitor not only lets you watch what you’ve recorded, but also see what the camera is seeing in real time.
Cobra iRadar ATOM
The advent of smartphones and other mobile data platforms has been a huge boon to the radar and laser detector business. And the fuzzbuster maker that has arguably embraced this tech revolution the most tightly is Cobra. Its new iRadar ATOM is smaller than the already-compact iRadar 200 unit, but it’s also more powerful and just as capable, for it can pair with iOS or Android phones via Bluetooth to display detector readouts and update the iRadar Community, Cobra’s crowd-sourced speedtrap and photo-enforcement database. Johnny Law’s got some catching up to do…
One of the most popular electronic upgrades for cars today is an AVN (audio, video and navigation) system. And Alpine used CES to debut one honey of a new AVN. The INE-W927HD boasts a 7” touchscreen, Bluetooth and an HD Radio receiver, support for SiriusXM, Pandora, and iOS and Android audio streaming. But the system’s real party piece? That would be iPersonalize, which automatically tailors the audio output settings based on factors like vehicle type, number of speakers, and even the upholstery material. Rad.
Allerta Pebble Watch
Allerta’s Pebble smartwatch is one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns yet, and now it’s almost ready for delivery to its initial supporters. It features a backlit black-and-white display (that displays three built-in “watch faces” or eight more via the companion smartphone app), a vibration motor, accelerometer and a compass. Pair it with an Android or iPhone and you can use it to read emails, texts and other messages, and you can use it as a remote control for playing or streaming music. It will be available for $149 once the early adapters receive theirs.
Eton Rugged Rukus
Who doesn’t love the idea of being able to bring music anywhere, including the wilderness? So you can imagine how successful Eton should be selling the Rugged Rukus speakers. Housed in a compact splashproof case and capable of being charged either by the sun or an AC adapter, it provides up to eight hours of listening pleasure via Bluetooth. It also has USB plugs for charging phones and other devices. Not bad for $99.99.
TransluSense Luminae Glass Keyboard
Sick of having to periodically vacuum crumbs and other detritus out of your keyboard? TransluSense offers a solution in the form of the Luminae glass keyboard. Essentially a curved pane of glass that has the pattern of a full QWERTY keyboard projected onto the inside surface via LEDs, it detects which “keys” you “press” by three cameras picking up where the light pattern is interrupted by your fingers. At $500 it’s certainly not cheap, but it should be low maintenance. Plus it looks way cool, which also helps.
Martian Passport Watch
Countless movies, TV shows, video games and comic books have featured wrist-worn communicators over the decades, but they’re just now making the jump from science fiction to science fact. The Martian Passport looks like a typical analog wristwatch, but it’s got a small OLED screen that lets the wearer read emails, texts, tweets and other messages when paired via Bluetooth with an iPhone or Android phone. But those capabilities pale in comparison to its built-in microphone and speaker, meaning your smartphone never has to leave your pocket.
Ion Scratch 2 Go
There’s no shortage of DJing apps for tablets, but do you know what is in short supply? Tactile feedback for those DJing apps. A flat screen makes it hard to know which setting you’re adjusting without looking directly at it. Ion has a fix for this in the form of its Scratch 2 Go kit. Designed to work with the apps Djay, Deej and iDJ2GO, the kit includes a slider, two round discs to represent record turntables, and two banks of three knobs each. They attach to the tablet’s screen via suction cups, and work the apps controls via what look like stylus tips. It’s still not the same as a real DJ setup, but at least you’ll be able to steal more glimpses of the crowd without making a mixing faux pas.
Samsung HW-F750 Vacuum Tube Soundbar
When the transistor was invented in 1947, it made the vacuum tube obsolete from and engineering standpoint. And yet, Samsung has just revealed a soundbar powered by vacuum tubes. Is Samsung now run by hipsters and/or steampunk enthusiasts? Uh, no. For starters, this soundbar can be used either wirelessly via Bluetooth or hardwired with HDMI cables. And it has a gyroscopic sensor that adjusts the sound based on the unit’s height, tilt and rotation. Who says you can’t teach an old amplification technology new tricks?
Bluetooth keyboards for tablets are nice, but what if you want one that’s mostly biodegradable? Gee, there are a lot of horny crickets in here, but for the humans in the room, great news! Impecca has created a Bluetooth keyboard made from bamboo. The keys are treated to a smooth, fade-resistant coating, and it will retail for $99.
There aren’t too many gizmos that can’t make use of the Android operating system. Even car audio systems can run on Android, and Kenwood’s DNN990HD falls into this category. Granted, it’s a heavily modified and simplified version of Google’s mobile OS, and it is not certified for the Google Play app store, but it does have Wi-Fi to access the internet and apps like iHeartAuto and YouTube Video Streaming.
Fibaro Home Automation System
Consumers in 43 countries are already familiar with Fibaro’s home automation system. Make that 44 countries, as the U.S. joins the ranks. The base station can control up to 240 devices, and each device can be programmed to turn on or off automatically when a certain time, temperature or other condition is met. Fibaro is also releasing a smart power strip that will track your electricity use and send that data to an iOS (or, later, an Android) device.
Princip Interactive LED Futuro Cube
We love toys that work the brain; ergo, we love Princip Interactive’s LED Futuro Cube, a sort of digital age Rubik’s Cube co-developed with the folks at ThinkGeek. Unlike that colorful analog puzzle, the Futuro Cube features multiple game modes (including even more than can be loaded onto it via USB) and audio. Very cool.
Unlike some camera film companies we can but won’t name (though we will say one of them rhymes with Beastman-Glodak), Polaroid has been quick and willing to embrace the digital age. The latest morsel of proof of this? The M7, an Android Jelly Bean powered tablet. It packs a dual-core processor, a gigabyte of RAM, a two megapixel camera, and an MSRP of $129. Just remember: Shaking it won’t make pictures load faster.
Wireless headphones are great for enjoying your media without disturbing others. Alas, not all wireless headphones are created equal. And a set of headphones that is more equal than most others is the H9080 from Rapoo. They’re clad in genuine leather, and feature on-demand bass boost and COM-Ti membrane vibration technology. Plus, that stylish cradle pumps 10 hours worth of juice into the phones.
Nvidia Project Shield
Remember how we said there are a bunch of uses for Android? Nvidia – best known for building PC graphics cards and other associated hardware – is jumping into the gaming console business with a little something it calls Project Shield. And when we say “little,” we mean little enough to be portable. It’s about the size of an Xbox360 controller, with the addition of a flip-up 5”, 720p display. If that’s not good enough, there’s an HDMI output so you can plug into a TV. And if you get bored with your Android game library, you can connect wirelessly to a PC and play whatever title is running on it. Look for this thing to become a massive thorn in the sides of Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo when it drops later this year.
Digital Innovations ChargeDr
A device needn’t be big, expensive, or fancy to draw our attention. Case in point: Digital Innovations’ ChargeDr. This little USB dongle boosts the current flow from a USB plug on a laptop (or wall charger or car charger, for that matter) to allow for faster charging of tablets, smartphones and other mobile electronics. Perfect for sufferers of PDD (Patience Deficiency Disorder, which is not yet recognized by the medical community…so hurry up and recognize it!).
Sony Xperia Z
Sony has been chasing its tail lately, but the Japanese juggernaut is absolutely poised to return to glory on the back of its new Android smartphone, the Xperia Z. The spec sheet reads like the script of a smartphone junkie’s wet dream: Five-inch, full 1080p screen. Quad-core processor with two gigs of RAM. A claimed nine days(!) of standby time thanks to automatic (but customizable) app closing when the screen turns off. Oh, and it’s waterproof. Actually, all those features are getting us all hot and bothered, too…
Retro-styled point-and-shoots look to be the next big thing in digital photography, and one of the best of the breed is the MX-1 from Pentax. In addition to a 12 megapixel CMOS sensor and 4x optical zoom, the MX-1 also has a 3” color LCD display, the ability to shoot HD video, and the option for full-manual control. Yeah, this thing is pretty much the shutterbug equivalent of a ’57 Chevy riding on a Paul Newman or Art Morrison chassis with an LS9 under the hood.
Smallworks iPhone Brickcase
Have you ever looked at your iPhone and thought, “Man, I wish the case for this thing was compatible with Lego bricks and other pieces!” Well, wish no more, for Smallworks offers the iPhone Brickcase. Available in a variety of colors ( a new glow-in-the-dark version), this $24.99 case is compatible with the genuine Danish article (as well as certain brands of imitators), allowing you to turn your iPhone into a helicopter, robot, car or just about anything else you can imagine. And similar cases for the iPad and iPod Touch are reportedly in development.
CST-01 E Ink Watch
If you don’t need a watch that can talk to your smartphone, but still want a timepiece that is high tech and high fashion, the CST-01 (as in Central Standard Time) might be right up your alley. Measuring just 0.03” thick and weighing less than half an ounce, this flexible stainless steel watch features a Seiko-Epson microcontroller and an E Ink display. Plus the rechargeable battery is project to last for 15 years. Want one? Jump on their Kickstarter site for a chance to get one before it becomes widely available.
JVC’s KW-NSX series of head units have been well received, so the company is adding two more of them to the line, including this KW-NSX700. It features a 7” WVGA touchscreen, and the ability to make and receive hands-free calls on your smartphone, stream audio, and play movies when the vehicle is parked. And if that’s not enough, JVC also used CES to announce that it’s expanding and refining the app compatibility of its head units. Included are new gesture- and voice-based controls for Android users, and a new navigation and real time traffic app for iPhones.
Jabra Revo Wireless Headphones
If you use headphones frequently, durability is probably important to you. And Jabra has designed its Revo Wireless Headphones with durability in mind with an aluminum frame, a shatterproof headband, and steel hinges. But they also serve up great sound with Dolby Digital Plus technology and a companion iOS or Android app for fine tuning. Plus there’s a touch control that lets you skip music tracks or (thanks to the built-in microphone) make and answer phone calls.
Microsoft IllumiRoom Concept
The last big innovation in video games was motion sensors, e.g. Playstation Move and Xbox360 Kinect. What will be the next big innovation in gaming? Microsoft seems to think it will involve taking the game beyond the TV or monitor. Dubbed IllumiRoom, this proof-of-concept demo pairs a Kinect sensor placed in front of the player with a projector placed behind the player to expand the screen onto the walls. Will we see this technology show up on the next generation Xbox? We wouldn’t bet against it.
Panasonic 4K 20” Tablet
Finally, are you shopping for a tablet on an unlimited budget? Panasonic might have something relevant to your interests, specifically a commercial-grade tablet PC running Windows 8. The display checks in at 20” in size, and 4K (3840×2560) resolution. For now it’s just a prototype, but Panasonic says it could be put into production soon if demand warranted.