Top 25 Coolest Gadgets at CES 2012
For the second time in about three months, the Las Vegas Convention Center is buzzing with the activity endemic to a major international trade show. And while November is when the automotive aftermarket has its annual pow-wow, January is reserved for the consumer electronics industry’s biggest get together or the year: The Consumer Electronics Show, or CES for the abbreviationally-inclined.
Ironically, the Consumer Electronics Show is, like SEMA, not open to consumers. However, thanks to the seemingly limitless (unless SOPA and/or PIPA pass) power of the Internets, there are plenty of interesting words and pretty pictures pertaining to all the cool new gadgets and services debuting at the show floating around. But you’re not interested in reading one article for hours and hours, right? Of course not. That’s why we’ve limited the following list to the 25 gizmos we think are the coolest and most likely to attain “gotta have” status.
Ferrari by Logic3 Audio Equipment
There are plenty of baubles and trinkets with the Ferrari logo on them that otherwise have nothing to do with cars. Now you can add high end audio equipment to that list, courtesy of Logic3. Divided into two separate product lines (the road car inspired Ferrari Cavallino and the Formula 1 inspired Scuderia Ferrari), the range includes premium speakers, headphones and earbuds that feature technologies like active noise cancelation and thin film acoustic technology. We're guessing many Ferrari owners will use these gizmos to listen to recordings of their car's engine note when they aren't out driving and listening to the real thing.
SpareOne Emergency Cell Phone
Even the most hardened luddites among you (all zero of you) can’t argue that a cell phone is good to have in an emergency. SpareOne knows this, which is why it’s hawking a no-contract, AA-battery-powered cell phone. Pop in a GSM SIM card and use it like a regular mobile phone, or you can use it to dial 911 (or the emergency number of whichever country you’re in) without a SIM card. And depending on the type of AA battery you install, it will hold a charge for a claimed 15 years. In short, it’s perfect for the tech-challenged senior citizen or the government-conspiracy-theory-espousing hermit (“The Man uses cell phone SIM cards to impregnate your brain with mind control nanobots built by the Kennedy brothers and Elvis in the basement of Denver International Airport!”) in your life.
Scores of options for amplifying the sound from your iPhone's speakers are on the market. But precious few of them are cheap, simple, and don't use any batteries. iSimple's MegaPhone, however, is. As the name suggests, it's basically a bullhorn that makes the sound from your phone's speaker louder (but not, it should be noted, higher quality). Proof that sometimes you don't need an elaborate, high tech solution to a problem.
Pioneer AppRadio 2
We were impressed with Pioneer's AppRadio, but we had a few bones to pick with it, namely (for not entirely unselfish reasons) the lack of support for Android devices. AppRadio 2 has resolved that by allowing Android machines to interface with the head unit through either a Mobile High Definition Link or Mini-HDMI connection. The glass touchscreen has grown to 7", and doubled the number of preamp outputs to two. Yes, the price has also gotten bigger ($499, versus $399 for the original model which will still be available), but opening AppRadio up to the other super-popular smartphone OS is a very smart business move.
Video teleconferencing is great, but have you ever found yourself running out of room on the screen for all the stuff you want to be up there? InFocus is convinced at least some folks have; why else would they release the Mondopad, a 55" 1080p touchscreen tablet? Inside you'll find an Intel i5 PC running Windows 7 Pro (replete with the full version of Microsoft Office), while the exterior features a 720p camera with four integrated microphones and a soundbar optimized for reproducing human voices. Plus there's a digital whiteboard function. It's pretty much the next best thing to having all the branch offices' conference rooms interconnected by wormholes.
Behringer Splash 100
There are three key ingredients for an off-the-chain pool party: Gallons and gallons of alcoholic beverages, a cornucopia of hotties wearing delightfully immodest bathing costumes, and a kickass soundtrack. The German audio experts at Behringer can’t help you with the first two, but they can help your next chlorinated carnival sound sehr gut with its Splash 100. This little number (which will retail for $99) is a floating, waterproof Bluetooth speaker. Behringer says it can pick up signals up to 230 feet away, and its rechargeable battery is good for three-and-a-half hours of listening pleasure. Just don’t use it as a CANNONBAAAAAAALLLLL!!!
You'll find Intel processors inside millions (if not billions) of computers and other electronic devices. However, smartphones aren't one of those devices…until now. Say hi to Lenovo's K800, an Android phone powered by Intel's Medfield chipset. The 4.5" display has 1280×720 resolution, and there's an 8 megapixel with camera with dual-LED flash on the back. Will we see more Intel-powered phones in the months and years and months to come? Watch this space.
RIM QNX CAR 2
In-car infotainment systems are getting more and more sophisticated, but updating and expanding their capabilities after they've been built and installed is not a straightforward process. RIM seeks to change that with the QNX CAR 2 system. Because it uses HTML5 framework, the system is easily scalable and supports a variety of operating systems and applications. RIM is marketing the system primarily at a vehicle manufacturers, and we're guessing at least a couple will jump on it.
Sony Xperia Watch
Considering telling time is one of the many, many things smartphones can do, it's no surprise that fewer and fewer people are wearing wristwatches these days. But Sony thinks there's life in wearable clocks yet, having used CES to unveil its Xperia Watch. In addition to telling you what time it is, its Bluetooth connectivity allows it to display caller ID, lets you compose, send and read texts and, if you have a Bluetooth headset too, access your phonebook and place and answer calls. Suddenly James Bond is fractionally less cool.
3D Systems Cube 3D Printer
Three-dimensional printers used to be reserved for the likes of Mr. Spock and George Jetson, but they’ve been available commercially for a while now. Problem is, those are as big as a piece of furniture and cost more than a tropical cruise. Mercifully, 3D Systems is about to release the Cube, a 3D printer aimed at the home or small business user. One of its parlor tricks? How about turning your 2D photos into 3D reliefs? Sure, the $1,299 MSRP isn't what most would consider affordable, but it's substanitally cheaper (and smaller) than most commercial-grade machines. Now the wait begins for the home molecular transporter…
We can name dozens of cool games for tablets, but for many hardcore gamers, adapting to using tilting and touching the screen to control the action isn’t the most enticing prospect in the world. The makers of the Wikipad took this to heart, and gave this Android 4.0 – aka Ice Cream Sandwich – powered tablet an accessory snap-on frame that houses modern console game controller aping buttons, analog sticks and a directional pad. And if that wasn’t enough, the 8” 1080p screen displays both 2D and glasses-free 3D content. Expect the Wikipad to command $300 when sales begin in the spring.
Eton Rukus Solar
If you like to listen to music from your iPhone or iPod outside, you might (or might not) have thought, "Why isn't there a speaker system that will charge my iPod or iPhone with solar power?" Well, Eton has beaten to you the punch with the Soulra XL. Here's the thing, though: It retails for $250. If that's to steep for you, there's now the Rukus Solar, which will retail for $150 and stream audio via Bluetooth. Leave it in the sun for six hours and it will give your Apple mobile device a full charge. Even if you aren't a full-on greenie, you gotta admit that's pretty slick.
We've seen inductive charging for electric vehicles before, but the Qualcomm Halo might be the most advanced system yet. Qualcomm says the charging process can take place with as much as two feet between the paddles, and that it's 90% efficient. The company envisions a future that has charging paddles embedded in the street, where cars get a spurt of a charge as they drive over each one, effectively giving them unlimited range. Wouldn't that be something?
Earbuds are earbuds are earbuds, right? Wrong! Observe: The Clarus from Moshi feature a 15mm woofer and a 7mm tweeter in each bud, which should serve up warmer, richer sound in genres like jazz, classical and acoustic. At $200 they're anything but cheap, but you'd be hard-pressed to find more meticulously engineered, better sounding in-ear speakers.
Blu-ray DVD players are hot sellers; 3D Blu-ray players not quite as prolific sellers, but manufacturers still seem to be moving enough of them to justify offering them. But do they have to take up as much shelf space as they do? Panasonic says "Nay!" (or something to that effect), and offers a rebuttal in the form of the fetchingly-named DMP-BBT01. Notable features include built-in WiFi and the ability to convert 2D content – including streaming media – into 3D. A big achievement from a smaller-than-normal device.
The logic behind external hard drives is that you can back up your data on them and store them somewhere your computer isn't, in case some catastrophe destroys your computer. Of course, if your external drive gets annihilated, that's kind of a moot point now, isn't it? Enter the ioSafe Thunderbolt. It's a 500 gigabyte USB 3.0 drive with a heavy duty case designed to handle just about anything you can throw at it (except water). In fact, during CES, ioSafe zapped one with a million-watt Tesla coil, plugged it into a computer and the files were fine. It won't be cheap at around $500, but can you put a price tag on peace-of-mind?
Aside from helping foster some Abbott and Costello style dialog, the I'm Watch (made by an eponymous Italian firm) seeks to become the stylish sidekick to your Android phone. You can pair it with your phone to access caller ID, your phonebook, and various other functions. But the one that takes the cake is the speakerphone function. Not everyone will think you're crazy for paying the 300 euro ($384) MSRP for it, but seeing you talking to your wrist might give them second thoughts. Just sayin'.
Many people are now firm believers in GPS navigation systems, but entering the same destination multiple times in multiple systems (be they stand-alone or built-in) is tedious. TeleNav’s Scout system eliminates this by logging your favorite destinations in an app that works on your smartphone and certain in-dash navigation units (most notably Ford’s Sync system) and displays them in real-time, along with traffic info, nearby destinations and hot spots and more. There’s also a website that allows you to plan get togethers with friends via social media sites and view and save their favorite destinations. Put it all together and you get something that beats the hell out of some automated woman dispassionately telling you to “turn LEFT in THREE *short pause* HUNDRED feet.”
It's often said that size doesn't matter. One look at this 3D-capable 84" colossus from LG, though, and you'll find yourself switching sides on that issue (if you're a dude; many of our female readers are already in that camp, if you know what we're saying). The screen is comprised of 8 million(!) pixels for a maximum resolution of 3480×2160, something LG is calling Ultra Definition. No doubt it's price tag will be in the same ballpark as that of an entire Detroit neighborhood (give or take a few blocks), but here's the thing: We don't care, and need to have it in our lives.
Parrot Zik by Starck
With all the high end headphones on the market, it can be tough for manufacturers to differentiate their products from those of the competition. Parrot has collaborated with ace industrial designer Philippe Starck to create the Zik. The looks are elegant in their simplicity, and they’re packed with technology like active noise canceling and your choice of Bluetooth or 3.5mm analog connections, touchpad controls for volume and other functions, automatic pausing when the headphones detect you’ve removed them from your ears, and included iOS and Android apps. In short, you won’t be mistaking these headphones for any others.
Modular Robotics Cubelets
A good many kids these days blanch at the mere mention of educational toys, but you'd have to be a weapons-grade brat to not be at least intrigued by Modular Robotics' Cubelets. Each color of block has a specific function (one has a touch sensor, another a light sensor, another motorized rollers, etc.), and they all connect together magnetically to form robots of innumerable sizes, shapes and abilities. The starter kit is on the pricey side at $160 for six blocks, but look at it this way: Even if your kids lose interest, you should have no trouble making sure these little buggers don't collect dust in the closet.
In this, the age of the digital camera, it would have been easy for Polaroid – the first instant(-ish) camera maker – to have raised the white flag and called it a day. Instead, the iconic brand has adapted to life in the 21st century technology landscape, and its latest effort might just reinvent the point-and-shoot digital camera. It’s called the SC1630, and it’s a 16 megapixel job that’s powered by Android. Granted, there’s no phone on board, but the image quality is better than any camera phone, you can download additional photo-editing apps. And Angry Birds, obviously.
Samsung 55-inch OLED Display
TVs are getting thinner and thinner, and Samsung’s 55” Super OLED display is downright anorexic. However, it’s not thin on features, with facial and voice recognition, and the ability to stream content from the likes of Netflix and Hulu without a computer. But how did Samsung manage to make it so skinny? Each pixel actually has three sub-pixels: One red, one green and one blue. This eliminates the need for a thickness-adding color filter. One thing that will be fat? The price, but you can’t have your cake and still fit in your favorite jeans too. Or something like that.
Ion LP 2 GO
The only constant, it is said, is change. And when it comes to music formats, there has been plenty of change over the last half-century. The vinyl record is one of the oldest formats out there, and now Ion (a prolific USB turntable maker) is taking them on the road with the LP 2 GO. Powered by four AA batteries and capable of playing 33s and 45s, this baby has outputs for headphones or speakers, a USB plug to digitize your albums with the included software. Never thought we’d see the day a company would release a music player that’s more portable than the storage medium it reads, but here we are.
DBEST PS4001BT Solo
What's the point of having a wireless speaker for your mobile device if it isn't very, uh, mobile itself? That's the logic behind DBEST's PS4001BT Solo, one of (if not the smallest) Bluetooth speakers on the market. And at $59, it's also moderately priced. Sweet!