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CES 2013: A Somnambulist’s View of Consumer Electronics Stuff

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By the time I got to actually walk around the show floor of CES this year, my sleep-deprived brain was well-numbed from a barrage of  larger than large TVs, bigger than big pixel counts, huger than huge company booth showcases, and smaller than small doo-dads… and other stuff.

In fact, increasingly, “stuff” as we know it may be part of  the challenge when covering CES. There has always been a lot of diversity of products at CES, but it seems in recent years a decided lack of focus is taking over, as companies jockey for position in the next great tech race for the prize. Whatever that prize is, bottom line is that in 2013, this ain’t your grandpa’s CES, as it now has encompasses everything from home healthcare products to robots to proof-of-concept presentation technology (the kind of stuff one might expect to see at the old COMDEX show or perhaps SIGGRAPH).

Across these blurred lines, here are some things I stumbled upon that were fun, neat and perhaps even practical, presented in no particular order:

The halls of uber audio in the Venetian Hotel were their usual barrage of incredible sounding (and stratospherically priced) hi-fi wonderment, punctuated by periodic people-friendly devices bringing the high end down to a place the mainstream can grok. For example, I was impressed to walk in to the suite for Music Hall turntables only to find Ray Hall himself showcasing their $250 USB turntable via a modest amp and speakers — and reveling in how great it sounded! I’m going to tell my brother to get one of those puppies. It really did sound super!

Downstairs on the Venetian show floor, I got to see the new Lego Mindstorm kits in action and they were every bit as cool as I’d heard about: DIY robot kits!

Also, in that area, I happened upon Whirlpool (yeah, like in washing machines) which was demoing a way-cool cooking lifestyle device prototype that is like something right out of The Jetsons. As the spokesperson says at the end of this clip: “Mom is going to be able to heat the food and cool the drinks at the same time… I’m in.” Me too!

Then there was HAPIfork from Hapilabs: a USB digital fork to help you navigate through all those calorie laden post-CES meals.

Really.

In the What’s Old is New Again department: AfterShokz over the ear Bluetooth headphones are a cool answer to the problem of hearing your tunes while wearing headphones in noisy environments without killing your eardrums or making you deaf to the world — they music through your skull so you don’t have to wear headphones in or on your ears! Really. It’s pretty cool. Dennis Burger reviewed last year’s wired model here. Still, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a late 1990s toy called “Sound Bites,” which allowed you to “hear” music through your jawbone whilst sucking on a lollipop. Really, it existed. There was also a later product called “Tooth Tunes,” based on similar concept of hearing music through your bones. AfterShokz definite sound way way better than toothbrushes and lollipops, of course!

Last year at CES I saw some early proof-of-concept technologies tucked away in the back of the South Hall that allowed users to move around and interact with on-screen items on giant sized interactive touchscreens. That type of technology has moved along. This year, I encountered a company called MultiTouch, with its Multi Taction screens in the Central Hall.  I have no idea what these things cost, but as you can hear from the guy who made this video I found, imagine how cool it would be to have a desktop like this at work.

In the back of the South Hall, I saw Dave Ellefson (Megadeth’s bassist) promoting and playing a fun — if  gimmicky — hand-controlled (probably midi-driven) music machine called Beamz.  Wave your hands around and stuff happens — in this case, generating music. It reminded me of wonderful but short-lived video game controller I helped launch in the late ’80′s called U-Force:

Parrot again showed off their synchronized dancing drone helicopters. This was my first time seeing them in person, and they are cool, but at $299 a unit, that can be a pricey dance partner. While I shot some video of their outside demo at CES, our own Dennis Burger’s clips from inside the show and the Unveiled event on Sunday night came out better than mine.


Tosy’s Robosonic was attracting crowds for obvious reasons, even though its Gangham Style dance was kinda… well… judge for yourself:

Gibson had very cool new guitars with updated electronic auto tuners and such.  The new F-hole-less ES-335 type guitar was a sweet dream to play (it was sort of like if a Les Paul Studio was in the shape of BB King’s Lucille). I wish’d I’d taken a picture of it.  However, I did snap some shots of another curious looker — a new “Zoot Suit” Les Paul.  I didn’t have time to try it out but it sure looks purty.

I wonder how sturdy it will be given that it’s entirely laminated (some people say laminates are stronger, but others disagree). But then, if you can afford to buy a guitar like this simply for its looks, then you probably don’t have to worry about longevity, right?

For me, for now, it will remain a sleepwalkers’s dream, alas.

Unless I win the lottery someday….

I can dream, can’t I?

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