The Best of CES 2012

January 15, 2012

6:45 pm

This past week was a blur for anyone who attended this year’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas. CES means lots of oxygen-infused hotel lobbies, jostling crowds, gadgets galore and late nights rubbing shoulders with folks in the vast electronics industry that now encompasses, well, everything.

If you attended this year as a CES virgin you may have found it to be a very overwhelming experience. With over 3100 exhibitors this year (the largest number in their 44 year history!), I’ll just share a handful of items that caught my attention this week that bubbled above the noise of CES.

Lots of ultra-thin laptops were showcased this year. With Windows 8 expected in the second half of the year, we expect many more ultra-thin laptops to pop up in the marketplace. The Intel-powered Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga caught our attention due to it’s thin design. It’s also a flip screen, which reminds some of a “yoga” position, hence the name. Watch the demo of the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga below.

Polaroid continues to try to reinvigorate its brand and position itself for the future by blurring the line between camera and smartphone, revealing the Polaroid’s SC1630 camera (shown below). The camera leverages Google’s Android smartphone platform to create a phone camera.  That’s right  – it’s a camera that can make phone calls (with the emphasis on the camera). It features a high definition 16 megapixel camera with built in 3X optical zoom, touch screen display and wifi, allowing you to make uploads to social networks with one click.

Polaroid SC1630 Smart Camera

Remote-controlled drones seem to be hot year after year at CES, and this year was no different.  The A.R. Drone 2.0, the flying drone for augmented reality gaming you can control with your mobile phone, is back with video and more sharing capabilities. We covered the first A.R. Drone back in 2010, but now it’s more consumer-friendly than ever. Watch the A.R. Drone 2.0 in action.

Because gadgets and water do not mix, Utah-based HzO is looking to help change that. HzO’s Waterblock Technology adds a protective layer to your smartphone that makes it waterproof. Brilliant! Watch the video below to see how HzO works.

Sensics, a Columbia, Maryland-based panoramic, head-mounted display company, unveiled Smart Goggles. The gadget offers viewing in 360 degrees and is fully 3D, making for an impressively immersive gaming experience as you walk around. Watch the video below of the Smart Googles to see it in action.

Along those same lines, Aurasma debuted 3D-augmented reality via their app. Though the images do seem to have some rough edges, the technology could be used in a number of ways, from advertising to education. Watch the video below, in which a polar bear is spotted in the River Thames.

Dubbed Legos 2.0, Cubelets are small multicolor cubes you can snap together to create robots that move, chirp, and light up. We covered Cubelets in full detail here, and you can watch them in action in the video below.

Austin-based Chaotic Moon Labs made a splash at CES with the unveiling of The Board of Awesomeness (BoA) or “Project Sk8.″  BoA is a longboard that employs an unreleased Window’s 8 tablet in conjunction with a Kinect control bar to drive an 800 watt electric skateboard using a 36 volt power supply. It is controlled using gestures, which were a trend at CES – and we expect to see more gesture-driven devices in the future. Watch the video below of the longboard in action.

New Jersey-based LPS Technology showed off PERCH, a lightweight, compact electronic accessory that attaches to any electronic device battery charger; it “perches” between the charger and wall socket. When the portable device (i.e. mobile phone, laptop, BlueTooth) is connected to its corresponding charger, Perch automatically activates and begins silently “watching your wires.” Hours later, when the device is unplugged from its charger, Perch chirps a distinctive, unobtrusive sound, reminding its owner to take the charger along. If it is not yet time to unplug the charger and relocate, the alarm can be silenced with the push of a button. Watch the PERCH video below.

Do I spot a trend in wristwatch accessories? The Apple iPod nano has turned people’s attention to the wristwatch, and we knew it would only be a matter of time until Dick Tracy-like smartwatches would come out in force. Sony previewed the Sony SmartWatch (due out in March), which can connect to your Android Phone. Watch the video of the Sony SmartWatch below.

I’M Watch also showcased at CES, offering a watch that can tether to your smartphone or tablet to utilize installed apps to pull down email, stock quotes, play music and more. The device uses a web interface for registration and app management. It’s the closest I’ve seen to the Dick Tracy 2-way wrist radio yet. Watch the I’M Watch video below.

On the camera front, the unique features and form factor of Lytro garnered some attention. Unlike a conventional camera that captures a single plane of light, the Lytro camera captures the entire light field using technology developed at Stanford over a decade ago.  That means it’s capturing all the light traveling in every direction in every point in space. The resulting photos allow any viewer to click on the image to refocus on any other point in the photo, shifting the perspective of the scene and even switching between 2D and 3D views.

Obviously this changes the nature of the photo, making it a shared experience versus relegating you to a “creator” or “viewer.” Now both the creator and the viewer can influence the “living image.” Photos can be shared on any blog, mobile device or social network. One other major benefit – no auto-focus motor means no shutter delay. Click on the photo below to focus and re-focus anywhere in the picture.

Finally, if you like music, have a lot of space and are looking for a conversation piece that is bigger than a regular coffee table book, you might might be interested in the Behringer’s iNuke Boom speaker. This absurdly oversized speaker dock for your iPod or iPhone is priced at $30,000. So basically, it’s like a Bose speaker dock for giants or people looking to compensate for something else they are lacking.

behringer iNuke Boom

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Frank Gruber is the cofounder, CEO and Executive Editor of Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail). He is the author of the book, Startup Mixology, Tech Cocktail’s Guide to Building, Growing, and Celebrating Startup Success. He is also a startup advisor and investor to startups.

Find Frank Gruber online and follow him on Twitter at @FrankGruber.

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