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Tops in tech at annual gadget show

LAS VEGAS — Here's one man's view of some of the highlights of the annual International Consumer Electronics Show, at which are displayed the high-tech products that will be flying off holiday shelves a year or two from now.


• LG and Samsung displayed prototype 55-inch OLED screens that were so thin, you could shave with them. (OLED is a breathtakingly clear, crisp, colorful, expensive kind of screen — and the largest one until now has been an 11-inch model from Sony.)

• Sony and Toshiba demonstrated prototype 3-D sets that don't require glasses. Samsung displayed a set that eliminates the age-old fight for the remote control: It lets two warring family factions watch different shows on the same TV simultaneously. (Each member wears special glasses with built-in earbuds. Anyone not wearing glasses sees a double-vision mishmash and hears nothing.)

• Samsung demonstrated TV sets that recognize their owners' faces and take voice commands.


The tablet makers' 2012 efforts, clearly, will be trying to stand out from all the other tablets. Some will compete on price: Asus and Nvidia will offer $250 Android tablets, Leader will sell one for $180 and ViewSonic plans a $170 model. Fujitsu and Pantech demonstrated waterproof tablets.

• Panasonic previewed a ToughPad ruggedized model that you can drop 4 feet onto concrete, freeze, bake and use in the shower without a care in the world.

• Remember One Laptop Per Child, the company that tried to build a $100 laptop for children in poor countries? They're back with a tablet now: a thick, rugged, waterproof green model.

• But the most heavily advertised tablet, if that's the right word for it, was the Samsung Galaxy Note. It's like an Android phone whose blueprint measurements were off by factor of 10. It's huge. It's like holding a VHS cassette in your hand, and looks just as silly when you're holding it up to your ear.

Still, it's thin and beautiful, and that 5.3-inch screen comes in very handy when you're trying to read books, examine maps, surf the Web or frame a photo. There's even a stylus that you can use to scribble or highlight things; just don't sit down when it's in your back pocket.

Smartphone control

Another huge theme this year was "use your phone to control everything." For example, the Tagg from Qualcomm attaches to your dog's collar and alerts you if it roves out of your yard. Home security products from Trane let you unlock your house for guests, control the temperature or program your lights — all by remote control, using your phone.

• Escort Live (an accessory for Escort radar detectors) not only detects police speed traps, it also broadcasts their times and locations to other Escort Live owners. They (the traps, not the owners) show up on a map on the phone's screen, thereby creating a speed-trap social network. The police can't be thrilled.

• Casio's new G-Shock GB6900 wristwatch communicates with your phone using a new, low-power wireless technology called Bluetooth 4.0; brilliant possibilities ensue. Your watch can vibrate when you get a call, text or e-mail and show the person's name, even if your phone is in your purse or briefcase.

• The G-Shock can help you find a phone lost in your sofa by making it chirp loudly. It can also beep at you if you leave the phone behind in, say, a restaurant.

There were a million gorgeous new Android phones and Windows phones, many of them 4G (meaning faster Internet in big cities). But there was also SpareOne, whose cellphone takes a single AA battery that lasts years in your glove compartment.


These are superthin, superlight aluminum laptops with Apple-style keys that poke through holes in the deck (and no DVD drive or removable battery). Samsung's Series 5 and Series 8, Lenovo's IdeaPads and Hewlett-Packard's Envy Spectre were among the drool-worthiest.

The weird and wonderful

• For $20, RCA will sell you a wall plate that plugs into a standard two-jack power outlet — and changes it into a one-outlet, two-USB-jack plate for ease of charging your gadgets.

• For $3,000, you can buy a Swiss Army knife that, along with the usual knives and scissors, includes a tiny 1-terabyte flash drive.

• LG's top-of-the-line refrigerator includes the Blast Chiller, a special rocking chamber that cools a can of beer or soda in five minutes.

• The PowerBag is a line of backpacks, rolling luggage and messenger bags that charge up your gadgets as you haul them, thanks to a built-in battery and prerouted USB and Apple charging connectors.

• Microsoft revealed that its popular Kinect, which plugs into an Xbox and lets you play games just by moving your arms and legs in front of the TV, will now be available for Windows computers. That's right: Now you'll be able to dance around spastically in front of your PC, too.

Tops in tech at annual gadget show 01/15/12 [Last modified: Sunday, January 15, 2012 9:42pm]
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