On the first day of the Consumer Electronics Show, our editor wrote some things for us to read...CES. The Consumer Electronics Show. It’s big, it’s weird, and it’s in Vegas. And so am I. In Vegas, that is; I’m not big. Might be weird though.
It’s all pretty bewildering, actually. I’ve been to tech shows before, but never, ever anything of this scope. I’ve only been to one event, and checked out half of one hall at one site so far, and I’m glutted with tech already.
Sorting the signal from the noise is the real trick. There are more robotic vacuums and Ipod cases than I think have ever been collected under one roof, but that’s hardly noteworthy. I haven't even properly caught up with all the big PC vendors, either (though I have seen some cool stuff from Dell already – more later).
But regardless, here’s a quick run down of the cool stuff that’s caught my eye so far. Not all of it is going to be available in Australia, but a lot of vendors are looking down our way. Keep your fingers crossed. Not everything on show is new either, but in many cases it’s first time I’ve had a chance to actually look at and play with a lot of these hard-to-find-downunder toys.
Sans Digital had a range of great hard drive based storage solutions, especially its single unit towers. The handsome, pitted steel-look towers come in NAS and DAS varieties, with the Direct Attached modules offering USB 2.0, SCSI, iSCSI, Firewire, Fibre Channel, SATA and eSATA connectivity. It’s no Big Willy, but still pretty handy stuff for storing and moving large chunks of data.
If you’re more interested in smaller chunks (okay, not my best segue ever – I’m still jetlagged), then Big C’s USB Digital Microscope is super cool. Considering it’s a unit just a little bit bigger than you’re thumb, it’s a surprisingly powerful microscope -– great for peering at shell casings, spiders and goopy bits of biology (which, coincidentally, were all the things they had on display). It’s also a great little tool for electronics fiddlers, or hardcore, mobo re-wiring overclocker types. There are four models, offering up to 200x magnification adjustable, or 500x fixed.
Speaking of looking at stuff, there’s a lot of neat monitor display technology on show. Crown Trading Systems' multi-monitor display really caught some attention: a single box that can connect and power up to 16 monitors from one PC. Sure, it’s designed for serious stock and financial trading action, but one look at this puppy and all I could think was *this* is how a flight sim should be played.
3DV Systems has obviously been playing close attention to Youtube and Wii hacking, and has come up with its own video imaging system that can read user movements. The ZCam is basically a fancy web camera utilising a proprietary chip set – DeepC – that lets the camera perceive very accurate depth information at up 60fps. In action, this means you can use a gesture-based command system to control media systems, edit the image stream in a video conference (“Yes, boss, I really am in Paris!), and play games by translating your body movement into the on-screen action. It makes throwing a knock-out punch in a boxing sim a singularly satisfying experience. The great thing about this solution is that it doesn’t need the user to wear anything special – the camera does all the sensing work, and from my demo it seems a pretty foolproof solution.
One piece of kit I know will be released in Australia is Dell’s latest Crystal monitor. We make no bones about really liking Dell monitors, and this one takes the cake. Design-wise, it’s a real departure of the company – the screen is set in a clear perspex rim, kind of like a mini Bravia display. Also set into that Perspex are the speakers and monitor controls, which are seamlessly integrated into the plastic. It’s very Apple, very Harmon Kardon. And of course, it the display is, well, crystal-clear.
Alienware had a prototype monitor on show that we cannot wait to see in production – a big monitor, roughly the with screen real estate of three side-by-side 19in screens, and with a gentle curve to surround the viewer. Crysis was the game showcasing the system, and it was a showstopping example of what the display is capable of – it literally looked like a different game.
HD and other digital media is of course a big draw, and there was a maze of technologies to navigate. A couple that stood out, but that, sadly, are not likely to make it into our market, are the satellite powered XstreamHD, which uses a small setallite receiver to stream 1080P full HD media with 7.1 channels of sound to your TV via a proprietary media center. It can push up to four separate streams throughout the home, and the server comes with 500GB of Seagate storage as standard.
It’s a really attractive concept, and while there’s no details of the subscriber rate, the hardware and setup is only US$399 (AUD$454). Not that we’re likely to see this down our way, but one can dream.
The other toy that stood out in this area was the newly released iRecord. This neat little white box offers a one-touch solution for recording movies, TV, music or streaming audio straight to your iPod, USB device or PSP. The iRecord attaches directly to a DVD or CD player or similar device; you press record; the media is recorded to your chosen portable device without the need for a PC. You can even schedule recording, making it like a mini PVR. Kinda neat, and not bad for US$199 (AUD$227).
Serious FPS gamers will drool over the Wolf King range of keyboards. Kind of like an MS ergonomic keyboard on a meth binge, these circular keyboards feature keys placed for optimal gaming. There are two sizes, the larger one featuring a cutdown QWERTY keyboard on the right surface – it takes some getting used to, but once up to speed you can keep fragging with your left hand while you type gloating messages with your left.
Finally (but by no means final – there’s a lot more show to cover) there’s the new range of headsets coming from Able Planet. The company started out making hearing aids and similar technologies, but has recently taken that expertise into the mainstream headset market. The company offers a range of headsets, from enhanced hearing devices to fully fledged gaming headphones, and the difference that Able Planet’s Linx Audio technology offers is astounding. The company is about to launch in Australia, too, so we’ll be keeping a keen eye on these beautiful headphones.
Phew! That’s it for now. I gotta run back into the fray.