Cool and Crazy: Pix of Tech Curiosities From Computex 2008

Digital photo frames that print, ultraslim monitors, and small robots that hammer themselves when an IM arrives are just the tip of the wacky-and-innovative-device iceberg at Computex Taiwan 2008. Take a look at what we found.

Greetings From the World's Second-Largest Tech Show

The Computex trade show in Taipei, Taiwan, is the world's second-largest computer fair behind Germany's massive CeBIT show. This smorgasbord of tech sprawls over several vast halls, crammed with all types of components and gadgets. We've reported on the show's news and hot gadgets in PC World's Computex Info Center and prowled the halls to find some of the more interesting and unusual products. (Also be sure to see our behind-the-scenes photos.) Some of these items you'll crave--and some will make you wonder why their creators bothered.

VirtualReal Concept Interface

Asus's Eee PC products were a big force at the show, but this concept design from the company's research labs certainly turned heads, too. Dubbed "VirtualReal," the interface features two displays, including a touch screen where the keyboard would normally be. Meanwhile, the top screen has a camera integrated above to detect a user's hand gestures. Cool stuff, but the company says it remains only a concept for the moment. Visit Asus's site for more info.

Chi Mei Ultraslim Display

This is the ultraslim, 13.3-inch, WXGA laptop display from Chi Mei Optoelectronics, which makes the display for Apple's Macbook Air. With a glass front polished to 0.3mm and a 0.8mm backlit LCD panel, it weighs a scant 7.7 ounces and produces a bright and crisp image when viewed from the side or even when looked at outdoors.

i-Knock B01 Personal Instant Messaging Notifier

Plug this crazy little critter into your computer's USB port, and it will hammer itself in the head, light up, and spout preset phrases when you receive an instant message or e-mail. The i-Knock works with most popular IM applications and responds differently to over 20 emoticons. You'll need to keep checking in with Stysen for U.S. availability.

Computex Show Girls

In Asia, the show floors are often packed with scantily clad girls to help draw in the mostly male buyers. Please, though, call them "show girls"; they really aren't partial to the "booth babes" moniker.

Asus Ares CG6150 Gamer Chic PC

Believe it or not, this beast won a design award. It's fashioned after a suit of armor, and its maker, Asus, says it "exudes gamer chic." The Asus Ares CG6150 has enough high-end components to make serious gamers squeal, including four Intel Core 2 Extreme CPUs, four nVidia graphics chips, 8GB of DDR3 memory, 4TB of storage, and enough liquid-cooling gear (we hope) to stop it from self-combusting.

Gigabyte Roll Pad

In ancient China (so the marketing says), artists wrapped their paintbrushes in bamboo mats to protect them. That was the design inspiration for Gigabyte's aluminum Roll Pad, which you put under a laptop to increase airflow and keep the machine cool. The rubber rims prevent it from scratching your desk. The product won a Taiwan Excellence award for design.

MSI's Dancing Network Robots

MSI got the most attention at Computex for its new U100 Wind mini-laptop and Wind desktop, but hidden away at the company's showcase were its upcoming network robots, built with Japanese robot maker Speecys. The robots will include a network Webcam in their head, and they'll be able to say "I love you" and sing and dance for your amusement. They won't tuck you in at night, however.

Dialogue Flybook

Dialogue Technology is back with an update to its Flybook, which lets you watch a DVD on a plane when the person in front of you drops their seat back. This latest version has a 1.2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and a Centrino Wi-Fi chip set, plus up to 4GB of memory.

Satzuma USB Novelties

Costing between $10 and $20, these new USB gizmos from UK-based Satzuma celebrate silly. Pictured: a USB whack-a-mole, plasma ball, soda-can fridge, and paper shredder.

Abit Digital Photo Frame Printer

Finally, some innovation! Digital photo frames tend to be extremely similar; if you're lucky, a new and exciting one will feature Bluetooth or Wi-Fi networking, and maybe even automatic picture orientation. Abit's new Funfab Digital Photo Frame Printer F80, as its name suggests, is a digital photo frame that includes a built-in 300-dpi dye-sublimation printer capable of producing pretty nifty-looking 4-by-6-inch prints. Stay tuned for a review.

Bone USB Stick in Panda Form

Okay, this is admittedly a bit silly. But what is it about cute animals in Asia? These USB memory sticks from Bone come as pandas or penguins and hold between 1GB and 4GB of data. The 4GB version retails for about $20.

Solid-State Drives

SSDs are sold everywhere at Computex. Instead of having a disk inside, as most drives today do, these pack flash-memory chips. Advantages: They dish up data fast, and you can drop them without their breaking (allegedly). Disadvantages: The prices are steep (but they are coming down).

Model of the City of Taipei

This model of Computex's host city of Taipei was presented to Taiwan's new president, Ying-jeou Ma, at the opening ceremony. Fittingly for the world's contract chip-making capital, it's made from chips and circuit boards.

Vinpoint Disc Copier

For the budding software pirate ... er, publisher: The SharkCopiers from Vinpower Digital copy up to 14 CDs, DVDs, or Blu-ray Discs at a time, and you can daisy-chain them for synchronized mass copying. Flip the disc, and a built-in laser will etch a label on the other side. The devices write to disc at 8X to 48X depending on the media type. Retail price is around $1500.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix

This may be the first computer seen running Ubuntu's Netbook Remix, a new version of the open-source OS designed for mini- laptops like the Eee PC. It's shown here on an Amtek tablet computer with a 10.2-inch display and Intel's new Diamondville Atom processor. Amtek is a contract manufacturer that serves mostly Japan, but also Tulip Computers in Europe. The device has a touch screen and is for use in restaurants and other work settings, but Amtek will also make Ubuntu mininotebooks for consumers; such models should be on sale in a few months.

Acrosser Embedded PC

If you need a computer that will keep running even when you cover it in dust and shake it around for months on end, look no further. This is Acrosser's Ares fanless industrial embedded computer, designed to be jammed into the back of a bus or train and then long forgotten. You can't see from the picture, but this one was being shaken vigorously for hours. Such shaking is part of the testing process designed to expose any "latent defects" in each product. The survivors are shipped out the door.

LED Reading Lamp

LED-lamp technology isn't brand-new, but we thought this version looked quite cool. You adjust the brightness by sliding your finger around a touch control at the bottom. We're told the LED will burn for 10,000 hours, versus 1000 for a standard light bulb. This one, called Lumen Arte from Prodisc, costs about $120.

Wall PC

These PCs from JSP-Tech look a bit like giant iPods and come in a range of bright colors. They're designed to hang on the wall in the living room or kitchen, or in a cafe or other public place. Based on a Mini-ITX Intel motherboard, the PCs can serve up music and video, or can let users surf the Web with a wireless keyboard. They come with or without a small screen on the front, and can also hook up to a TV or computer monitor. Pricing wasn't available.

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