A glimpse into our tech future
The 2012 Consumer Electronics Show is two months away, but you don’t have to wait until then to get a peek at what some companies will be showing. At a press event sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association in New York this month, dozens of tech companies showcased their latest and greatest gear.
From high-definition video calling through your TV to practically indestructible cards for your camera, here’s a look at 20 gadgets and services that will be making their way to the Las Vegas Convention Center in January.
Pump up the volume
The AirGo by Russosound is a weatherized outdoor high-performance speaker that allows you to stream your iTunes library while you're relaxing or entertaining outdoors. To use the AirGo simply plug an Apple AirPort Express directly into the speaker's weatherproof enclosure so you can wirelessly stream music from Airplay-compatible devices such as an iPod Touch or a Mac or PC running iTunes.
The AirGo is a 12-inch cube and weighs-in at 16 pounds and also serves as a Wi-Fi hotspot (leveraging the AirPort Express’s Wi-Fi repeater mode). Priced at $399, the portable streaming speakers are available from several online retailers.
Biscotti is an affordable and svelte high-definition video calling system designed for your HDTV in your living room. The device, roughly the same size and shape of the Italian cookie it’s named after, plugs into your HDTV via the included HDMI cable and uses your Wi-Fi network to let you talk to friends and family via your TV. The built-in microphone works up to 20 feet.
Biscotti is one of the few TV video calling products to focus on personal calls, rather than enterprise video conferencing. The device costs $199, but once you pay for it, you get free, unlimited calling that integrates with Google Talk -- from the comfort of your couch. The company expects to begin selling it this month.
BodyMedia’s CORE armband is one-third smaller and slimmer than previous versions of this exercise and health tracking tool. The armband measures the number of steps you take, calories burned, skin temperature, and even your sleep duration and sleep efficiency. The LINK model connects over Bluetooth to the BodyMedia FIT app for Android and iOS. Both are available now, at $180 for the CORE and $250 for the LINK.
Satellite firm Dish Network has the ultimate tailgating accessory for football fans, campers or wandering boob tubers. The Tailgater Portable HDTV System is a compact satellite dish within a weather-resistant cover (security bracket included). You can take it with you to tailgate parties, camping trips, or backyard barbeques. It’s about the size of a large cooler and weighs 10 pounds. The Tailgater is priced at $499, and you can order your TV programming on a pay-as-you-go basis. Expect this sports-fan-tailored system sometime around Thanksgiving.
Bag of hits
Can you feel the good vibes? This Bag of Rhythm speaker bag is made from natural FSC-certified wood products and cotton. Oh, when you buy it you're supporting the Bob Marley family’s 1Love.org nonprofit organization. Dock and charge your iPod or iPhone on top of the bag for “loud and proud” sound out of the two 4-inch speakers with 1-inch tweeters. The speaker bag is expected the first quarter of 2012 for $300.
Cut another cord
Cut the USB cords for good with HyperDrive CloudFTP that allows you to ditch USB connections for Wi-Fi device connectivity. Made by Sanho, this pocket-sized gizmo
adds Wi-Fi capability to anything that connects via USB such as USB thumb drives or digital camera. For example connect CloudFTP to an external hard drive and you can access the drive without wires from your laptop in a different room. CloudFTP also connects to popular online cloud storage services like Dropbox, iCloud, and Box.net for convenient backup and synchronization of your data. Priced at $70, CloudFTP will be available in January.
Serious gamers demand serious gear. Enter the ultimate gamers' mouse -- the Cyborg M.M.O. 7. With 78 customizable buttons and switches and a 6400 dpi sensor, Mad Catz's Cyborg M.M.O. 7 mouse blows the doors off of last year's model -- R.A.T 7 mouse (with 5600 DPI sensor and just 7 programmable buttons).
World of Warcraft player? The mouse features drag-and-drop customization for your spells and commands, plus presets for other games. The M.M.O. is expected to ship in December with an expected price of between $100 and $300.
With Recon Instruments' MOD Live line of futuristic ski gear you can take the guessing out of things such as jump airtime, speed, and vertical distance traveled on the slopes. In the past, Recon only sold its own GPS-enabled goggles, but with its MOD or MOD Live devices you can retrofit a variety of different model ski goggles with GPS display.
The MOD Live model adds Bluetooth and Android wireless connectivity to access music playlists and text messages within your goggles. Recon officially introduced MOD Live at the CES Preview; it will retail for $399 while the MOD goes for $299.
Tough as nails
Get excited about SD cards? Yeah right! But Monster Digital cards might have you raising an eyebrow -- especially if you work in the demolition business. Monster Digital's latest SD and microSD cards are built to survive a ton of impact force, magnets, shock, extreme temperatures, and being submersed in 8 feet of water. These tough SD and microSD cards will available later this month with pricing starting at $35 for the 8GB SD card, to $85 for 64GBs.
Plug and play
Motorola's Universal Lapdock 100 allows you to plug your Motorola phone into a laptop-size chassis for a more notebook-like work environments. Previous versions of Motorola’s laptop docks haven’t played nice with all Motorola dockable phones. Motorola says its new Universal Lapdock 100 is a big improvement and works with the original Atrix, the Bionic, the Atrix 2, and future Motorola phones as well. Rather than requiring the phone to dock into the accessory, the Lapdock 100 connects to the smartphone via a cable. This updated dock retains the 10-inch screen size of the previous models, but sports a wider keyboard and more USB ports.
The Lapdock 100 will be available Nov. 11 for $299.
Turn up the heat
The Nest Learning Thermostat ($250) learns from you after a week of observing your energy habits (turning down the temperature at night, for example) and then it takes over to do the rest, adjusting your temperature automatically and reporting on your energy savings. You can also control this smart, CES Best of Innovations Honoree device from a Web browser or your iPhone away from home.
Polaroid's new digital camera, the Z340, harkens back to the company's classic instant (printing) camera design. This time, there’s an SD card for storing your shots in the camera (and easily transferring them to your computer), plus Zero Ink Printing Technology from ZINKl no ink cartridges or ribbons are needed for the smudge-proof, water-resistant, and tear-resistant 3x4” photos. A pack of 3x4” Zero Ink paper costs $20, and the camera, launched at the CES Preview event, is priced at $300.
Power up your iPhone, tablet, or other portable gear while you are on the go with the Powerbag charger. The Powerbag is essentially a portable charging station equipped with tons of pockets with USB connectors all for your gear.
Powerbags come in a variety of designs from backpacks, messenger bags, and briefcases, each of which has a battery inside. Powerbag claims these bags can charge the average smartphone two to four times before its battery needs to be recharged. A battery meter on the outside of the bag gives you a convenient glimpse of your gadgets’ power level. The Powerbag backpack is available now and priced at $140, a carry-on costs $250.
Outlet of the future
If only you could get rid of the bulky wall charger so you can power up more mobile devices like your iPad and smartphone plus AC-powered appliances at the same time. That’s the thinking behind the RCA USB Wall Plate Charger, which converts an ordinary dual AC power outlet into a USB plus AC power outlet. Just plug the outlet in and you’ve got USB charging set up. This CES Best of Innovations Honoree for 2012 is available now for $20.
Need a simple baby monitor/security monitor/two-way-talk speaker and microphone? Don't we all? The Samsung IP Camera sports a mini camera, has motion and audio detection and can notify your smartphone or PC when anything happens. It can even upload videos in real-time to a private YouTube account. The connected camera can also send you tweets and Google Talk messages with motion and sound updates. Pricing will be announced next year, but I was able to get Samsung Techwin reps to narrow the device down to between $100 and $250.
Along with a single-sided, smaller X2 headset, Sennheiser’s X320 is also the company’s first headphones designed specifically for the Xbox 360. The noise-canceling X320 offers dual volume control, so you can tweak sound levels of both the game audio and fellow players’ voices. Need to mute your voice quickly? Just raise the boom of the mic for automatic mute.
The X320 retails now for $150, while the budget X2’s street price is $30.
Fun and gaming
Skylanders merges video gaming and collectible toys for kids age 6 to 12. When Skylander action figures (with built-in RFID chips) are placed in a special "Portal" they come to life in the video game. The Skylander “Portal” (essentially an action figure dock) plugs into the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii.
This makes it easy for kids to bring game characters over to friends’ houses or trade characters with levels and upgrades stored in the figures. The Skylander Spyro’s Adventures starter system is priced at $70 and new characters will be arriving in time for Black Friday.
Light up my life
The eco-friendly Solar Kindle Lighted Cover features a built-in solar panel to charge the reserve battery that powers the LED reading light and can also be used to charge your Kindle. The reading light turns on automatically when you open it up, and turns off automatically when the Kindle goes into sleep mode or you put the light back in place.
Shipping in mid-December, the Solar Kindle Lighted Cover is listed at $79.90.
Switch Lighting’s Switch60 is a 60-watt equivalency bulb designed to look and work like the regular incandescent bulbs most of us are used to. It fits in standard sockets, is instant-on and dimmable, and uses a unique cooling technology that extends the rated lifespan of the bulb to 25,000 hours. Starting at $40, the bulbs aren’t cheap, but Switch expects the bulbs to be under $12 sometime in 2013. If price isn’t a concern for you, expect Switch60 -- as well as Switch40, Switch75, and Switch100 -- bulbs in January 2012.
Keyboard on the go
ZAGG’s newest keyboard accessory, the ZAGGkeys FLEX, is the company’s first to be designed for universal smartphone or tablet support, rather than tailored and custom-fit to the iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab. The universal keyboard comes with a collapsible stand that doubles as the keyboard cover and the Bluetooth wireless keyboard. The keyboard has a six-month battery life and special function keys for quick access to special device features. Launched at the CES Preview, the ZAGGkeys FLEX is available now for $80.