I made a realization a few years ago -- when I'm taking notes on the CES show floor talking to company reps my writing turns into a scrawl, and it often becomes numbingly difficult to decipher a week after the event is over and I'm trying to write my long column. And so for the past few years I've begun to resolve before each CES starts to take my time and...carefully...write...so...that...everything...is...clear.
It lasts about an hour, and then I'm back to the scrawl, trying to keep up with what I'm being told. Good intentions, but...sigh. Well, at least I'm a little bit better these days because when I notice something is quite illegible on the spot I cross it out and try again. Also, there have been a few times when I have tried to write more slowly and, if I fall far being, I'm now just upfront about and ask the person to please repeat everything they just said. But the notebook is still a mess. A better mess, happily, but a mess.
What's worse (by far, about a million times so) is when I actually misplace my notebook. I can't begin to explain the moment of angst. I've put it down somewhere to go through my attache case or something, and then wander off. It's hellish and has happened 2-3 times. Fortunately I've been able to retrace my steps and find it. Just as fortunately, I haven't misplace it yet this year. But it's not over until Saturday...
Lots of robots at the show this year, including a surprisingly large number of ones for babies. What I found a hoot though was that one named Jibo and another Yobi. I'm detecting a theme... Neither do a significant amount of things we consider robotian, but their pronounced feature is that they read stories.
Over the years, one of the product lines I haven't tended to write about are cameras. There are SO many of them, I couldn't begin to tell you most of the differences, and even at their somewhat-generally lower level they all take fairly good pictures. But this year I noticed the growth of a new direction for cameras which I think makes it at least worth noting. And that's a lot of 360-degree cameras. These are cameras that (as the name suggests) takes pictures all around, and then can be viewed on a touch screen by swiping the screen to see everything full circle. Of all the companies I noted, one that seemed most intriguing that I checked out was Insta-360. They have a wide range of models, two of which connect to your Smartphone. The one for the iPhone is currently being sold, the camera for Android is coming soon. Because neither phone supports 360-cameras, you need to load an app that allows you to run things. And they each let you live-stream the results on social media. The results I saw were smooth and seamless.
One of my favorite companies I've dealt with is a small company from Singapore, X-Mini, which began making high-quality, tiny portable speakers. You've likely seen a lot of copy-cats of their various speakers that look like golf balls. When I first came across them, they were hidden away in a tiny "booth" in a Singapore trade section. They've grown beyond that. They've taken a big leap in the last couple years and were displaying some impressive upcoming products. One stood out for me as being so remarkably clever and made so much sense that i don't know why no one hasn't done this before. It was their Evolve 2 headphones -- and what make them so special is that you can twist the earpads around, flip a switch...and turn the device into speakers! The sound quality in speaker mode wasn't as good as the earphones, but it was fine. (The company president Ryan Lee explained it's a technology matter that speakers simply operate differentlly headphones, that's impacted by having so little room to operate with.) They're already working on the model beyond this which will use ceramic drivers for even higher quality sound, and the demo unit sounded wonderful.
One of the more bizarre products I came across (because it was not only so unlikely, but also so good) is a new product from, of all companies -- Play-Dough. Now admit it, would you think of Play-Dough at a high-tech show?? It's called Play-Dough Touch. Basically you form whatever object you want -- free-form or with a Play-Dough mold. Then, placing your design on a plaform (the Play-Dough Studio), you use an app to scan the object. This creates an image which then is adapted into a little video, and you can manipulate it through it "land" but touchinng the screen of your tablet and sending the creature you ("you" in this case, of course, being the child) created on its own adventure.
Though not may PCs get introduced at CES, Ockel has a unique model they'll be releasing in May. (They have other, somewhat similar earlier versions on the market already, but this pushes things into a more interesting level.) The PC is about the size of a Smartphone -- 6-inches long and three inches wide, and an inch or two thick -- and it runs Windows 10. You can connect it to a monitor and the device becomes a keyboard, or (what I think is far more practical), you can connecte a portable Bluetooth keyboard and use the device as its own monitor, running Windows. In its best configuration (with 8gb RAM and 256gb Flash memory storage, it will cost $799. The challenge will be that there are some extremely good, small, full-sized PCs on the market for not a whole lot more -- and some very accetably good ones for less. The market will be for those who like a PC that you can literally put in your pocket.
Still more to come...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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