It may have been bitter cold with snow squalls that day, but the Cleveland Browns had a highly anticipated game to tackle. The team was playing against the Buffalo Bills — a must win that was not to be missed.
But even if you’re halfway around the world? Lev Gonick, CIO of Case Western Reserve University, was traveling in balmy Cape Town, South Africa, while I was at the “Snow Bowl” in Cleveland. But even though Gonick was on another continent, he was able to watch the game by using a SlingBox.
The device sent the broadcast from Gonick’s TV through the Internet to his connection across the globe. At the annual high-tech Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, I saw the next version of the gadget called the SlingCatcher. The $250 SlingCatcher is a set-top box that “slings” not only broadcast TV but also Internet content and personal media to other locations.
At CES, people expect to see gadgets like this. And there were plenty of them. But, this year, it seemed as though many of the devices were not just cool for the sake of being cool, but vehicles to leverage the real focus of consumers — content.
Content means different things to different people. It could be TV shows, movies, Web pages, photos, games, music, podcasts — even PowerPoint presentations. So the estimated 140,000 attendees at CES were looking not just for shiny new gadgets but for ways to consume and enjoy whatever content means to them.
This year’s show was Bill Gates’ last CES keynote, as he is retiring from the day-to-day activities at Microsoft in July. He showed his usual celebrity-laden video featuring himself on his last day at work trying to land a new job. But the meat of the keynote focused on technologies and partnerships to acquire and consume content on traditional devices like the PC, as well as mobile devices.
Intel Corp. CEO Paul Otellini spoke more about “the Internet experience” than about processors and chips, and Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang pushed mobile services to deliver content to portable devices.
Content and how a consumer accesses it is a big battleground right now. Don’t ignore innovations just because they are geared toward the consumer. Business applications usually appear about a year after the adoption of this technology.
Here is a list of things I saw at CES that stood out:
Ma, Look at That
I gawked at the Panasonic 150-inch plasma screen as if I were a yokel visiting Manhattan. It was huge and crystal clear with four times the resolution of the older model. What’s more, Panasonic showed a 1-inch-thick plasma display that consumes half the power of its predecessor.
Luke, I Am Your Projector
Nikko showed the “R2-D2” digital video projector system complete with a Millennium Falcon remote. The projector is about 2 feet tall and is a replica of the famous “Star Wars” droid.
Fujitsu demoed its Fabric PC. It’s made of a thin plastic that can be folded like a paper notebook and stretches to varying sizes.
The “green” movement was everywhere. Hewlett-Packard’s environmentally friendly booth included carpet made from corn and bamboo-fiber logo shirts.
Muny Lot, Here I Come
The Cruzin Cooler is a scooter that doubles as a cooler. It “combines two basic necessities of life, the ability to have cold food or a beverage handy along with the means to get somewhere, without walking,” according to its Web site.
Krown featured a handheld unit with a video display, which allows the user to type any word and learn how to sign it in sign language.
Called the world’s first storage robot, the Drobo automatically combines up to four hard drives into a single storage pool. It expands on the fly and doesn’t use RAID (redundant array of inexpensive disks).
Weather Direct is a device that lets users retrieve weather alerts and info from their Wi-Fi connections. No need to boot a PC or turn on the TV.
Spielberg’s Grocery List
Audiovox displayed its Homebase message center. Homebase is a whiteboard that a user can stick on the fridge for messages. However, it also includes a 7-inch LCD digital picture frame that stores 125 photos and a built-in camera for leaving video messages to the family.
What Time Is It?
The Photowatch from Neutrano has a hi-res LCD display and holds 100 photos. It includes a USB port, aflashlight and, oh yes, a watch.
Tanks a Lot
Tank Chair is a custom off-road wheelchair that can go through streams, mud, snow, sand and gravel. It can even handle stairs with an incline of up to 45 degrees.
The EyeClops is a handheld bionic eye that allows kids to view an item at 200 times the normal size on any TV screen. No software needed — just educational fun.
No Dust Bunnies
Press the remote on the MK1 Studio’s Motorized Underbed Lift and watch the 40- to 50-inch plasma or LCD screen appear from under your bed for viewing and disappear when it’s time for lights out.
Lots of robots were displayed for fun or cleaning (floors, gutters, etc.). But with the LawnBott, users can lay perimeter wire around their yard and watch as it cuts the lawn for them.
Mi Mi Mi
My favorite robot was the Gibson Robot Guitar, which tunes itself
No Posers Allowed
Guitar Hero is wildly popular, but it’s just a game. By contrast, Guitar Wizard actually teaches you how to play guitar and read music as you jam. Or, try Piano Wizard.
Get Your Motor Running
The $11,000 Vectrix is a cool-looking zero-emission bike. No gas, no oil, and the vehicle costs about $0.01 per mile to operate. It goes 0 to 50 mph in 6.8 seconds and maxes out at 62 mph.
Better Safe ...
Consider the sensitive data we carry on portable hard drives. Apricorn has the Aegis Bio drive that secures the data on the drive with 128-bit hardware encryption. Plus, it has a fingerprint reader so only registered users can access the drive.
Colortone’s Bob Leon had the Ohio State game playing on huge screens at “Showstoppers at the Wynn.” Alas, like last year, the Buckeyes fell short. I tried out an ergonomic chair in the shape of a Buckeye helmet, but it didn’t do me any good. CSR, Goodyear, Eaton, Audio-Technica and SPX Corp. represented Northeast Ohio at CES.
What happens in Vegas ... but e-mail entreprenerd Dan Hanson (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more CES news like how he almost collided with 6-foot, 5-inch former heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis.