CES Unveils Unique yet Underwhelming Gadgets

Posted by · January 9, 2012 5:00 am

As Experts Exchange prepares to launch a new version of the site, my colleagues and I are working hard to find the right mix of original reporting, analysis and opinion pieces here on the Experts Exchange blog.  Part of that mix will undoubtedly be attending and reporting from tech conferences from time to time.  Last year, Experts Exchange Creative Director Mark Barbir and I attended the TechCrunch Conference in San Francisco in September.

This year, I’m kicking off 2012 by attending the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.  From today until Wednesday, I’ll be attending press events and pounding the trade show floor to bring you the latest gadgets from big name brands like Toshiba, Samsung, LG and Microsoft to lesser known companies I’ve yet to discover.

Last night, I attended the CES Unveiled press event and got a sneak peak of some of the products I’ll be seeing on the trade show floor this week.  If CES Unveiled is any indication, I’m in for smart phones and tablets galore; earphones that do just about anything; ultra-thin, lightweight laptops that may or may not be better than their predecessors and devices that help you charge your gadgets anytime, anywhere.

Below are my top five favorite gadgets from CES Unveiled. While some of the gadgets are a bit underwhelming, I think that those of you who took my CES poll and said you wanted to hear about new smartphones and tablets will be pleased with what I’ve seen so far:

5. The Powerbag

No matter how unsightly and bulky they may be, we all have to carry around a laptop bag from time to time.  At least now the Powerbag makes it worth our while.  Powerbags are a collection of backpacks, messenger bags and slings that come with embedded batteries that charge your devices while they are in your bag.  Once the bag’s battery is charged (it comes with an adapter) you simply connect and charge up to four mobile devices at a time using the pre-routed connectors–one micro, one mini, 1 Apple and one USB–that are also included with the bags.  The folks at Powerbag will tell you that the bags are both stylish and functional.  The Style Geek says they are more the latter than the former, but hey, one out of two ain’t bad.

Available now. Retail price $139.99. Visit www.mypowerbag.com 

4. Fujitsu Waterproof Tablet

Running on an Android 3.2 operating system, this tablet is probably not the most robust tablet I’ll see at CES.  However, the 10.1 inch LTE slate comes with a dual core CPU and boasts one extremely impressive feature: You can almost fully immerse it in water without breaking the device. While the folks at Fujitsu wouldn’t suggest scuba diving with this tablet, they did say that it’s completely safe to use it in the bathtub or while doing dishes. But if you’re still unwilling to get it wet, the tablet has a hand gesture control function that allows you to control the device without making any physical contact with it. I didn’t get a chance to check out how accurate the hand gesture control is, but I plan to do so later in the week.  Another cool piece of hardware I plan to check out later in the week from Fujitsu: the world’s thinnest smartphone (6.7 millimeters). And yes, in case you were wondering, it’s also waterproof.

Available in Japan. US & UK launch date uncertain.

3. AR Drone 2.0

When the first version of the AR Drone was released almost two years ago, I had a hard time convincing my husband that he didn’t “need” one.  With the release of version 2.0, I think I’m going to need to call on my powers of persuasion again.  Equipped with a 720p video camera that also takes stills and delivers both the video and photos to your phone or tablet automatically, this device is designed for espionage more than it is for play. Other updates that have been made to Drone 2.0 include new sensors that monitor altitude, orientation and speed, new absolute control mode that lets you keep the Drone 2.0 in position and flying right from your ismartphone or tablet and a “travelling” mode that keeps the Drone 2.0 flying the same route until it captures the exact video you want it to capture. For more details on the toy you know you’re already adding to your Christmas list, check out Lance Ulanoff’s (who I had the pleasure of meeting) post and video.

Retail price: $299. Expected to ship during the first half of 2012.

2.  LG/VMWare Smartphones

Yes, the company you work for pays for one of them, but let’s face it, carrying around two cell phones is a hassle.  Fortunately, the folks at LG and VMWare understand your frustration and have partnered to create smartphones that lets you combine your personal phone and your work phone into one.  The 4G LTE phones (which will eventually available on the Verizon network) use a virtualization software application called Horizon mobile to toggle between the data on your work phone and the data on your personal phone.  Your employer can only access and update data on your work phone, but you can receive push notifications from your personal phone on your work phone and vice versa.  In addition, the virtualization app lets you run two different versions of Android on your smartphone.  So, your personal phone could run on a faster version of Android than your work phone or the other way around.

Rumor has it Verizon and Spanish communications company Telefonica are launching one of these phones “in the next few months.”

 1. Samsung Wifi Video Monitor

For all you overly concerned parents of newborns out there, fret no more.  The Samsung Wifi Video Monitor is a tiny, unassuming camera device that can be placed in any room to monitor the movements and sound therein.  The device syncs up with your smartphone, computer, tablet or television and not only lets you listen and view what’s going on in a certain room of your house–no matter where you are–but also lets you send a message to the people in that room. The product also sends you an instant notification through email, Google Talk  or Twitter when there is motion or sound in the room that your Samsung Wifi Video Monitor is in, and a YouTube video of the motion to your private YouTube account.  According to Henry Kim, Samsung’s Director of Product Management, there are currently no other devices on the market like the Samsung Wifi Video Monitor, though Kim says he expects to see competition by the time the device ships in March.

First Impressions

This is my first year attending CES so I had no idea what to expect.  From what I’ve seen so far, it’s a lot of PR people hawking the wares of the companies they promote, which may or may not be something the everyday consumer is interested in, much less can afford.  As many bloggers have already pointed out, with Microsoft discontinuing its presence at the tradeshow after this year and so many of the products unveiled in the past not seeing much commercial success, CES may be losing its luster.  If CES Unveiled was any indication, I don’t necessarily disagree.