Posted: January 01, 2011
Gadgets for a new year
Our tech writer's picks from the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las VegasBy Eric Peterson
Gadgets galore: Out of the 2,700 exhibitors at this month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, here are a dozen gems that aren't household names - at least not yet.
LIQUID IMAGE CAMERA GOGGLES
New last month, Liquid Image's Summit Series HD integrates a high-definition camera into a pair of high-performance snow goggles for footage with an authentic point of view of the slopes. Beyond capturing 720p HD video, the goggles double as a hands-free, five-megapixel camera for still images. With offices in California and Hong Kong, Liquid Image has made its mark with scuba mask-underwater camera hybrids and offers similar products for extreme motorsports. Summit Series: about $250 retail.
Made by Liquid Image, Antelope, Calif., www.liquidimageco.com .
The remote control might well go the way of the dodo. In its place, a smartphone and an app dubbed Surc by Mashed Pixel. Many "universal" remotes are far from universal. Surc controls any and all infrared devices with your iPhone. The app requires no other hardware and allows users to customize their interface like placement of buttons. It even allows you to match gestures to common functions like volume adjustment or flipping channels. Users need to buy the Surc hardware ($69.95), and the app is free.
Made by Mashed Pixel, Washington, D.C., www.mashedpixel.com .
FACEVSION VIDEOCONFERENCING CAMERAS
Specializing in low-cost, high-definition videoconferencing cameras, faceVsion makes a number of products that are compatible with such applications as Skype, Google Gmail and Cisco WebEx. The company touts its cameras as the best value for high-definition videoconferencing cameras, which simply clip onto a notebook's lid to allow remote workers the same quality enjoyed by most boardrooms. The newest faceVsion products are in the TouchCam series, streaming up to 1080p HD video. About $130 to $150 retail.
Made by faceVsion Technology USA, Fremont, Calif., www.facevisionusa.com .
EYE-FI WIRELESS MEMORY CARDS
Digital cameras have revolutionized photography, with a catch: a constant juggling of cables and memory cards to transfer images from one gadget to another. Eye-Fi's wireless memory cards solve this problem with a built-in Wi-Fi transmitter that allows users to beam their images from camera to computer without the muss and fuss. The cards debuted in 2007, and the California-based Eye-Fi expanded its line considerably in 2010 with the X2 series, ranging from the 4-gigabyte Connect X2 to the 8-gigabyte Pro X2, with all manner of digital bells and whistles. About $50 to $150 retail.
Made by Eye-Fi, Mountain View, Calif., www.eye.fi .
URBAN GREEN ENERGY WINDMILLS
Founded in 2008, Urban Green Energy is bringing wind power to the city center. The company's vertical-axis wind turbines can be mounted on a roof or tower and can power an average American home with wind speed of 10 miles per hour. New last September, the eddy GT is the latest windmill, capable of producing surplus energy on windy days the owner can sell back to the grid. Also new for the municipal market: the Sanya, a street lamp-turbine hybrid. Eddy GT: $6,990, not including tower and installation cost or 30 percent federal rebate or other incentives.
Made by Urban Green Energy, New York, www.urbangreenenergy.com .
JOOS ORANGE PORTABLE SOLAR CHARGER
The JOOS Orange charger outdoes the competition by soaking up more of the sun's energy per hour with top-flight solar technology. The ultra-durable unit, which will power a typical cell phone for two hours of talk time in just one hour, is not only efficient (it can be used on overcast days and even functions in the shade), it's also exceptionally durable (it is drop-proof and even works in light rain). Other features include adjustable legs and an internal battery that can be charged before you plug just about any imaginable gadget into it. About $100 retail.
Made by Solar components, Campbell, Calif., www.solarjoos.com .
AERIELLE WIRELESS AUDIO
Debuting late last year, the StreamBase serves as a hub for a wireless audio system that can deliver audio to speakers 150 feet away. It features plug-and-play connectivity to the audio source and easily expandable to power as many Stream-connected speakers and headphones in as many rooms as you like. The unit is compatible with most anything one would hope to connect, featuring RCA, digital, coaxial and other jacks as well as two USB ports to charge portable devices. $229.95 retail.
Made by Aerielle Technologies, Fremont, Calif., www.aerielle.com .
MOPHIE JUICE PACK
The mophie juice pack is an iPhone case that doubles as a battery: Concealed within its protective foam shell is an external battery that essentially doubles the time between charges. The iPhone plugs directly into the "juice pack," which recharges with an included USB cable - and you don't need to remove the iPhone from the case to do it. The pack also has an integrated status indicator and improves the speaker's sound quality by directing the sound forward. $79.95 retail.
Made by Mophie, Paw Paw, Mich., www.mophie.com .
SimpliciKey offers e-deadbolts that can be opened with your key, a code on the keypad or via remote control on a key fob. The rugged and secure deadbolts come with brass, nickel and bronze finishes. Best of all, installation does not involve electrical work as the units are battery powered; just 30 minutes and a screwdriver. $349 retail.
Made by Simplicikey, Herndon, Va., www.simplicikey.com .
The palm-sized WheeMe is a robot designed to independently wander around a human body and massage it without tumbling off. Weighing in at a half-pound, the wheeled robot moves at a rate of two inches a second, vibrating and gently kneading with its wheels studded with nylon fingerettes. The WheeMe is currently available online in limited release, but its manufacturer, Dream Bots, plans for it to go worldwide sometime next year at a lower price point. $60 to $70 retail.
Made by DreamBots, New York, www.dreambots.com .
IDEAL LIFE HEALTH SYSTEMS
Ideal Life's remote health systems use sensors and scales to automatically wirelessly send data concerning the user's weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and heart rate to their health-care providers. The systems are compatible with major brands of cell phones and computers and allow for two-way communication between provider and patient. Research has demonstrated its value: Cardiac patients using Ideal Life's products have a 57 percent lower re-admission rate than nonusers. Ideal Life's new interactive kiosks similarly take and transmit health data, with a target market of community centers, assisted living facilities and retailers. Price varies.
Made by Ideal Life, Toronto, www.ideallifeonline.com .
LARK UP SILENT WAKING SYSTEM
For couples who keep different hours, alarm clocks are a necessary evil: One half needs the wake-up call, but the other half needs their beauty sleep. Instead of blaring, bleating or beeping, LARK Up offers comfy wristbands that users link with an app on their iPhone or iPod Touch. When it's time to wake up, a wireless signal goes out to the wristband in question and nudges the wearer awake with a silent vibration so as to not interrupt their partner's REM sleep. The first shipment is sold out; the company is currently accepting pre-orders for subsequent shipments. $99 retail.
Made by LARK Technologies, Palo Alto, Calif., www.ourlark.com .
Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com