CES: Gadgets, from the corny to the cute

January 7, 2009

We reporters got the usual sneak peak at some of the gadgets on display at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, a couple days before the official start on Thursday.  Nothing struck us as terribly exciting or revolutionary, but there were a number of things that caught our eye. Just because they were cute, earth-friendly or designed to make life — or rather, downloads — a little easier. Here’s a selection of what we’ve seen so far:

Netbooks: OK, they’re not for making Photoshop collages or watching high-res movies (and the tiny keyboard can give you hand cramps after a while), but netbooks are light to carry and easy on the eye. We checked out the Asus netbooks, the smallest of which has a 7-inch screen. They have a new tablet PC model too, complete with a swivel screen and stylus. Lenovo also had netbooks on display.

Universal remote control: Not a big deal, but Logitech’s newest one is a sleek little gadget, with a 3.5-inch touch screen that fits easily in the palm of your hand. It’s an improvement on their previous universal remote, which had both a touch-based user interface and keys, the exhibitor told us. But it’s not cheap — she said it would retail for $499.95 from end-February onwards.

USB 3.0: The era of USB 3.0 is here, the folks from the USB Implementers Forum announced at CES. Data transfer speeds will get a lot faster once gadget makers begin making devices with the news standards. So, for example, you can download a 27 gigabyte high-definition movie in a little over a minute, or 8 gigabytes of photos from your camera in just 20 seconds. It will still all be compatible with USB 2.0 platforms, of course. Made me wonder for a minute about USB 1.0 compatibility… my work laptop still runs that standard.

Fuji’s green batteries: What’s green about these new AA and AAA batteries from Fuji apart from their color? They’re actually 94 percent recyclable. As the demo guy told us: “You could throw these into your backyard and it would be fine.” The batteries are made through a green manufacturing process and contain no mercury, but that doesn’t make them any pricier than your regular cells. ETA: around Earth Day.

3D webcam: Maybe Minoru’s new 3D webcam will make these gadgets trendy again. See your friends and family in 3D while talking to them over Skype, Windows Live Messenger, AIM and more. You can even record 3D videos and upload them to YouTube if you want. The webcam looks like a dorky red robot, will retail on Amazon for $89.95, and comes with five pairs of 3D glasses. That’s what I want. Corny 3D glasses. Like those in the picture.

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