Consumer Electronics Show 2011

CES is a pretty astonishing affair--a giant, orgiastic explosion of gizmos, dongles, gadgets, devices and software wrapped up in Las Vegas glitter and delivered at break-neck speed in the first moments of a new year. Consumer electronics makers use it to show off the wares they hope will earn them big bucks in the months ahead, so there's an avalanche of press releases and announcements about almost every thing you can imagine. We've scanned through the early wave of this, and dug out some of the most interesting, innovative or just intriguing ones for you. This is the tech you want to be watching out for.

For a special look at the CES's iPad Killers, click here.

Garmin Nuvi 2400, StreetPilot iPhone App

Garmin's debuting what may be among its last ever big-selling single unit GPS systems--the Nuvi 2400 series, with live traffic updates, 5-inch screen and integrated Bluetooth with full hands-free powers--including voice control--so you can use your smartphone while driving. Of course it's these very smartphones which are stamping all over Garmin's business...but while Garmin's competitors (Navigon and TomTom mainly) have quickly adapted, it's taken until now for Garmin to debut its iOS StreetPilot app (its ill-fated smartphone-GPS mashup partnership with Asus, aside). It too has real-time traffic data, voice commands, address book integration, full multitasking support--and is easier to update than its hard-coded predecessor.

Nuvi 2400 from $250, StreetPilot $40 on iPhone or iPad--available here.

Mitsubishi 92-inch DLP HDTV
LCD TVs may be dominating the mainstream HDTV market, but Mitsubishi is unveiling something of an oddity at this year's CES: A monster 92-inch home cinema unit that uses Digital Light Projection tech to form its pictures (with better precision and brightness than LCD can manage at bigger screen sizes). It's also a 3-D unit, and comes with a plethora of high-end extras like Bluetooth streaming and "multimedia immersive sound technology." Essentially this is almost bringing the movies to your living room. Supply your own popcorn, obviously.

Mitsubishi is also showcasing a 155-inch OLED HDTV, which seems almost a technological impossibility since the typical OLED units we encounter are palm-sized ones in smartphones. We suspect it's the same multi-screen affair Mitsubishi's shown before, probably with some tweaks.

Price, delivery date TBD.

MMT 15.4-Inch Portable PC USB Monitor

Lugging PC monitors around largely became irrelevant with the advent of the laptop, but creative- (or even gamer-) types can find themselves in need of extra screen real estate. These are probably the people that MMT's unusual 15.4-inch folding LCD monitor is aimed at. It uses the same DisplayLink tech that made LCD photo frames slightly more useful, which also gives you the ability to daisy-chain up to six of them together. In an era of tiny powerful computers like the MacBook Air, and the imminent wave of Android tablets, this sort of facility gives a big boost to portable computing--and will probably be the way this tech goes for a couple of years until pico-projector tech matures and becomes seriously useful.

$279, due first quarter 2011.

HSTi StreamStick Universal Streaming Media Data-Stick

Cloud-based services, digital video on demand and streaming media are three tech keyphrases at the moment, so HSTi has combined all three into one device--the StreamStick. It's designed to plug into any USB-equipped HDTVs, Bluray players, games consoles and so on, where it connects over Wi-Fi to a partner device that's connected into your video source. Video files you have stored/purchased for streaming rental then appear as if they were locally stored on your TV or console.

Essentially StreamStick is designed to compete with more full-featured media server boxes like Apple TV or any of the Windows Media Extender systems, but with a simpler feature set and a (presumably) lower price. It's also a neat and simple solution if you store your content on your main PC, and fancy watching stuff on your bedroom TV.

Price, delivery date TBD--the system is aimed at manufacturers of set-top hardware for now.

Microsoft Avatar Kinect
CES technicians look to have accidentally leaked something Microsoft will be officially revealing at the show later this week: Avatar Kinect. The graphics and name obviously imply a link between the Kinect body sensor and Xbox Live avatar, and according to sources who've spoken to WinRumors that's exactly what it's all about--mapping your dancing/arm-waving frenzy directly onto the limbs of your digital avatar. It's all about social interactivity, of course, and there'll be a special zone for you to play with other folk's avatars--we're thinking something like the Nintendo Mii channel, or Sony's PlayStation Home, only with more direct relation to your body moves. Apparently you'll be able to "watch content" or play games. Cue the first lawsuits for Kinect Avatar sex-related abuses.
Vader, and Star Wars Hits CES--Bluray Edition (and 3-D?) in Tow
There's been a bit of speculation about this online, since the press release is mercurial to say the least:
"The Empire is headed to Vegas, baby. Darth Vader, accompanied by a legion of his finest Imperial troops, will address emissaries from "a galaxy far, far away" for a most impressive announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show - Thursday, January 6th at 11:30 AM PST"

"Most impressive" may imply the imminent Bluray edition of the sci-fi classic. But there's also some excitement that it may also mean the arrival of a re-mastered 3-D edition. Given the multi-billion dollar iconic genre-defining status of the original films, this is big news. Possibly bigger than Avatar, particularly since Panasonic has been so greedy about that movie's 3-D release.

Sifteo Reinvents Table-top Gaming With Motion-Sensing Wireless "Cubes"
Springing from MIT research into man-machine interfaces, Sifteo's long-teased Cubes have officially been revealed at CES. They're a cute little collection of 1.5-inch blocks that each has a screen and is jam-packed with technology--think of them as tiny app-capable smartphones, without the phone, or perhaps as miniature Chumbys.

The collection of Cubes communicates with each other and a host computer wirelessly, and once you've downloaded a game/interactive app/learning tool onto them what happens next is determined by how you move each Cube, and how each one interacts with the others.

It's hard to explain exactly what Sifteo's devices are all about, which is what makes this effort at bringing table-top games really into the 21st Century very interesting. They'll arrive as an "early access" program for $99 in the first quarter of 2011.

For a special look at the CES's iPad Killers, click here.

CES News Round-Up, First Edition

CES is a pretty astonishing affair—a giant, orgiastic explosion of gizmos, dongles, gadgets, devices and software wrapped up in Las Vegas glitter and delivered at break-neck speed in the first moments of a new year. Consumer electronics makers use it to show off the wares they hope will earn them big bucks in the months ahead, so there's an avalanche of press releases and announcements about almost every thing you can imagine. We've scanned through the early wave of this, and dug out some of the most interesting, innovative or just intriguing ones for you. This is the tech you want to be watching out for.

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