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Highlights from the Consumer Electronics Show

Well, I survived my first CES, and now that I’m back I keep getting asked, how much did you lose in Vegas? I’d say at least ten. Not ten grand, not ten bucks – ten pounds. I don’t know how many miles my colleague Scott Kirsner logged there last week, but I haven’t walked that much since I had to pound the pavement all over Atlanta to sell a couple of dozen bars of fruitcake for the school band.

Well, I survived my first CES, and now that I’m back I keep getting asked, how much did you lose in Vegas? I’d say at least ten. Not ten grand, not ten bucks – ten pounds. I don’t know how many miles my colleague Scott Kirsner logged there last week, but I haven’t walked that much since I had to pound the pavement all over Atlanta to sell a couple of dozen bars of fruitcake for the school band.

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The next question, of course: What cool stuff did you see? In no particular order, here are some products that stopped me in my tracks:

A photo-sharing service between Kodak and Skype — You log onto Skype’s free service and send a slide-show to a friend. You can narrate it as you both watch the pics, which is terrific, but here’s the best part: You can point to different parts of the picture and your moving cursor appears on the other person’s screen. Imagine how handy that will be for, say, an architect showing photos of his plans to a client. Upcoming features will allow you to annotate the images in real-time.

Kodak’s face-detection software — It’s still in development, but the idea is fascinating. The software detects faces in the images you’ve taken and analyzes them by measuring the distances between facial features. You could search and organize a massive digital photo archive by individual faces. Instead of trying to remember which year you gave your sister a homemade pillow made out of a favorite t-shirt for Christmas (1974, in my case), you could simply tell the software to retrieve all the photos in which she appears. As my digital photo library approaches 1,000 images, I need all the help I can get.

A Netgear phone that works with Skype — It looks like a cell phone and sounds like a cell phone, but there’s one big difference: calls are free. However, the Netgear folks insist it’s not a cell phone killer. At least not yet. That’s because the Skype service relies on WiFi. If you move around and leave a hotspot, it won’t switch to the next hotspot. You lose the signal and have to call back. Still, if you’re sitting in, I dunno, Panera enjoying free WiFi, this is one extremely handy mobile device. This could easily cut into all those cell minutes we’re racking up.

Dell’s uber laptop — While everybody seems to be making smaller and lighter laptops, Dell went in the other direction with the XPS Mobile Concept PC. A high-resolution 20-inch screen. Eight speakers. Detachable Bluetooth keyboard. This baby weighs in at 18 pounds, but it’s a beaut. As Michael Dell demonstrated in more than one presentation, it folds into a sleek black and sliver carrying case that looks like a briefcase from the upcoming Mission Impossible sequel. Although this laptop is not scheduled for production, it does illustrate how Dell sees the PC moving from the office to the living room as well as Dell’s eagerness to branch out into high-end products.

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The Audex Jacket by Burton and Motorola — It represents the next logical step in high-tech clothing, a sporty Bluetooth jacket with two small stereo speakers and a microphone built into the hood. After you tuck your mp3 phone safety in an inside pocke, you don’t need to touch it again. You switch between calls and tunes by using a slender control panel (with caller ID) on the sleeve. When a call comes in, it automatically pauses the music. Sure, it’s a bit over the top, but this looks like the tip of the iceberg in Bluetooth clothing.

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About the author

Chuck Salter is a senior editor at Fast Company and a longtime award-winning feature writer for the magazine. In addition to his print, online and video stories, he performs live reported narratives at various conferences, and he edited the Fast Company anthologies Breakthrough Leadership, Hacking Hollywood, and #Unplug

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