Hits and misses at CES


LAS VEGAS: This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) turned out to be the largest on record, despite a slow economy and what many industry pundits agree is a dearth of genuine scene-stealers.

But as with most years, avid — and hardy — attendees can always find a few gems that stand out from the inevitable tidal wave of headphones, Internet-enabled home appliances and gadget casings.

Here are a few high and low moments, compiled by Reuters from the show floor:

Hits: • Tagg, a GPS-enabled dog or cat collar so you need never lose your beloved companion again. A minute GPS unit clipped to pet collars will send an alarm text or email to your app-installed smartphone should Snuggles wander outside of a prescribed zone.

• Hewlett-Packard’s all-glass-encased Spectre was probably the most eye-catching of the so-called “ultrabooks” and drew throngs of onlookers. Intel is hoping the new generation of ultra-thin, instant-on, lightweight laptops — essentially a riposte to Apple’s MacBook Air — will safeguard its market share as Tablets and smartphones encroach on its traditional personal-computing turf.

• The Tobii, which tracks eye movements to execute commands — what it calls “gaze interaction” — taking gesture-controlled interfaces a step further and upping the sophistication ante. Along with Nuance’s voice controls and Microsoft’s Kinect gesture-recognition technology, it offers an alternative to the fast-getting-old keyboard-mouse input model in an era of touchscreens. Zoom, auto-centre, destroy virtual asteroids — moving just your eyes.

• Samsung Note, the beefed up “phablet” with a 5.3in screen that sits somewhere between a phone and a Tablet. It may seem unwieldy held up to one’s ear, and the screen — at half the iPad’s size — might seem wanting as well, but its sleek lines, pin-sharp Android apps and unique shape drew in the crowds.

• Nokia’s Lumia 900 phone, running Windows, marked the once-mighty Finnish handset maker’s return to the US market — and Microsoft’s biggest phone gambit yet. People clamoured for a feel, but demos were limited and there is no release date yet.

• Massive, 55in “OLED” TVs from Samsung and LG, which are both cautiously hopeful the costlier, but crisper screens will re-energise a faltering global TV market after flat sales in 2011. Bonus: look at them sideways and they almost disappear.

Misses: • Microsoft Corp signed off after 14 show-opening keynotes with a bizarre, news-free presentation featuring a “Twitter choir” and a Q&A anchored by Ryan Seacrest. The company is reportedly revamping its marketing organisation.

• Panasonic Corp’s combo digital photo frame and Skype terminal. “The idea of some engineer who has been locked in a room for 10 years,” one observer quipped.

• Dish Network Corp’s stunt with a fidgety live kangaroo onstage, to launch its new “Hopper” package. For a video, click on http://reut.rs/AzQdkf.

• A Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s fridge that streams Pandora and Twitter. It’s OK to take a break from the Internet every now and then.

• And last but not least: Sony Corp’s strange “Wedding Invitation” promo for its Internet-enabled TVs. Verbatim from the invite: “Internet plopped down on one knee. After nervously fidgeting around, he blurted, “I can haz marriage?” and presented TV with a giant ring. She, of course, said yes. And the rest is history.” — Reuters

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