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Tag Archives: CES2009

Rand McNally’s fabMAPs

Rand McNally fabMAPs (Images courtesy Rand McNally)
By Andrew Liszewski

I can’t remember the last time I used a map that wasn’t provided by Google or displayed on a GPS-equipped device, but Rand McNally has convinced me that traditional printed maps aren’t dead yet. Of course paper maps can still be easily torn, destroyed by rain, and never seem to fold up the same way once they’re opened, which is why Rand McNally has produced a series of tourist-friendly maps printed on microfiber cloths instead.

In fact during CES they were handing out maps of the Las Vegas strip, and as someone who’s never 2 feet from a microfiber cloth for cleaning my iPhone and camera lenses, I was instantly sold on the idea. I mean think about it, they’re waterproof, they can be easily crumpled up and crammed in a pocket without being damaged, and they never need a couple of minutes to lock onto a GPS signal or download map data. The fabMAPs aren’t for all travelers though, given their size they seem mostly targeted at tourists, and there’s only about 25 of them available at the moment (for cities like New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Las Vegas etc.) but at just $5.95 each on the Rand McNally website they could be one of the most useful things you stuff in your pocket.

[ Rand McNally fabMAPs ]

A Week With Peek

Peek (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

Being ‘international’ guests at CES meant that David and I couldn’t really use our iPhones for checking email or the web while in Vegas, lest we return home to massive roaming data charges on our phone bills. So Peek was kind enough to supply both of us with one of their ‘Simply Email’ devices during our stay so we could stay on top of email when our laptops were buried in our bags. The Peek is definitely a unique device as it seems to go against the current trend of convergence when it comes to mobile devices. It does email, a little bit of text messaging, and that’s basically it. Overall the devices performed as advertised, and it was definitely nice having access to email no matter where we were during the show, but if you’re thinking about picking one up for yourself, it’s important to be aware of the Peek’s limitations beforehand. More after the jump.

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[CES 2009] Hands-On With Kodak’s OLED Wireless Frame – Great Picture? Yes, Expensive? Double Yes

KODAK OLED Wireless Frame (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

While they didn’t come up with the original idea for OLEDs, Eastman Kodak is actually credited with inventing the first diode device in the 80’s which paved the way for the OLED displays we see hitting the market these days. So it makes sense that Kodak would be one of the first companies to produce a consumer-ready OLED display, but unlike Sony, they’ve incorporated the technology into a wireless digital photo frame that puts every other digital frame on the market to shame.

Now I’m not going to bore you by raving about the colors, contrast ratio or thinness of Kodak’s frame, since you’re probably already well aware of the advantages of OLED screens, but I will say that it’s great to see this technology slowly but steadily making its way into consumer’s hands.

KODAK OLED Wireless Frame (Image property of OhGizmo!)

The Kodak OLED Wireless Frame comes with your standard features like memory cards slots and support for the most popular photo and video formats in use today, but it also includes wifi (hence the ‘wireless’ part) for streaming your media directly from your PC. The 7.6-inch, 800×480 pixel display wouldn’t turn many heads were it not OLED-based, but I will say I really like the UI Kodak has included which relies on a touch sensitive bezel with illuminated ‘buttons’ for making selections. And while the screen itself isn’t touch-sensitive, it at least helps to keep it fingerprint free. Of course since we’re just seeing OLED technology hitting the market, the Kodak OLED Wireless Frame comes with a $999.95 price tag, but it’s pretty much guaranteed those prices will eventually drop.

[ KODAK OLED Wireless Frame ]

[CES 2009] Mattel’s Mindflex Game

Mattel Mind Flex (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

Mattel brought a decent collection of high-tech games and toys to CES this year, but it was their Mindflex that seemed to be drawing the biggest crowds. It’s another “mind-control” game where your thoughts are used to move a ball through an obstacle course, or at least that’s how it’s made to appear. Obviously we haven’t quite mastered the subtleties of mind-control just yet, so the Mindflex uses a headset with a couple of earlobe clips to measure the theta-wave activity in your brain, which is related to your level of concentration.

Mattel Mind Flex (Image property of OhGizmo!)

The ball appears to levitate thanks to the clever use of a fan, but the speed of the fan is directly controlled by your brain activity as measured by the aforementioned headgear. Given it was my fifth or sixth day in Vegas, I opted not to try the game since I was already brain dead, but those who did give it a whirl were prompted to concentrate on anything they could think of in order to get the ball to float higher. However, your thoughts only control the vertical movement of the ball, and in order to get it around the obstacle course you also had to use a large dial to adjust the position of the fan.

Overall I’d have to say the game came across as an expensive $80 novelty more than anything, but you’re welcome to try it for yourself and come to your own conclusions when it goes on sale sometime in the Fall of this year.

[ Mindflex ]

[CES 2009] Cocoon Bags Feature ‘The Grid’ Elastic Organization System

Cocoon Bag (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

Cocoon Innovations was one of the hundreds of companies to email me a pre-CES press release about their new products being unveiled at the show this year. And while the images they sent of the company’s line of cases, briefcases and laptop bags showed off their unique designs on the outside, it really wasn’t enough to pique my curiosity. Thankfully though, I happened to stumble across the Cocoon Innovations booth on the last day of the show, and it turns out it’s what’s on the inside of their cases that truly makes them unique.

Instead of a bunch of random (and restrictive) pockets designed to only fit specific items like pens, cellphones or PDAs, the Cocoon bags feature the company’s ‘Grid’ system which is a proprietary web of elastic fabric designed to securely hold any object in almost any configuration. Basically, it’s the most flexible compact storage system I’ve ever seen.

Cocoon Bag (Image property of OhGizmo!)

And the elastic grid isn’t randomly thrown together either. It’s actually strategically designed to accommodate objects of all shapes and sizes while always maintaining sufficient tension so your electronics, cables and other gear doesn’t come loose while in transport. As someone who’s a bit (cough!) obsessed with being organized, I think it’s a brilliant idea, and I can’t wait to get my hands on one. And while they didn’t have any specific pricing info, the company is actually planning to target the Caselogic demographic (for lack of a better description) by keeping their cases extremely affordable.

[ Cocoon Innovations ]

[CES 2009] Crucial’s SSD Torture Test

Crucial SSD Torture Test (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

Sometime’s the simplest of demonstrations can be the easiest way for a booth to extol the virtues of their product. And while we already know that SSDs have many advantages over traditional hard drives, Crucial wanted to drive home the fact that their solid state drives were particularly well suited for even the most bumpiest of computing conditions. So they created the ‘Shake-O-Matic’ torture test, pictured on the left, that uses an industrial looking sawzall to shake the crap out of an SSD while it was actually being used by a nearby laptop to play a movie.

The line graph on the LCD display in the background is showing a measurement of around 220G’s, but during the demo I saw that peak to upwards of 430G’s without affecting the video playback on the laptop whatsoever. And while you can’t quite make it out on the picture, the ‘Shake-O-Matic’ also had a large dial on the front with settings that included wake, flake, shake, bake, quake, break and ache. But they never turned it past ‘wake’, since the device was deafening even at that lowest setting.

[CES 2009] Hands-On With The Contour Design RollerMouse Free

Contour Design RollerMouse Free (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

Besides tablets, trackballs and touchpads, there haven’t been many advancements in human-PC interaction since the development of the mouse and keyboard. And while Contour Design’s RollerMouse Free is called a ‘mouse’, using it is a whole different experience. The device comes in the form of a wrist wrest, but just above the left, center and right buttons you’ll find a long spinning dowel (for lack of a better term) that can be shifted left and right by about 3 or 4 inches.

Contour Design RollerMouse Free (Image property of OhGizmo!)

Spinning the dowel causes the cursor to move vertically on-screen, while sliding it from side-to-side takes care of the cursor’s horizontal movement. I have to say that using the device was a little awkward at first, since I’ve been pushing around a traditional mouse for about half my life, but after just a few minutes, controlling the cursor with the RollerMouse becomes second nature. The main benefit to using the RollerMouse Free is to help reduce repetitive stress injuries in your ‘mousing’ arm, but it also helps keep your hands near the ‘home row’ at all times, theoretically increasing your productivity.

According to the Contour Design rep I spoke to, the RollerMouse Free should be available in the first weeks of March for $219.95 from the company’s website.

[CES 2009] Venture Heated Clothing


By Evan Ackerman

Humans are tropical animals. We really aren’t designed for cold weather, and we have to wear impractical amounts of clothing to go outdoors in the winter when you get much beyond the 23 degrees of latitude. So instead of wearing five extra layers, it makes a lot more sense to just wear one extra layer that provides all the heat you need. Venture’s line of self-heating fleece jackets and pants contain integrated single-sided heat pads that’ll keep you toasty warm, even in ridiculously cold places like Canada.

Venture jackets have a heating pad in the back, and two across the chest. The heating units themselves are barely noticeable in the fabric of the jacket, but from what I could tell when I tried it out, they’re quite powerful. Although you do have to carry a battery pack, it’s lithium and doesn’t weigh much, and there’s a remote control that lets you select the temperature for each heating zone individually. You should get 5-10 hours per charge, and you can recharge the jacket from a standard wall outlet. Venture also makes fleece-lined heated cargo pants if you need a head to toe solution.

The jackets are all high quality outerwear, and it shows in the price. Expect to pay $150 – $200 for one.

[ VentureHeat ]

[CES 2009] Intel 3D Touchscreen Is Skinny, Smooth, Nearly Invisible


By Evan Ackerman

This transparent touchscreen at the Intel booth was being used to demonstrate how powerful their new Core i7 processors are. The screen was performing all kinds of fancy interactive visual tricks with a framerate readout in one corner that managed to hit 1500 fps (!) on occasion while never dropping below 400 fps.

The screen itself is nothing more than a capacitive touch panel (single touch, boo) sandwiched between two sheets of glass, which allows it to create a sort of glasses-free 3D effect. At first glance I got all excited thinking that this WAS the entire display, but it’s actually just a screen of sorts with a projector behind it. Oh well.

There’s no way this transparent touchscreen is going into production, which is a shame… It’s gorgeous, and would work brilliantly paired with one of those ultra short throw projectors.

[ Intel Core i7 ]