CEA i-stage: Round one

Molly's recap of the first half of the i-stage presenters.

It's lunchtime now and we've seen the first half of the i-stage presenters. It's been interesting and occasionally contentious, with a few notable standouts. First thing in the morning we saw a voice-activated remote control (Amulet) that manages Windows Media Center (cool, but with some minor hiccups that belie the difficulty of voice-recognition technology) and a portable, wireless video-camera system from Avaak that comes paired with an online streaming service. And a company called Frontline showed off the future of the treadmill--an Internet-connected exercise device that lets you virtually run through various locations, like the route of the New York Marathon or, apparently, the interior of the Louvre. The technology will, its founders hope, be funded by advertising that will pepper the interface, so you can shop and research while you run--anything to distract from the pain. (Of course, you can also upload and share your athletic feats.)

The next set of three presenters definitely got sexier: There was Boxee, which is free software that aggregates your media, online media sites like Hulu or Last.fm, and even recommends movies or music from your friends. It has a very slick interface, and unlike almost everything else we've seen, it was demonstrated on a Mac (probably because of that nice remote control). We saw the totally nascent LightGlove, a virtual reality device that's not really a glove. It's actually a bracelet that uses light to translate finger movements into digital signals. It's fancy, and its founders showed off some very impressive "air piano," playing Bach seemingly out of thin air. But the judges pointed out that it appears to be looking for a purpose.

I personally found the most interesting presentation of the morning to come from Occipital, which showed off a "pedestrian navigation service" that is basically an "augmented-reality GPS." The technology, designed for mobile phones, combines real-life views of an area with mapping data and then overlays a graphical walking route over a street view. And it can even--and this is the augmented reality part--provide an X-Ray view through a building, for a crow's-eye view. Occipital says it will deal with all the image hosting on its servers, and deliver only the giant chunks of 3D visual data you need over your 3G connection. That part is a little tough to swallow, but they're going into limited beta soon and I hope to have the chance to try it out. Occipital's software currently runs on Windows Mobile phones, but the company hopes to be supporting Android phones by CES.

I'll have more from the afternoon sessions, which will include, near as I can tell, a revolutionary digital photo frame, a 3D Webcam, and some stereo equipment. It never sounds quite as cool until you see it in person, you know? Stay tuned!

 

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