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Reserved enthusiasm for CES?

Natali Del Conte reports from Phoenix, AZ on the CEA's i-stage event, a kick-off for CES 2010.

PHOENIX--I may be too easily impressed, but I am excited about the technology start-ups presenting at the CEA I-Stage competition in Phoenix. Or maybe I'm just too nice. Today I'm one of four panelists judging start-ups based on whether they have what it takes. I'll admit that most of them may not have it, but I am giving everyone an A for effort. My fellow judges are a bit more nonplused by the presenting companies; however, a few of them are getting unanimous A's and not just for effort. These A's mean that I am excited to see this products and actually want them.

The first is the eDGe from Entourage Systems. Yes, it is an e-book reader, but don't roll your eyes just yet--this one is different. Think of the things that you want from an e-reader: 3G; an open-format book format; an easy-to-access book store; Wi-Fi, a touch screen; the capability to draw, highlight, and annotate; the capability to integrate multimedia; long battery life; plenty of onboard memory that is expandable; lightweight, portability; and without screen glare. Check, check, and check. The eDGe, which I concede is an odd name, folds open like a book and has two screens. One is a touch-screen Netbook tablet that has a Web browser, notepad, and a calculator. The other is an e-ink screen. You can click hyperlinks within the book to play video or audio on the opposing screen. You can also hyperlink to the Web, which will launch the browser on the opposing screen. You can scribble notes in the margin and highlight texts and your notes will be pushed to the Web. You can also click charts and graphs and launch them in color on the tablet screen. The device runs Google's Android operating system.

This sounds like my e-reader pipe dream. It is everything I've been wanting, especially considering my Kindle 2 is on the fritz and I have a replacement on its way to me in the mail. But I didn't touch it. I haven't felt it. If the touch screen is buggy and there is a glare on the screen, then I will quickly swallow my enthusiasm. Also, it is expensive. It will cost $490 when it launches in February, but it has me excited for CES 2010, which is kind of the point of this conference.

Another product that turned my head was the ReNu solar-powered line of gadgets from a company called Regen. Its flagship product will be a window-mounted solar panel that pushes solar energy to a desktop charger that will power any USB-connected device. There will also be a line of speakers and desk lamps that will charge the same way. This isn't quick-fix charging obviously. It will take up to five hours to charge an iPhone on a sunny day, but it is meant for people who can leave their gadgets charging while they are doing something else, as well as people who feel guilty when they look at their chargers plugged into power outlets. (Like me.)

Another technology that is cool, but doesn't really exist yet is a line of headphones that take biometric reading from your body and send to a Web or mobile application. Created by Valencell Healthset, the sensors can measure your heart rate, temperature, caloric expenditure, and so on. The company wants to license this technology to health-related applications that could use this information such as Lose It or Livestrong. I like the idea since it means not carrying another gadget such as a pedometer to get the data. It lives inside the earbuds, headphones, or Bluetooth headsets that I would use anyway. Of course, I reserve my enthusiasm until I actually use it. Also, I won't be testing prototypes of that at CES. No shared in-ear gadgets for me, thank you.

We have just finished the morning panel. I'm heading back for the afternoon panel and, hopefully, I won't be so effusive about so many of the presenting companies. It is giving me a reputation as the softy in contrast to my fellow judges Ross Levinsohn from Fox Interactive Media, Jeff Pulver from pulver.com and co-founder of Vonage, and Blake Krikorian, founder and CEO of Sling Media. I can't have that.