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Wireless surround, music tutorial software

Wireless surround sound speakers, vibrating chairs, and a promising way to learn to read music.

Wandering the CES floor among the audio exhibits, with no particular destination in mind, several things caught my eye.

Radiient cofounder Jano Banks, who helped invent HDMI, demonstrated the company's Roomcaster wireless speaker technology. Most such speakers use the 2.4gHz band, which is subject to interference from household devices like cordless phones and microwave ovens. Roomcaster uses ultra wideband (UWB), which operates over a broad spectrum and is less subject to interference. The demonstration featured an HDMI video connection and Roomcaster-enabled wireless speakers, and the sound was clear with no discernable latency against the picture. So far, Roomcaster's still in development, but Banks claimed that several speaker partners are signed up to begin shipping speakers in late 2008.

Dirty little secret: a lot of rock musicians can't read music. (Personal confession: my sight-reading's terrible, and I never learned to read bass clef despite playing bass as my main instrument for the last 15 years.) Piano Wizard has been around for a couple years now, and while it's marketed as a teaching tool for kids, it's a great way for anybody to make the leap from key watching to reading actual sheet music. That's not a huge problem, as most piano players learned the old-fashioned way. It's a different story with guitarists. Hence, Guitar Wizard. It was introduced earlier this year in conjunction with the Fisher Price I Can Play Guitar System, but apparently they're set to introduce a digital interface and fretboard overlay that will let Guitar Wizard be used with a regular guitar. They're demonstrating it at the US Music booth, in the back right corner of the main hall at CES. The company is also working on transferring its technology to game consoles. Imagine Guitar Hero with, like, real guitars.

All your friends could crowd onto the Boomchair Rumbleseat to play Halo 3. Matt Rosoff

If your surround sound system's not quite close enough, there are several companies offering chairs with built in speakers. These chairs are aimed at gamers, but I can think of more imaginative uses for the Boomchair Rumbleseat, with a built in vibrating motor that reacts to particularly loud bass sounds.