We came to Las Vegas, we queued, we walked, we talked, we collected a mountain of press releases and we saw hundreds of products. Some were innovative, some were gorgeous and some just worked, but many were dull and some were just plain daft (who needs a mouse mat with built-in speakers?). After much burning of shoe leather and some vigorous debate, here's our list of the five coolest things at CES 2007.
1. Asimo, Honda's walking robot
When you see Asimo on video, it looks like a special effect. In the flesh (or should that be, 'in the plastic'?), Asimo is delightful. Honda's humanoid robot moves quickly and smoothly, plays football, climbs stairs, balances on one foot and dances like your dad. Its gestures are uncannily human -- so much so that it's an effort not to write 'he' or 'she'.
Beyond the sheer wonderfulness of the robot, it's refreshing to see a company working on a long-term project that's moving technology into the sci-fi future. So much of CES is about making a quick buck from iPod speakers, mobile phone cases and USB sticks. Asimo feels like a visitor from a whole other technology show.
2. The Apple iPhone
It wasn't even at CES, but the Apple iPhone was still the main topic of conversation for the second half of the show. Even if we hadn't been following the keynote slavishly via our Internet-connected smart phones, we couldn't have missed the news. Is the price too high? Is the battery life too low? Will the touchscreen work for SMS? Nobody really knows, but everybody cares.
3. Sony's prototype OLED televisions
The high point of the Sony stand was the 27- and 11-inch prototype OLED screens. It's hard to do justice to the brightness and the jewel-like colours in words or photographs -- in real life, the colours just leap out at you. On an otherwise lacklustre stand, they were definitely the thing to see.
4. Motorola's Motofone
We've seen phones that double as cameras, double-sided phones that flip over and turn into MP3 players and phones that are basically computers. The Motorola Motofone doesn't do any of that stuff -- it just lets you make calls and send text messages. The monochrome electrophoretic display uses very little power, so the Motofone manages to be superslim and yet still have good battery life. The pictogram-based interface takes some working out, but we think it'll be a cult favourite among fans of minimalism.
5. Prototype 3D televisions
Several manufacturers, including LG and Philips, were showing prototype 3D televisions that don't require special glasses or any other such malarkey. You have to stand right in front of them, and you can't be too close or too far away, but they do really work. Philips had a particularly uncanny demo with a man reaching out of the screen with butterflies fluttering around his arms.
Sadly, you can't actually buy any of these products right now, but we hope both the phones will be available in the UK before the end of 2007. -ML