You can stick to the main trails of the convention floor and see endless variations on the same half-dozen technology themes. Or you can do some bushwhacking and discover the booths of the digital frontier, where third-tier manufacturers from faraway lands promote items few of the big-name manufacturers ever would have thought of making.
After seeing one too many WAP-enabled, satellite-ready MP3 player/personal digital assistant/cell phone combinations, we decided to head out for the boonies, where we found a number of items we never would have imagined we couldn't live without.
From King Tai Holdings of Hong Kong comes the Dr. Fresh Pet Hair Brush, a seemingly ordinary hair brush that produces "millions of negatively charged ions, leaving hair healthy and strong."
It's a pack of cigarettes. No, it's an electric shaver. It's an electric shaver that looks just like a pack of cigarettes. The R-785 shaver, from Joas Electronics of Korea, comes in your choice of Marlboro, Dunhill or Virginia Slims.
The Pocket Check Point, imported by Marathon Technolgies of Rogers, Ark., crams a police-approved blood-alcohol detector into a package about the size of your thumb. Marathon president Jim Freeman expects the item, which will sell for around $15, will be popular with cautious parents and liability-conscious bartenders. "You have the customer blow into it, and once they hit the limit, no more drinks," he said.
From a Taiwan manufacturer whose name we couldn't pry loose comes the TV Remote Control Watch and the 5-Full Azan Talking Alarm Clock, a miniature representation of a mosque packaged with full instructions in Farsi and promising a 105-year calendar.
Never again guess whether the baby food is at the right temperature with the Spoon Thermometer, a digital thermometer embedded in a colorful plastic eating utensil. ATM Holdings of Hong Kong promotes it as a safe and hygenic alternative to sticking your finger into the bowl.
Destroying documents goes from mere paranoia to stylish fun with the fashionable leopard-skin shredder from Aurora.
TV Allowance, from Miami-based Mindmaster, is for parents who want to limit their kids' time in front of the boob tube. Plug it in between a TV set and an electrical outlet, and it shuts off the set after the tots have reached your predetermined limit of "Dawson's Creek" or "Tony Hawk Pro Skater."