While we get to see some brilliant new tech at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) every year, by far the most fun part is when it veers way left of centre. Here are some of the coolest and craziest gadgets that we saw at CES 2013.
Smaller than a Wii U, Nvidia's portable gaming console prototype is nevertheless packing some impressive heat. Inside is the company's new quad-core mobile processor, the Tegra 4, with a custom 72-core Nvidia GeForce GPU and quad-core A15 CPU, and the games are displayed on a 5-inch 720p retinal multi-touch display. The controller itself looks like something that you might use for Xbox gaming, and it's all running on Android Jelly Bean — Google's latest mobile operating system.
It looks more like a wristband or bracelet than a watch; feather light and less than 1 millimetre thick, the CST-01 is billing itself as the thinnest wristwatch ever made. It achieves this with a flexible E Ink display — putting the technology to a different use than the Pebble Watch does, and resulting in a very slick, stylish and minimal timepiece.
Lego's Mindstorms robotics kits are great for home tinkerers and engineers — and the latest kit, called EV3, includes some awesome new features, with Android and iOS compatibility straight out of the box, Bluetooth 2.1 and a USB 2.0 interface. Inside the box, you also get three servo motors; an infrared seeker sensor that can measure distance, movement and object detection; and an infrared "beacon" designed to control the robots remotely from a distance of up to 6 feet.
It's not the full AR gaming environment hinted at in the leaked Xbox roadmap, but Microsoft's IllumiRoom still looks fantastic. It uses the Kinect sensor to scan your gaming room, then a projector to extend the scope of your game beyond the borders of your screen, with extended environments and special effects. You have to watch the video to appreciate it fully.
4K TVs have only recently hit the shelves — and here's Panasonic upping the ante with a 4K tablet. The 20-inch tablet has a resolution of 3840x2560 pixels, with 230 pixels per inch. It runs off an Intel Core i5-3427U processor with Nvidia GeForce graphics, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
Forget 4GB. Kingston has announced the DataTraveler HyperX Predator 3.0 — a flash drive with a massive maximum capacity of 1TB. Actually, the drive is available in two sizes, with a smaller 512GB one coming in at US$1750 (the 1TB one hasn't been priced yet), and dimensions that aren't as compact as their smaller brethren, coming in at 72x26.94x21mm. But for a terabyte in your pocket, a few extra chunky corners aren't going to matter too much.
Fitbit has been going from strength to strength in the fitness monitor racket, and the Flex is pushing harder than ever before. The wristband is designed to be worn at all times, day and night — and it will be taking careful log of everything you do. Inherent creepiness aside, this means how much you walk, how far you travel, how long you're active and how long (and how well) you sleep. It even includes a silent alarm to wake you up in the morning.
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Gaming hardware really had a good look-in at CES this year. The Razer Edge is a Windows 8 tablet designed with the specs of a gaming PC. And, unlike the Switchblade, it looks like it's actually going to come to market. Behind its 10-inch, 1366x768-pixel display, it packs a Core i5 chip, 4GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD, coming in at US$999. Those are the base stats. For an extra US$300, you can bump up to a Core i7, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB or 256GB SSD — and accessories include a dock and controllers.
Russian company Yota Devices has decided that two displays are better than one — and then put this theory into practice with the YotaPhone, an Android-powered smartphone with an LCD screen on the front and an E Ink display on the back. While it could conceivably be used as an e-reader, the company seems to be thinking that it would be more used for notifications, news feeds, social media and displaying pictures. The rest of the specs don't sound too bad, though.
Is bigger better when it comes to TV screens? We suspect that there's an upper comfort limit, but Samsung, like the honey badger, doesn't care: it brought out an absolute beast of an Ultra HDTV (3840x2160 pixels). Mounted on an easel-like frame, the 110-inch monster sits on a floor, and can be tilted for the best viewing angle.
Toshiba's OLED smart watch seems to be following in the Pebble's footsteps, with compatibility for iOS and Android to display incoming calls, text messages and emails — and it can be used as a GPS or for weather notifications. It is also aiming for a new type of security — an ECG sensor in the back of the watch will learn its wearer's pulse patterns and be able to identify its owner based on heartbeat.
We've been following the progress of the Oculus Rift with great interest, and it seems as though the Kickstarter-funded AR gaming headset absolutely wowed attendees at CES this year. You can read our very own hands-on impressions here.
Why settle for four cores when you could have twice as many? Samsung's new Exynos 5 Octa processor is built using two lots of four cores: an ARM Cortex-A15 for high-performance use (as exists in the Exynos 5 Dual, which powers the Nexus 10 and the Chromebook), such as for games and video; and a Cortex-A7 for more basic tasks. With ARM's big.little processing, it can switch between the two — and even run both simultaneously — while keeping power consumption low.
Flexible E Ink is starting to see real-world applications — but flexible OLED has yet to hit the market. That's probably because Samsung is still ironing out the kinks — the company has been working on the technology for a while, tempting us with tiny bites of what we could be playing with. It pulled out the technology, now called "Youm", at CES again this year, leaving us wondering, once again, whether we're going to have to wait two years for another glimpse.
We have to admit that we're not 100 per cent sold on a laptop-tablet hybrid, but this new beastie from Lenovo looks very slick indeed — handsomely built, ergonomically designed and with a slew of nice specs, including a Core i7 processor, Windows 8, an 11.6-inch 1920x1080-pixel display, up to 10 hours of battery life, a 256GB SSD and up to 4GB DDR3.
Most smartphone companies are probably waiting for Mobile World Congress (MWC) to drop their news, so Sony's Xperia Z announcement got to make a bit of a splash (literally — Sony is making a big deal of the phone's water resistance, which might be good news for habitual bathroom phone fidgeters). It sounds fast and sleek, packing in some advanced imaging and playback features, such as a 1080x1920-pixel 5-inch display, HDR for video and 13-megapixel camera. Inside, it has a 1.5-gigahertz Snapdragon S4 Pro, 2GB of RAM and an Adreno 320 GPU.
This isn't just any old fridge; it's possibly the first fridge to have Evernote integration. The Linux-based OS can run other pre-installed Android apps as well, but it's the Evernote that we suspect people will find most useful for making shopping lists while you're right there — and which will then be synced with your Evernote account, so you'll have it on your phone, too. Other apps will include Epicurious, which will allow you to search a recipe, then generate a shopping list for it; as well as Google Calendar, and even AP News.
Have you ever thought to yourself, "Gee, I sure wish this AAA batter was AA"? Tethercell has you covered. That's not really what it's about, though; we just thought it was neat, having been in a situation where only AAA batteries were available. The case is actually a Bluetooth device that talks to an iOS app (Android coming soon); using the app, you can turn battery-powered devices on and off, set on/off schedules and even see when batteries are running low.
Now, even if we didn't know what this was, we'd be tempted to get one. Life-vest chic is so coming back in. OK, we're being a little bit mean here, but we can't honestly imagine ever wearing the iMusic Body Rhythm. It connects you to your iPhone and translates the music into beats and vibrations in the vest, so you can truly feel the music.
Finally, if you're having trouble potty training your wee sprout, the iPotty is here to help. The iPotty is what it sounds like: a toddler potty, with a mount for an iPad (iPad not included). It does have a splash protector that covers the iPad from mess, so that's something, and if your child is particularly reluctant to go to the toilet, it might be a good incentive ... but does the world really need the gadgetisation of toilet training?
What was your favourite announcement out of CES this year? Let us know in the comments below!