Saturday, January 12, 2008

CES 2008: Simple Pleasures

The 2008 Consumer Electronics Show was jam-packed with sophisticated technology that could do everything except slice your bread every morning, but sometimes the best tech is the simple innovation which makes life easier without much fuss.

Luckily there were many examples of useful, but simple devices at CES and here are a handful that may be worth a glance:

Energizer Duo

The $14.99 Energizer Duo battery charger connects to either an AC outlet or to a computer's USB port and can charge two AAA or AA batteries in two to five hours, depending on size and power rating. Since many small devices, like some digital cameras, require only two batteries, the slim charger can help some mobile professionals travel a little lighter.

In addition to a set of LEDs on the outside that let you know the charging status of the batteries, you can also surf to the Duo's Web site and download a small utility which lets you see the charging status right on your computer screen. The utility is available in both Windows and Mac versions. The unit comes with two AAA batteries and an AC adapter.

Sonic Alert Portable Vibrating Alarm Clock

If you're a really deep sleeper, chances are good that you've met your match with the Sonic Alert Portable Vibrating Alarm Clock (Model SBP100ss) from Sonic Alert Inc. of Troy, Mich. When the alarm goes off, you get not only an audible alert but a surprisingly strong rattling mechanism kicks in and shakes the unit with enough force to send tremors throughout your mattress, thus bringing an abrupt end to your sleep cycle.

No the technology in the $29.95 unit is not particularly cutting edge, but anyone who has missed an important morning meeting because of a wimpy hotel alarm clock or a wake-up call that never came might appreciate the circular unit, which is just one in the company's line of Sonic Boom vibrating, flashing and/or extra-loud alarm clocks.

Friday, January 11, 2008

CES 2008: Sony's Silly Rockin' Robot: The Rolly

So what was the worst thing about the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas? The long lines? The thick crowds?

The answer: The press conferences. Many were very long on fluff and very short on substance. Minor technology advances and fair-to-middling products were trumpeted as if their introductions marked watershed moments in the history of high technology.

For example, Sony Electronics, in a glitzy press conference attended by hundreds of media representatives, literally rolled out a new digital music player which seems destined for some museum of tacky technology: The Rolly.

The best way to explain the Rolly, which will ship this spring at a price still to be determined, is to let you see the darn thing in action.

Yep, that's it: A small egg-shaped digital music player which rocks and rolls and spins with the music and has little clamshell caps at either end that pop open and snap close with the beat.

Somehow I don't foresee the day when many of these things will be scuttling across the floors of high school lunchrooms, college dorms or the platforms of commuter rail and bus stations. The target audience seem to be limited to computer geeks and audio nuts who love scaring their cats.

In Sony's press release, Steve Haber, the senior vice president of Sony Electronics' Digital Imaging and Audio Division, says that the spinning gizmo, "... isn’t just another gadget; the Rolly is a sophisticated piece of entertainment technology."

Yes, it's an interesting, er, spin on high tech, yes it has two gigabytes of flash memory, yes you can stream music to it via a Bluetooth wireless connection and, yes it can display about 700 colors as it spins around, but I still don't get it.

Do you?

Text and video Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features