Lady Gaga's camera sunglasses. A voice-activated
stereo that searches for the song you want. A digital photo frame that displays images you finger-slide from your iPhone.
These and other "wow" gadgets are some of the countless new products shown at the big Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. While the biggest companies are drawing most of the press for the newest developments in tablets, 3-D TV, and laptops with next-generation processors, many other jaw-dropping gadgets are scoring mindshare with their out-of-the-box innovation.
There may be few stranger pairings of a celebrity with a technology company than Lady Gaga's alliance with Polaroid. The old-line company, best known for pioneering instant photography back when photography otherwise meant waiting for the film to be developed, has named the self-consciously outrageous singer/performer as its creative director and is unveiling a line of products "co-designed" with her, called Polaroid Grey Label.
The inaugural product of this collaboration is the GL20 camera glasses, which the company called a "unique new look at how to turn images into a fashion statement." Wearers of the sunglasses-like accessory can instantly capture photos and video with the built-in camera, which resides on the bridge of the nose, and then display the results on the glasses' LCD screens. Also in the line are the GL30 Instant Digital Camera, which marries a printer with a camera, and the GL10 Instant Mobile Printer.
Like sunglasses, picture frames are rapidly evolving. The DIA Parrot, released by a French maker of wireless peripherals for mobile phones, is described by the company as a "mysterious object" because its 10x4-inch screen appears disconnected from any support. It also incorporates the Mover Lite app from Infinite Labs, where photos can be selected and sent to the frame by sliding a finger across an iPhone screen.
There's the new Microsoft Touch Mouse, available only for Windows 7 machines, that utilizes capacitive touch sensors so a user can employ gestural control via the mouse. Other notable gadgets include a LaCie 120GB USB pocket drive with data transfer of 260MB per second, ski goggles from Liquid Image with a built-in HD camera, and the Parrot Asteroid car receiver with voice recognition, hands-free telephone, and web apps that can do things like search in online music libraries for the song you want.
Atrix, 3D Bloggie, Boogie Board
Avi Greengart, an analyst for Current Analysis, found more than a few "wow" innovations. He cited Motorola's Atrix 4G smartphone for AT&T, which, in addition to its powerful features, has HDMI and three USB ports. A user can plug in a mouse, a keyboard, and a monitor, and have a build-your-own desktop or notebook computer.
Greengart also pointed to Sony's 3D Bloggie, a handheld camcorder "thingie" that not only has two lens for recording 3-D, but a 3-D screen for displaying those images -- without glasses.
Also in the "cool gadget" department, he said, is the Boogie Board, an electronic version of a dry erase board. A stylus or a finger can be used to draw, and then a button push erases it. "I don't know why anyone would want one of these," he said, "but it's delightful."
He also noted cases from a variety of companies for Apple's iPod Nano that turn that device into a watch, although he noted that all appeared "rather clunky."
And SimpleHuman is showing a trash can that opens by itself when someone is near. To his knowledge, Greengart acknowledged, this version of the trash can doesn't have any USB ports.