As expected, there was a lot to see at CES this year. No one can see it all in four days, but here’s a list of the Top 10 gadgets that caught my attention.
1. dji’s Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter with Integrated FPV Camera. This flying camera takes photography to a new level. It comes with a high-performance camera that takes still photos and records video with a radio-frequency remote controller that controls the quadcopter much like a flying model airplane. Camera settings can be adjusted using your smart phone or tablet. The photographer/pilot on the ground has a “first person view,” meaning the view is from the camera, not from the ground. It retails for about $1200.
2. HISY. This Bluetooth remote camera shutter works with your iPhone or tablet and allows the picture-taker to snap a photo from 30 to 90 feet away from the iPhone. It is the size of a ping-pong ball and can be attached to the headphone jack for easy carrying and access. The picture-taker can get into a group photo without rushing to beat a timer, and HISY makes a “selfie” easy to take without awkward physical contortions.
3. Kenwood’s eXcelon In-Dash Receiver. Auto makers are beginning to provide in new models full in-dash connectivity to and display of the driver’s smart phone and all of its apps, with touch-screen control. If you would like this now, but do not want to buy a new car, you can buy this receiver and have it installed, just like upgraded radios used to be installed. There are HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) receivers for iPhones and MHL (mobile high-definition link) receivers for Android-based smart phones. You can connect your smart phone wirelessly or use a short cable that also charges the phone and makes the connection more reliable. JVC, Clarion, and Dual offer similar receivers.
4. MakerBot Replicator 2. More than 25 exhibitors showed 3-D printing technology. For an enthusiast interested in 3-D printing, the MakerBot desktop printer is a good choice. It has a 410 cubic-inch build capacity and retails for under $3000, although you can find 3-D printers for $500. 3-D printing requires input of a computer-generated design and is very useful for prototype design. Next year there will be 3-D printers from large electronics manufacturers like HP.
5. iFi Systems’ SmartCharge Bulb. This recently announced LED light bulb will have lower power consumption and longer lifetime without the toxic mercury of CFL (compact fluorescent) bulbs. Plus, unique to the iFi smart blub is its patent-pending technology that will enable turning on the light using the wall switch, even though the power is off. The exhibitor rep said that the iFi smart bulb will cost about $30, maybe higher, and this price will discourage LED bulb use. The iFi smart bulb was developed with “crowdfunding” via Kickstarter.
6. LG’s 55” Class Ultra High Definition 4K Smart TV. This list has to contain a 4K TV because the picture clarity is amazing. Many other manufacturers also displayed 4K TVs (including Panasonic, Samsung, Toshiba, and RCA), and there are many 4K TVs larger than 55 inches. They are all pricey, however; LG’s 55” retails around $4000, give or take. You may want to wait until the price goes down.
7. Sony’s Vaio Flip PC. Yes, the laptop is alive and well, but it is changing. Sony’s Flip PC is a laptop (naming it a PC, go figure!) that provides the work productivity of a laptop and can be flipped so the screen lays flat on top to become a useable tablet. Regardless, it folds like a laptop for carrying and safekeeping. This laptop won an award at CES 2014 for innovation. Alas, it does not have a CD/DVD drive, as even the laptop world is abandoning these drives and moving into the cloud.
8. Innovative Technology’s 6-in-1 Wooden Music Center. This is a last-century vintage wooden case that contains a 3-speed turntable, CD player and recorder, AM/FM radio, cassette player, and stereo speakers, with remote control. Its description may sound low-tech, but the unique feature is that it records vinyl records and cassettes to CD. There are still several generations around that know vinyl records and cassettes contain some good music worth preserving for later generations, and that requires going digital. This product does it, and it likely would look good somewhere in your home.
9. Panasonic’s V550 Series Camcorder. This camcorder provides three ways to handle your videos. You can save the video to the hard drive in the camcorder, or save it onto a SD card, or send it wirelessly to another device. It retails for $400, a reasonable price for ground-level, high quality video recording.
10. Sleep Number x12 Smart Bed. Well of course a bed is not a gadget, but this bed won an award at CES 2014 because it has some gadgetry designed for smart phones. Most people have heard of the Sleep Number bed and the separately adjustable sleep numbers that provide ideal comfort for each person. With SleepIQ technology, the x12 Smart Bed goes beyond sleeping comfort. It has sensors that monitor heart rate and sleeping habits (restfulness, leaving the bed), and it allows one sleeper to use a smart phone to adjust the head rest of the other sleeper in the hope that a change of position will end snoring. Much better than a midnight elbow in the ribs! The x12 is not yet on Sleep Number’s website, but will be eventually.
Frank Gorman is a partner at Gorman & Williams where he practices Intellectual Property law.