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CES 2008: Top 10 things that made us smile

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CES isn't just about the top products and big companies. It's about the quirky stuff - the gadgets that make you chuckle, or make your jaw drop in stunned disbelief. The products that make you go 'aww....'. And the crazy dancing Bill Gates lookalikes in grimy rawk dives. With that in mind, here's ten products and/or sights that'll stick in our minds.

1. We clenched internal muscles we'd forgotten existed at the thought of network-enabled automatic urine collectors

2. We marvelled at the dance moves of the Bill Gates-alike at Rock-eoke (while weeping at his rendition of Soul Man)

3. We wondered why someone would create robots based on clapping penguins and attacking ducks...

4. ...But we did fall for WowWee's Alive wild cub robotoys

5. We sniggered like schoolboys at the thought of a Wii joystick called 'The Shaft'

6. We clenched those muscles again at the thought of urine-powered batteries

7. But not as much as French blogger Loic Le Meur clenched when discovering he was peeing next to Bill Gates (which is funny, because it wasn't the only time there was a Slash next to Bill Gates...)

8. We thought we'd never buy a Mr Clock Radio robot, until a bunch of 'em sang to us

9. The Zoombak A-GPS dog tracker sounded cool, but we wondered if we'd get away with attaching one to our cat

10. The Xbox 360 Hummer initially impressed us, until we pondered the likelihood of getting a red ring of death at full speed on the M4...

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We're back in the UK, with fuzzy heads, bulging post counts, and emptied bank accounts. Last week at CES was a blast, with more cool products than you can shake a stick at. Not that this has stopped us stick-shaking in order to weed out the 50 best products we saw at CES 2008. Read on for the full list, with links to our stories.

1. Panasonic won the big-screen size war with its 150 inch plasma television
2. Sony tried a different approach with its diminutive OLED TVs
3. OQO unveiled the world's first WiMAX-enabled UMPC
4. JVC made its own telly splash with the world's skinniest LCDs
5. Alienware debuted a curvy 2880x900 gaming monitor
6. Toshiba wowed us with its A100F hard disk HD camcorder
7. WowWee revealed its latest robot, the micro-GPS-equipped Rovio
8. LG jumped on board the watch/phone bandwagon with its, ahem, prototype watch/phone
9. iRiver made us wish they released more products in the UK with their slinky SPINN player
10. We headbanged in appreciation of the Guitar Hero Air Guitar Rocker

None of our CES field reporters have done anything on this yet. Odd, seeing how staggering cool it looks. It's iRiver's silver SPINN media player, which handles MP3 tunes, MP4 movies, has an FM tuner, a 3.2" LCD, does Bluetooth 2.0 with ease, has a microphone and up to 16GB of flash memory and so on - all the sort of stuff you'd expect from a modern electric thing that fits inside the pocket of even your tightest trousers.

BUT! iRiver's newest media matchbox has a clever little gimmick. An analogue knob. That twiddly bit on the right there. This makes it easier for people to find and play stuff, apparently, with iRiver touting this as its "Extremely Intuitive User Interface."

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It's the iPod's wheel, only vertical and in 3D, pretty much, or a little twist on the Blackberry's awesome little menu-scroller. The SPINN will come in 4, 8 and 16GB versions, and I'll go out on a limb here and say it's the best-looking PMP to come out of CES so far.

I can actually imagine being bothered to buy one, then boring everyone by insisting they look at it and all its features while making appreciative noises.

(Via iRiver)

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CES 2008: iriver Clix+ portable media player with OLED screen
Shiny Video Review: iriver B20 media player

LG-watch-phone-concept.jpgI'm old enough to remember Blue Peter showing you how to make one of these, back in the days when wrist-based communication devices were strictly in the realms of wacky science fiction. For men called "Avon" to ask men called "Blake" to "teleport" them off the surface of the planet and back to the ship.

LG, though, clearly thinks there's a chance iPhone might just have kicked up some interest in small, cool little comms devices, unveiling this thing at CES. It's a watch phone. We've seen them before, but if LG's putting its weight behind the idea and making it look nice and like something you'd not be ashamed to see using, it's surely a sign that our wrists are about to get warmer in the near-ish future.

The LG model's still what you might call 'chunky', plus there's the other huge problem that's practically impossible to get over - just how much of a tool you'd look holding your wrist up to your ear. Try it now. See?

Unless it comes with a Bluetooth/wireless headset option, in which case, what's the point in it being wrist-mounted at all? Besides, it's clearly just an attention-grabbing concept that's unlikely to ever go on sale. So LG's just wasting everyone's time.

As are we with this post about it. Sorry. If you have even more time to waste, there's a video of someone having a go on it up on YouTube.

(Via CruchGear)

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CES 2008 Roundup: Wednesday

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Games consoles, TVs, media centrer PCs – they all have one thing in common. They want TOTAL DOMINANCE of your lounging space. Well so does iriver and it will soon be using its UNIT2 to get it. It’s calling itself an all-in-one multimedia home networking device, which is a lot easier than calling it what it really is: an MP3 / MPEG4 player, SMS messager, video streamer, DVD player, TV viewer, text messaging system instant messenger, portable video chatter, web browser, news reader, emailer and phone.

The main body of it is a (roughly) 7” screen that detaches from the main body – which also hooks up to the TV – holding the speakers, USB ports, SIM card port and various video inputs. You can carry this around your house within a 60 feet range. It is a touchscreen device running a Linux operating system that hooks up to the net, so there’s full web browsing and all manner of widgets to use. I’m guessing it will be a homebrewer’s dream come true. The built-in camera also lets you make video calls and chat to people. Or you can use it watch DVDs or DivX videos and listen to MP3’s streamed straight from the base station.

OLED technology is catching on fast if this year's show is anything to go by. The player in my hand is the iriver Clix+ which is due to be landing this side of the pond fairly soon. It's coming in pink and black. To be honest, unlike some of the other OLED screens around the show, it wasn't quite so overbearingly colour saturated as you might expect.

The player itself though is nothing to be sniffed at. It's an MP3/MPEG4 player that not only looks great (hey, it's manly to like pink things) and the direction keys are all neatly hidden inside the chassis giving it a really sastifying button action. The up and down keys are a little more fiddly as you invariably end up sticking your thumb right on the middle of the screen. However, whatever the screen is coated in doesn't seem to pick up thumbprints at all, so you don't need to worry about obscuring your few with greasy marks.

iriver

CES 2008 Special
Read all our coverage from the show in our CES 2008 category

Tucked away in the Microsoft stand at CES, a company called IZ3D is showing off the world’s first 3D gaming monitor. There’s been a lot of 3D news floating around the show this year thanks to the Texas Instruments DLP announcement and the compatible Samsung plasma screens that will be debuting the technology later in the year. IZ3D’s screens are way better though and here’s why:

First off, TI 3D DLP has a fundamental problem on its hands – games have to be specially made to support it. Although that presumably isn’t too difficult (the DLP booth was showing off a fully 3D version of Madden NFL), it’ll still be a tough sell to coax developers to dedicate more development budget to a game just to cater to one tiny niche audience. The IZ3D monitor simply doesn’t have that problem. As long as you have a graphics card with a dual output – as most proper cards do – then the screen drivers will sort out the rest. That means any game running on DirectX 8 or higher is capable of turning 3D.

I thought you'd appreciate this video clip of Wyclef Jean being interviewed at today's Billboard Digital Music Live event at CES. It's his answer to a question about how he sees the future of hip-hop, but he rambles spectacularly off the point (with entertaining results). Marvellous.

Now read the liveblog of his session.

CES 2008 Special
Read all our coverage from the show in our CES 2008 category

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I'm still at the Billboard Digital Music Live summit, and we're ready for the main event now. Keynote speaker in the afternoon is Wyclef Jean, the multi-million selling ex-Fugee who's collaborated with stellar acts like Shakira, Destiny's Child and, er, Brian Harvey.

He's due to announce a big new digital music deal, and give his views on the industry. Read on for the liveblog as it happens – and pray his lips don't lie...

He's working with Motorola. “I got to find a new way to introduce my music. I might do 60 or 70 songs for an album, but I can only put 20 on the album. So the idea that I can promote music through a telephone, it's great. It allows me to get out new music.”

What will he be doing? Gigs around the world, exclusive tracks that aren't on his albums – he apparently has 60-70 songs lying around ready to distribute to fans.

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One of the events happening within CES is the Billboard Digital Music Live summit, which sees a bunch of music industry executives getting together to chew the fat about digital music: opportunities, threats, ways to screw Steve Jobs over. You know the kind of thing.

First speaker in the afternoon is music industry legend Don Was, who's an artist and producer, and also active in the digital area, looking at advertising-funded music on his own site, My Damn Channel, giving away MP3s supported by advertising.

“It's like network TV, just another way of doing it,” he says. “Hopefully it works. I'm a musician, so what's important to me is to just make records...” I should say at this point that Don Was has marvellous trainers on, although they're cancelled out by a slightly less marvellous hat.

CES 2008: Dogbot meets webcam

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Webcam maker, ExecCam had a stall full of really cool, beautifully crafted webcams made out of a huge range of diverse materials ranging from rosewood to marble, to cork and leather. Unfortunately, my attention was then immediately grabbed by the cutesy robotic dog models that they had in a corner display case. Awwww – but isn’t that infringing on Aibo copyright just a little bit?

I’ve put a pic of the more mature designs on the turn because the exhibitor was a really nice guy and I think he was more keen to show those off than the robodogcams.

Motorola has a number of decent stereo Bluetooth devices on the market and I went to check out what it’ll be launching later in the year. I was disappointed to find that there aren’t any new sets of DJ style headphones, which I prefer for their ear heating properties over the winter months. There was, however, a revamped version of the Motorola S9, excitingly named the Motorola S9-HD.

These are going to blow their predecessor out of the water because they have added the letters ‘HD’ to the title introduced noise reduction technology so people will be able to hear what your saying when you’re chatting on a busy street. The internal audio system has had a redesign too, so that the set now offers SRS-WOW rather than direct audio, which should make for a more comfortable long-term listening experience.

The headset is A2DP and AVRCP enabled, water-resistant and will give you about 6 hours listening time from a single charge.

CES 2008: Hannspree's first mobile phone, the Zephyr

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Yesterday I shlepped to the Hannspree suite at CES, just to take a look at their first ever mobile phone, which'll be launching mid-2008 in the UK, with the rest of the world following soon after.

With Sony Ericsson aesthetics, and just 2-megapixel camera, it's pretty much the ultimate PAYG handset. There's one nice feature however, that you can use it as a remote control for your Hanspree TV. Heaven help you however, if you own one of those. I was promised they'd be affordable, and won't be offered exclusively to any UK network providers. Let's take a look now.

Hannspree

CES 2008 Special
Read all our coverage from the show in our CES 2008 category

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Yesterday we found proof that that iPod boombox from Lasonic which we saw months ago wasn't just a Photoshop/Illustrator spoof - the Lasonic stand only had about fourteen of the 1980s-throwbacks on show!

Coming atcha like a wet flannel, they're available in several different styles, with the i931 costing just $170 according to the rep we spoke to.

As mentioned previously, it plays tracks from your 'Pod on the docking station, charging as you charge up to some Human League, and even watch videos if you've got some stored on your Apple Brick. There's also AM/FM/RBDS, plus a USB and SD/MMC card slot if you prefer to store your choons that a-way.

More droolalicious piccies after the jump.

heineken-beer-MP3-player.jpgWith 128MB, 256MB, 512MB, 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB memory capacities, Dutch boozehounds can go nuts with the lairy beer-fuelled rock.

The MP-400 from Lasonic supports MP3 and WMA formats, and does not come bundled with an extra liver sadly :(

CES 2008 Special
Read all our coverage from the show in our CES 2008 category

CES 2008: Best car of the show, hands down

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An Xbox 360 Hummer. Somewhere, Jeremy Clarkson is weeping into his pillow with envy.

CES 2008 Special
Read all our coverage from the show in our CES 2008 category

Pressing buttons is so last year. Blue Ant's bluetooth headsets have built-in voice recognition, so now you can look like even more of a moron when you're out and about by not only chatting to other people through your wireless earpiece, but also talking to the headset itself...

I've already raved about the Guitar Hero Air Guitar Rocker - it's a $29.99 gadget that lets you play air guitar to a bunch of top rawk tracks, cranking out the riffs as you wave its guitar pick in front of the special belt buckle.

But here's some more footage of the demonstrator 'Nitrous Roxide' showing it off yesterday, with an emotional rendition of Boston's 'More Than A Feeling'. If I can get maker Jada Toys to send me one, expect a Shiny Video Review on here when we're back in the UK.

Jada Toys website

CES 2008 Special
Read all our coverage from the show in our CES 2008 category

xbox-360-blu-ray.pngIt's tempting to see every positive news development for Blu-ray as another nail in the coffin of HD DVD at the moment, which is simplifying the format war somewhat. But it's a fact that Microsoft is key to any chance that HD DVD will survive, so the news that the company hasn't ruled out releasing a Blu-ray drive for Xbox 360 will certainly cause a few ripples.

It comes from quotes by Xbox group marketing manager Albert Penello, who said that while Microsoft is still fully behind HD DVD, it would still consider switching to Blu-ray if necessary. "It should be consumer choice, and if that's the way they vote, that's something we'll have to consider."

In itself, this is hardly shocking - it's simply sensible on Microsoft's part. However, what's interesting is that a.) they're saying it in public, and b.) it raises the important question of how and when Microsoft will decide that consumers have voted for Blu-ray. Is it a certain number of player sales, or a certain market share, or what? Watch this space...

(via MCV)

CES 2008 Special
Read all our coverage from the show in our CES 2008 category

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