Saturday 1 October 2016

CES2013: The greatest gadget show on earth kicks off

Ronan Price in Las Vegas

Published 07/01/2013 | 09:12

Showgoers attend the opening press event, 'CES Unveiled', at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Photo: Reuters
Showgoers attend the opening press event, 'CES Unveiled', at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Photo: Reuters
The HAPIfork claims it can help people lose weight by encouraging them to eat more slowly

IT’S entirely fitting that the wildest gadgets make their debut in the wildest city on the planet.

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The neon-streaked streets of Las Vegas play host to the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which kicks off today with the promise of 20,000 new products released.

As befits the biggest electronics trade show in the world, it’s a beast of enormous proportions, taking over Sin City’s hotels and ginormous conference centre for an orgy of tech treats.

With its four decades of history, CES is the venue where major developments such as the VCR and Blu-ray were first unveiled.

And while 2013 is unlikely to produce anything as seismic in terms of new technology, much of the stuff that gets an airing at the four-day show this week will also be the gadgets clogging up the shops later this year from huge brands such as Samsung, Panasonic and Sony.

Alas, a sizeable chunk of what appears at CES is also destined for the scrapheap, either ignored by consumers or failing to be fully developed.

The media got a sneak preview last night, handed a taster of some of the innovations from smaller brands at CES Unveiled, a pre-show event possibly crowded more for the free booze and food laid on for thirsty hacks than for the memorable digital doodads.

Purely for the novelty factor, the biggest buzz surrounded the new range of “connected cutlery”, in which forks and spoons are hooked up to an iPhone via motion sensors and Bluetooth.

The idea behind the cutlery from French firm Hapilabs is that they vibrate when you’re eating too quickly - and the iPhone app can suggest a more sensible eating programme.

With the forks priced about €100, the goal of inventor Jacques Lepine is to help you lose weight, an idea that came to him when his wife told him he was eating too fast at dinner. “I knew I couldn’t stop this habit without help,” he explained, so he created the Hapifork.

Another idea that just might catch on is an emergency phone known as Spare One. It needs only a single AA battery, which will last for 15 years if never used. The simple mobile doesn’t even have a screen and doesn’t need a SIM card because it’s pre-programmed to call 999.

But if you insert a regular SIM, it operates like conventional handset, ideal for the elderly or the terminally technophobic.

Amid the scrum of jostling journalists, there were plenty of other nifty notions - such as the waterproof coating for electronics by HZO that can be painted on, making any consumer device immune to even corrosive liquids such as orange juice.

Or the €400 skiing goggles from Liquid Image with the built-in camera that broadcasts video via WiFi to an iPhone.

Or single-lens specs from Vusix that could get the drop on Google’s Glasses, putting a smartphone-sized virtual display in front of your eyes while simultaneously making you look a bit foolish.

These and many more ideas will face the test of consumer interest this year, if indeed some of them make it to market at all.

As CES begins in earnest today for the estimated 150,000 attendees, it’s the big announcements from the electronics giants that will be closely watched. Samsung, for instance, is rumoured to have big surprise in TVs lined up while Sony is rumoured to making a splash with a super-sized new phone.

What you won’t hear is anything from Microsoft or Apple, who are deliberately staying away from CES because they prefer to make their own headlines away from the din and the chaos of Las Vegas.

Follow @RonanPrice

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