Digital life: Going Ga Ga for gadgets
Greetings from the edge of the future. Fittingly, this glimpse of gadget heaven takes place in Las Vegas, that loveably artificial monument to modernity in the desert.
We're here for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the largest of its kind, an annual four-day jamboree for the technology industry bringing together 110,000 exhibitors, dealers and media with the hottest gizmos, widgets and devices from 2,500 companies.
From TVs to mobiles to cameras to computers, CES delivers a sneak peek at what will make tech headlines in the coming year.
Just like Las Vegas, which is constantly reinventing itself, the technology world has to constantly dream up the 'new thing' to keep us coming back for more.
CES is where that buzz begins, just as it has for the show's past 43 years.
This is where the world first got wind of the VCR, CD players and, more recently, Amazon's Kindle.
Dominating the landscape this year was the rush to bring 3D TVs to market, with every big player from Sony to Panasonic to LG touting them as the future of home entertainment.
If Vegas was on edge after a random shooting less than a mile from the venue left two people dead, it didn't show. It was business as usual at the largest convention centre in the US.
While Ireland shivered in sub-zero weather, CES 2010 basked in pleasant 15-degree sun.
Inside, the temperature rose higher as 110,000 gadget lovers crammed the aisles eagerly seeking the next big thing.
Spread across 45 acres, the show spanned monster exhibition stands from the likes of Samsung and Microsoft to tiny one-man cubicles from Hong Kong mail-order firms.
Just walking the vast expanse of floor at CES is a costly exercise in shoe leather. Some attendees even resorted to hiring scooters intended for the disabled.
But trying to sort the wheat from the chaff was probably a more exhausting assignment.
For every genius idea that could change the world, there were half-a-dozen lazy me-too efforts or never-wills.
Vegas wouldn't be Vegas without an injection of glamour and Polaroid (who knew they still existed?) scored a coup by unveiling singer Lady Gaga as "creative director" of new products.
The PR value was slightly undermined by Gaga flouncing up to a similar event for another exhibitor 10 yards away an hour later.
Not coincidentally, Sin City also simultaneously hosts the porn industry's annual conference right beside CES. We won't be reporting on the, ahem, technology unveiled there.