Friday, April 25th, 2014

ShowStoppers at CES

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 January 10, 2011, ShowStoppers at CES, Las Vegas—The sideshow to the big show provides an alternate showcase to companies outside the CES madness. Some of the companies that seemed interesting to me included the following: Corel, HeartMath, Improv Electronics, SuperTooth, Toro, and Zagg.

Although many of the exhibitors showed some incremental product evolution, just like the overall CES, some were different enough to draw some attention. It's difficult to stand out in any mass exhibition and the interesting items take some work to dig out. Most of the on-going companies showed their latest products, and the start-ups showed themselves and their offerings. The challenge for the latter group is to have enough differentiation to be notices.

The fascinating part of the Corel product is that they are doing a very good job of parallel programming. Within their operating window, they are balancing multi-core processor performance and getting very fast operations even without a dedicated graphics accelerator. The photo manipulation tools perform their tasks in a large dashboard and seemed to be unhindered by I/O bottlenecks.

HeartMath uses an IR sensor to monitor pulse rates as a stress reduction tool. The user puts a thumb on the sensor and the emWave2 detects pulse information from the reflected light. The hand-held device then provides visual or audio pacing cues for breathing to align the breathing and heart rate. This bio-feedback helps to drive the user's focus which can reduce stress and improve relaxation.

Improve Electronics makes LCD drawing tablets. The low-end version just acts like an Etch-a-Sketch while the premium Boogie Board version allows recording and transfers to a computer. The resulting files are vector PDF and the tablet can hold up to 200 images. The content is entered with a stylus on to the tablet and the images can be transferred to a PC via a USB cable.

SuperTooth offered Bluetooth-enabled speakers. The Disco2 is a rechargeable speaker for listening to music from any Bluetooth A2DP source. The speakers can be used as a single or a stereo pair. The Crystal is a Bluetooth speakerphone for hands-free calling. It features automatic pairing and can handle two phones simultaneously.

Toro offered a water timer with additional sensors that close the loop on water levels so the timer doesn't over or under water the flora. The timer settings are modified based on the readings from a wireless moisture sensor to optimize watering. The system should reduce water bills due to over-watering and has a temperature sensor to prevent watering when outside temperatures approach freezing. The main challenge is that this is a single channel sensor system, so ground topologies can affect the system accuracy.

Zagg showed some tablet cases and keyboards. One combo-case also acts as a stand and keyboard holder to make a tablet into a viable work platform rather than just a content consumption device. The BlueTooth keyboards are rechargeable with a projected operating life for a charge of months. The keyboards are capable of pairing with iOS and android devices.

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