I'm delighted to report that the Consumer Electronics Show of 2006 is now officially concluded. Yahoo!! (Google, too!!) Like the other 150,000 participants, my feet are killing me and my pockets are filled with 300+ business cards from people hawking devices great and small.
I was looking for devices that are fun… that transform how we interact… that improve our quality of life. There were enough devices that fit these criteria that we will have fodder for reviews for an entire year ahead.
Here is a completely subjective list of the "Best of Show" gadgets I saw at CES. (Most of these are demonstrated on the accompanying dozen videoblogs we filed from the show, so please check them out!)
No bigger than a pack of cards, Garmin's Nuvi is the "everything device" I've long dreamed of. First, it is a GPS and navigation tool with the entire US map and feature set loaded on this lightweight handful. The chip onboard acquires a GPS signal and determines your precise location much faster than other commercial devices. The touchscreen is very nice and bright and the onboard logic dims the brightness at night to save your eyes (and battery power).
Garmin's Nuvi adds turn-by-turn voice instructions plus an assortment of other cool digital tools: MP3 player, photo viewer, currency conversion calculator, and best of all, language translator. Select words or phrases from more than 10 foreign languages with ease and use the voice synthesized translations to let you be understood in most circumstances travelers may find themselves in.
There is an SD slot to add guide books for foreign travel and the USB power charger and connector allows easy transfer of data, music, photos, and more. I love this so much that I now take it with me everywhere, even if I know precisely where I'm going!
That's because the Nuvi has other fun features: a money-saver guide that will get you discounts at selected nearby stores; a car adapter kit that's a snap to install; even connections to an optional radio service that reroutes your route using updated traffic congestion info. Minor gripes: it isn't waterproof… it isn't great for geocaching… and it is a little pricey. The Nuvi lists for about $999.
Sony's second-generation portable reader system using electronic "E-Ink" display will be available in the Spring of 2006. I'm excited because I love having lots of books with me when I travel and because the core "E-Ink" technology will one day transform a myriad of devices. First, the Sony E-Book can store more than 80 books with onboard memory, plus hundreds more using the available Sony Memory Stick or SD card slots. Now, you can download more than 10,000 books available through Sony Connect.
I like the ability to enlarge and change type styles to make reading easier. Best of all, it's great to carry so many books in a single device that weighs just 9 ounces and is a mere ½-inch thick. E-Ink uses a tiny electric charge to reorient microscopic two-sided (dark and light) "ink" particles embedded in a laminate screen.
In the Sony E-Book, rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries allow reading 7,500 pages on a single charge. It's fair to expect electronic ink technology will lead to next generation devices: handheld electronic newspapers, for example, that update automatically wirelessly. Price: To be determined, but somewhere between $299 and $399.