Home automation is becoming a big theme at consumer electronics trade shows like CES. Many companies have been promising the ‘smart house’ for years – a house that automatically anticipates and responds to its inhabitants wants and needs. HawkingTech was showing off some preliminary tech which could help hearken the days of the smart house with a variety of available now products – check out the video for a demonstration of what is to come.
Typically we find that most manufacturer’s who focus exclusively on Apple products choose Macworld over CES, since the two are scheduled to close together. That didn’t stop iPhone, iPod, and other Mac products from being a reoccurring theme at CES. XtremeMac was there in force showing off a collection of iProduct accessories – check them out for the full skinny.
While power technologies tend to be less glamourous than gadgets consumers shouldn’t forget the impact and importance of having solid battery technologies in the slim and trim electronic toys and tools they buy. ZPower was pleased to show off their new Silver-Zinc batteries at CES – potentially a revolutionary new product. These new batteries can be interchanged with Lithium Ion batteries but offer more power for longer periods all while reducing the environmental impact. Available soon from a yet-to-be-named laptop manufacturer.
Think Lego Mindstorms meets Radio Shack. Bug Labs has been working on their Bug Base—a fully modifiable, open-source gadget building block system. The base itself includes specs similar to “a three-year-old laptop” but includes WiFi and Ethernet, USB and more. Once you have the base, you can add additional “modules,” including LCD displays, GPS, cameras, motion sensors and tons more. Each of the modules will require you to program them using a software package similar to VisualStudio in appearance, but everything is open source. Bug Labs has about 80 different sensors on the roadmap right now and they’re constantly interfacing with the community to come up with new ideas.
The concept has a lot of promise and some great tinkering cred. For the first 60 days, they’re offering an early-adopter special with the base costing just $299 (down from $349) and modules ranging from $49-$119. Pre-orders began on January 21st and will ship by March.
Take a look at our video to see us get our hands on the base and its modules and to talk to Jeremy from Bug Labs about what’s coming down the road and what’s in store for Bug Labs.
While most consumers never need more than a single WiFi router, any hardcore wireless geek knows how tricky it can be to cover a large area with multiple WiFi routers bridged together.
Enter Meraki, with their sleek new mesh based indoor/outdoor solution. To enable coverage for a large area, you just need to buy a series of these devices, connect any one of them to a hardline Internet connection, and let the rest of them do the rest. They automatically link up and create a robust network spanning 2-2,000 of the autonomous routers to provide the tubes to everyone within range.
The folks at HTC Smart Mobility have some new cell phones to talk about, such as the Verizon 5800, with its easy-to-use, layout and interface with QWERTY keyboard, perfect for both the corporate exec—and the soccer mom. And we loved the HTC Touch, HTC’s entry in the iPhone-killer wars. The Touch has a touch screen (duh), utilizes Windows Mobile 6, and has an interface with impressive 3D elements. To learn more about both phones, and HTC’s new TouchFLO technology, check out the video.
We chat with the Sling Media crew and take a special look at the newly announced Slingbox PRO HD. The PRO HD allows you to beam HD to any device, and if you have the upload capacity, to do so with no down-conversion. The PRO HD will be available in Q3 and will retail for $399.99. Coupled with the SlingCatcher, you’ll be able to beam HD-anything to another TV in your house straight up.
Further, the SlingCatcher will function as a standalone device that will allow you to pull a screen or web video stream from a host computer to your TV. For now, you have to coordinate and control it from the host PC, and it still needs to play on the host PC, but the ability to push the video up to your TV without plugging anything additional in is pretty tempting. The Sling Catcher also features 2 USB ports, to allow it to play from external storage. The SlingCatcher will be available around the same time for $249.99 and can push out over HDMI or component. Check the video out for all the grisly details and some great close ups of the Slingers in action.
With colorful t-shirts reading “F>CK Voicemail,” Simulscribe uses the call forwarding option on your cell phone to push voicemail to their automatic transcription service. It’s been around for awhile and costs $10 a month for 40 voicemails or $30 a month for the unlimited service. The service apparently has an accuracy rate of about 95%, but we’ll have to test that to see how it holds up. This is different than many voicemail retrieval services which call and log into your voicemail system using your PIN number. Those solutions feature a delay of between 5-30 minutes, whereas forwarding like Simulscribe is nearly instant.
If the transcription fails or doesn’t get things quite right, you can log in through your phone or have the voicemail audio emailed to you as a WAV as well. They also offer a 35 cent per message service if you don’t want to subscribe to a plan.
Check the video to see their cheerleader-esque spokesgirl. She’s FUN! Meanwhile, I’ll likely be trying this service out over the next week or two and post my review here.
In this segment, we look at two similarly equipped Dell notebooks to examine the benefits provided by ATI‘s integrated graphics option versus the competition’s, and take a first-hand look at a Half-Life 2 demo run on a Puma-based reference system, in hybrid mode, utilizing both the system’s discreet and integrated graphics chips over Crossfire.
Garmin continues to impress with their latest GPS devices. Our favorite is the Nuvi 880, with speech recognition. Speak your orders into the 880—say Grandma’s address—and you’re off. The 880 can also help you find what you’re looking for, whether your hungry, need to find a movie theater, or any other myriad of things. For example, just tell the 880 you need a Chinese restaurant and the device will offer a huge list of eateries within the area. Choose the one you want and the 880 guides you there.
Our favorite feature is that the 880 also offers real-time traffic info, news, stocks, current events and more via MSN Direct, making it the perfect traveling companion. The service is free the first 3 months, and will then cost $50/year.