4 gadgets that defined Vegas electronics show

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 13, 2013 at 10:10 am •  Published: January 13, 2013
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By the way, you won't have to choose between ultra-HD and OLED screens — Sony, Panasonic and LG showed prototype TVs that combine the technologies.

— The Pebble Watch

The Pebble is a "smart" timepiece that can be programmed to do various things, including showing text messages sent to your phone. The high-resolution display is all digital, so it can be programmed with various cool "watch faces." But what's really interesting about the Pebble is how it came to be —and that it exists at all.

Young Canadian inventor Eric Migicovsky couldn't find conventional funding to make the watch, so he asked for money on Kickstarter, the biggest "crowdfunding" website. In essence, he asked people to buy watches before he actually had any to sell. The fundraising was a blowout success. Migicovsky raised $10.3 million by pre-selling 85,000 Pebbles. At CES, he announced that the watches were ready to ship.

Kickstarter's goal is to bring things and events into fruition that otherwise wouldn't happen, by creating a shortcut between the people who want to create something and the people willing to pay for it. The effect is starting to become apparent at CES. At least two other "smart" watches funded through Kickstarter were on display. Some startups were at the show to drum up interest in ongoing Kickstarter campaigns, including a Swedish company that wants to make a speaker with a transparent body, and a California outfit that wants to produce a swiveling, remote-controlled platform for cameras.

— Creative Technology Ltd.'s Interactive Gesture Camera

This $150 camera, promoted by Intel, attaches to a computer much like a Webcam. From a single lens, it shoots the world in 3-D, using technology similar to radar. The idea is that you can perform hand gestures in the air in front of the camera, and it lets the computer interpret them. Why would you want this? That's not really clear yet, but a lot of effort is going into finding an answer. CES was boiling with gadgets attempting to break new ground when it comes to how we interact with computers and appliances like TV sets. The Nintendo Wii game console, with its innovative motion-sensing controllers, and the Microsoft Kinect add-on for the Xbox 360 console, which has its own 3-D-sensing camera, have inspired engineers to pursue ways to ditch —or at least complement— the keyboard, mouse, remote control and even the touchscreen.

Samsung's high-end TVs already let viewers use hand gestures to control volume, and it expanded the range of recognized gestures with this year's models. Startup Leap Motion was at the show with another depth-sensing camera kit, this one designed to mount next to a laptop's touch pad, looking upward.

So far, though, the "new interaction" field hasn't had a real hit since the Kinect. Consumers may be eager to lose the TV remote, but there's a holdup caused by the nature of the setup: to effectively control the TV, you need to take command not just of the TV, but of the cable or satellite set-top box. TV makers and the cable companies don't really talk to each other, and there's no sign of them uniting on a common approach. Only when both devices can be controlled by hand-waving can we permanently let the remote get lost between the couch cushions.