CES: The gadget saga begins

1.7 million square feet. 140,000 attendees. 1.21 gigawatts. These are the numbers that make up the 41st annual Consumer Electronics Show. So big that it spans three separate venues, before you even include all the private suites and parties. So big it exerts its own gravitational pull. So big that one man was heard to exclaim in awe: “that’s no moon…that’s the Consumer Electronics Show.” Alright, it was me. But still.

It’s a large show, this CES, and as an army of two (myself and my fellow Dan), it’s a daunting task to cover as many of these gizmos and doodads as I can get my robotically-enhanced grip on. But I’ll do what I can to give you a taste of the world of CES over the next few days (hint: it’s somewhere between salty, sweet, and crunchy). So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the tech that’s already crossed my meandering path: a GPS unit that talks back, a TV with double vision, and a monitor that you may have trouble wrapping your head around.

Dashing through the snow in a one horse GPS

Dash Express

What’s better than an in-car GPS unit? If you guessed an almost-sentient communicative network of GPS units, then you, my friend, have won a prize (offer not valid in 49 of 50 states). You’ve also hit upon the idea behind Dash Navigation’s Dash Express. Think of it as GPS meets social networking, but without all the annoying friend requests and embarrassing encounters with high school classmates.

See, instead of just pulling GPS information down, the Dash Express also transmits anonymized data from your unit back to Dash’s servers, which it uses to build a traffic model of your surrounding area. The more people in your vicinity with a Dash unit, the better the modeling. That info can be used to show you alternate routes and let you know when traffic’s been stopped by an accident, construction, or a shambling mass of zombies. And, unlike most GPS units, the Dash Express actually gives you information about side streets, not just major highways. Also, because the Dash Express is connected to the Internet, you can also search for info on restaurants, gas stations, services, etc. by using the built-in Yahoo! Local capability. And the team (which features at least one former Apple employee) has also created a plugin for OS X that allows you to select any location in an email, or webpage, or instant message, and send it from your computer to your car.

Me, I worry that some day the network of Dash Expresses might become sentient and collaborate to convince us that all of our city’s streets are gridlocked with traffic, effectively trapping us in our homes unless we’re willing to brave the outside elements and walk—so, er, trapped in our homes. The one major downside to the Dash Express is that in order to work at its most effective, you’ll need a critical mass of at least a few hundred in your area. So, in other words, be prepared to buy a lot of presents for your friends. The Express will ship in late February for $599, plus a $12 monthly service fee (cheaper if you prepay).

One way, or another, I’m gonna see ya

TI DualView

If you’re a gamer, you may perhaps have experienced the same source of suffering that I have. You’ve got a nice new huge television, and you’re already to fire up some Halo 3 with your buddy, but who wants to sacrifice half of your screen real estate just so you let your friend play?

Well, if you’ve got a Texas Instruments DLP TV, the solution may be closer than you think. Here’s how it works: the DLP display can actually overlay two separate images produced by two game consoles. If you just look at the display with your naked (or scantily clad) eye, you’ll see what looks like one image ghosted over another. However, by wearing special high-contrast shutter glasses, you can filter out one of the images, leaving you able to see only your own screen and making it impossible to cheat by looking at your friend’s screen. Well, unless you take the glasses off. Flipping a switch on the glasses lets you switch your view to the other.

TI’s currently working with some designers to pimp up the glasses a bit, which are currently only suitable for wearing if you’re an Irish rock star, and we don’t have a price point yet, but this tech should make it to market later this year.

Real monitors have curves

Alienware

Okay, this one still resides in the land of dreams, but tell me the mere sight doesn’t set your salivary glands into overdrive. Alienware’s working on a curved monitor that actually helps simulate peripheral vision in gaming. The resolution on this truly remarkable feat of engineering is an astounding 2880x900 and it’s run off a Dual Link DVI set up (with some serious graphics horsepower). As if that’s not enough, it uses DLP technology, is backlit by LEDs, and has a 2ms response time.

When I asked the rep if it had uses other than gaming, he assured me that it could be handy for video editors, graphics artists, and prepress types—but only if they like to game. Heck, I just want one of these for typing up my Gadgetbox posts on. I’m working on convincing the puppet-masters who pull my strings, but we’ll still have to wait until later this year and the price is likely to be in the range of “one firstborn child.”

The saga continues

Well, that’s day one for you, but I've still got two days more left in this overcrowded hellhole charming convocation, so tune back in tomorrow and Wednesday for more action, adventure, and patented Gadgetbox awesomeosity™.

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