At the end of the day, the Consumer Electronics Show is all about the gadgets. And while there haven’t been any real breakouts, there have been several great surprises. Here are 15 gadgets that made heads turn at this year’s show.
1) 3D Systems Cube printer: 3D printing is one of those areas of tech that really does seem like it could change our lives...if only it could catch on. For those unfamiliar with the idea, a 3D printer spits out plastic instead of ink to make small, functional items for the home such as cookie cutters, chess pieces and even shoes. The Cube 3D printer is one of the first to flirt with a somewhat consumer-friendly price range, starting at $1,299. While they’re unlikely to be in every home any time soon, this is a step toward making 3D printing more commonplace.
2) HP Envy 14 Spectre: This stunning Gorilla Glass-covered ultrabook is HP’s first ultrabook for non-business consumers. It weighs in at just 3.9 pounds and measures just under 0.8 inches thick. With a good display and Beats-brand speakers, the ultrabook is sure to be popular with the fashion-forward — just watch out for fingerprints.
3) Sharp Aquos Smart Board: White boards are yesterday’s news, if Sharp has anything to say about it. The idea of a smart classroom is another idea that’s failed to really catch on, though there are smatterings of smartboards in colleges and universities across the country. With the Sharp Aquos Smart Board, business executives and professors can really take the point home with 80-, 70- or 60-inch screens.
4) Dell XPS 13: While not as visually stunning as HP’s latest ultrabook, the Dell XPS 13 has been getting high praise from tech watchers for its i5- (or i7-) powered insides and its edge-to-edge display. Starting at $999, this super-slim computer is competitive with the MacBook Air in form and price.
5) Parrot Quadricopter Air Drone: Our Day 1 Mystery Gadget, this hovering camera can be controlled though an iPad or smartphone and lets you record aerial video from a front or vertical camera. A gimmick? Sure. But you can bet it’s a whole lot of fun.
6) Waterproof tablets: Pantech and Fujitsu have shown off “waterproof” tablets at the show this year, aimed at tablet users who take their computing on the road such as salespeople who do on-site visits. Or, you know, for Web surfing in the bathtub.
7) Lenovo IdeaTab Yoga: Running the latest Android operating system — that’d be Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich — this tablet from Lenovo has a detachable keyboard dock, further blurring the lines between tablets and laptops. The 10-inch tablet weighs just over a pound and is supposed to have 20 hours of battery life.
8) Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7: Jumping into the mini-tablet game, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 has been a known entity for a while, but got an official unveiling at the Samsung booth at CES. With the same slim profile as its older and bigger 10.1-inch sibling, the tablet has front- and rear-facing cameras, a microSD card slot, a SIM card slot and a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor.
9) Razer Fiona Gaming tablet: Tablets have a lot of gaming potential, but touchscreens tend to compromise a lot of the finer controls of hardcore gaming. Enter the Razer Gaming tablet, which looks just like a normal tablet, but with two vertical controls flanking the 10.1-inch screen. The tablet is meant for Windows games — not mobile games — and is in its “project” phase. So don’t expect to see it on the market any time soon, but if you have an idea you should let the folks at Razer’s Project Fiona know about it.
10) TOSY Robotic mRobo: This dancing robot speaker was introduced at the TOSY booth by teen heartthrob Justin Bieber, promptly earning it the name, “Bieberbot.” But it’s so much more than that. Fulfilling the childhood dreams of anyone who came of age in the 80s and 90s, this speaker is an honest-to-goodness transformer that dances while it plays your favorite tunes.
11) Roku Streaming Stick: Roku introduced this little device ahead of CES, but took the opportunity to show it off in Las Vegas this week. The streaming stick will plug into any television with an HDMI port and give viewers access to all of Roku’s channels. Roku said the streaming stick will have a price comparable to its current set-top boxes, which should put the price range under $100.
12) Sensics SmartGoggles: Probably a bit too far ahead of its time, the Sensics Smart Googles helmet-like immersive display is supposed to offer a totally new kind of gaming experience. Our friends at The Verge say the graphics really aren’t that good, but that it’s quite the novelty to have a 360 gaming experience. Right now, users need a controller to run Android apps, but the company is planning to make it controller-free in the future.
13) Sonomax sculptedeer earbuds: Plenty of people can’t stand earbud headphones because they just can’t find a lasting, comfortable fit. Enter Sonomax and its custom headphones, created by taking a mold of each individual customer’s ear canal. The headphone set starts at $200 and comes with the injection headset.
14) Pandora in your car: Pandora announced that it is working with automakers such as Ford and Kia to put the streaming music service into car dashboards across America. The company is trying to get its 125 million users to listen to tunes on their commutes and on road trips — where about half of all radio listening happens. Pandora founder Tim Westergren told The Washington Post that the company is focusing closely on the car market in the future.
15) OLPC tablet computer: While it may not be the hippest or most cutting-edge device out there, the new One Laptop Per Child tablet comes with one of the best missions. OLPC introduced the third version of its computing devices for children in some of the poorest regions of the world, a tablet computer that’s supposed to have a lot of options for sourcing its power. The tablet comes with two kinds of covers, one of which is lined with solar panels meant to charge the device when it connects. OLPC is getting ready to put the device into production with the hope that they’ll be able to price it for $100.