Archives For Gadgets

Evolution of the Verizon Hub

Mari Silbey —  January 23, 2009

Tech specs are still fuzzy, but what we do know is that this is a POTS-based cordless phone system with a touchscreen for Internet access and integration with Verizon wireless phone services. It’s meant to act as a digital photo frame, note board, family calendar, and widget station all at once.

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Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  January 22, 2009

A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our other blogs:

Broadband Issues for President Obama
The historic swearing-in of President Barak Obama has taken place, and now it’s time for the real work to begin. Alongside war and a tumbling economy, several broadband issues face President Obama in both the short and long term. There’s the broadcast DTV transition scheduled for next month that may now be postponed until June. Next up: the issue of increasing broadband access and download speeds.

AT&T’s Fiber Rollout Increasing Digital Divide

AT&T likes to brag that they now offer U-verse to over 17 million households, but after two years, they’ve still only managed to sign up 1 million subscribers. While 17 million households sounds like a pretty significant footprint, if you’re not in one of the higher tax brackets, you are probably still waiting for super fast internet access.

Placeshifting BeyondTV to the Mac

This feature makes it possible for Mac OS X users to watch recorded shows served up by a BeyondTV computer over the internet. It’s a pretty easy process that requires BeyondTV on the home PC and VLC on the place-shifting computer.

Internet on the TV – What’s Changed Since CES 2008
I’ve heard many people say that CES 2009 was evolutionary rather than revolutionary. When I think back to CES 2008, netbooks were barely on the radar, only road warriors used mobile broadband, and there were very few ways (or reasons) to access Internet on the TV. At CES 2009, all three trends showed exponential growth.

iPod Without iTunes
My stated goal, find an application or set of applications to synchronize music, video, photos, calendar, contacts, and make sure it recognizes all id3 data correctly. There are several programs and plugins that will work as partial replacements for iTunes, almost all of these require Disk Mode, and all but one cannot change the iPod into disk mode without iTunes.

Pics of the Motorola au Box from CES
With a backlog of CES content to post, I thought I’d start with some new details and pics of the Motorola-created au Box launched by Japan’s KDDI last November. The idea behind the KDDI au service is to make content transferable between au set-tops and au mobile phones.

While walking through the South Hall at CES, out of the corner of my eye I saw a couple of Voltaic, solar-charging laptop bags. They were next to a gentleman who was happily enjoying his lunch until I accosted him. Having written about Voltaic last month, I was curious about any news or product updates. It turns out the man was a representative of the company and willing to put aside his lunch for a quick chat. While there’s not much new to report, I did get a chance to see the Voltaic batteries that hold charge once the bag has soaked up the sun’s rays. One of the problems with the solar bags is that they take so long to charge. That problem is mitigated at least in part when you can carry along extra juice.

I pointed out during my impromptu meeting that the price tag ($499) on the Voltaic makes it impractical for most. The response: It depends on a given user’s needs. And I admit, in certain rugged conditions the Voltaic bags would be invaluable. Perhaps an investment for the Department of Defense?

Kid Tech

Mari Silbey —  January 9, 2009

I’m always a little disconcerted seeing kids in Vegas, but kid tech I can get behind. Yesterday in the Sands there was a whole section dedicated to making money off the under-10 population. Mattel’s set-up included everything from custom Barbie nail decals, to virtual tweener worlds, to mind control games complete with pulse-sensing electrodes. Really.

Of the products I could see my three-year-old actually using, my favorite was something called Kidthing. Simple in concept, Kidthing is a downloadable browser front that offers tons of free content and games as well as a storefront to buy extra stuff. I’m not particularly concerned about my daughter surfing the Web yet, but having an app that consolidates kid entertainment on the computer is extremely valuable, especially when the company behind it has partners like Dr. Seuss. Kidthing also just launched an alliance with the National Education Association and has a project underway called Dear Mr. President to collect kids’ letters to the White House chief. I can just imagine the requests: Dear Mr. President, please bring me world peace and a princess kitchen. Cuteness factor=huge.

The kid tech market is set for an explosion now that so many folks have Internet at home. Economic collapse? No matter. Parents will always pay money to help keep their kids productively entertained.

Hands On With Kodak Zx1

Dave Zatz —  January 8, 2009

As a short term owner of the Kodak Zi6 HD video camera ($180), I was interested in taking a gander at Kodak’s new Zx1 ($150) last night… which may or may not be an upgrade. Like its predecessor, the updated cam features 720p video recording onto SD cards. However, the new “weather resistant” model is sleeker and more compact, featuring comfortable rubberized side grips. And instead of providing component out for television playback, the Zx1 is bundled with an HDMI cable. A feature that doesn’t really do much for me personally. The reason I question if this is a true upgrade, is because the Zx1 drops two very useful features from the Zi6. The flip out USB connector has been replaced with a traditional USB cable, adding to the clutter. More troublesome, given the sorts of things I film, is the removal of a macro recording mode. So, while the price is right, the feature set won’t meet my needs. For slightly better pics, hit Engadget’s coverage.

There are a ton of companies showing off wireless power solutions this year, with PowerMat possibly getting the most hype. While I haven’t run into the PowerMat folks yet, I did stop by the Fulton Innovation and Leggett & Platt booths at Digital Experience last night. Fulton is behind something called eCoupled technology. The technology uses inductive coupling to power devices by surface-to-surface touch. The catch? The devices have to have the right outer surface to power up on eCoupled-enabled charging products. While some of the big manufacturers are getting on board, don’t expect all of the gadgets in your gadget bag to charge wirelessly any time soon. My guess is that a decent after-market business will spring up (it exists in early form already) letting you add surface skins that support eCoupled charging.

In the meantime, companies like Leggett & Platt are creating cool new products at the front wave of the wireless power trend. Check out pics of the car console above and below. The company sees a construction application for the car hardware, letting workers charge their tools between site jobs. Huh. I have to admit, that’s not the first application I thought of. I want wireless power for my laptop, camera, Flip, Zoom, Slacker, phone, etc., etc., etc.

Also in the gallery below – an eCoupled-enabled wooden tray. Tray chic.

Pepcom’s Digital Experience is like a small, tame version of the full CES, and yet it’s still overwhelming. My strategy this year was to hone in on a couple of companies and see what I could learn. First stop: GiiNii.

I targeted GiiNii because of the company’s new Wi-Fi photo frame. My experience with eStarling’s early wireless frame was ill-fated. It refused to work any farther than five feet from a router, the screen was smaall, and the troubleshooting process was less than satisfying. GiiNii and several other companies this year are looking to take Wi-Fi frames to the next level. The GiiNii product I saw at Digital Experience, part of the new Pixplus line due out in mid-2009, sported a large 10.1″ display with touch panel at the bottom, and offered up RSS content in addition to photos. This may be the future of the widget station. Buy an Internet-connected device to show off photos, and use it secondarily as a display for other non-TV, Internet content. The GiiNii frame shows streams of content from FrameChannel.com and HowStuffWorks.com – from weather, to sports scores, to stocks, and more.

Meanwhile, the PixPlus digital frames weren’t even the highlight of GiiNii’s portfolio. The company had an iPod Touch knock-off called the Movit Mini with a 4.3″ touch screen. Engadget dug it and its apparent Android platform. I imagine we’ll see several variations of this theme at cheaper-than-iPod prices in the coming year.

Plus, GiiNii had a patent-pending add-on for cameras letting amateur photographers set up reasonable self-portraits. This is one of those innovations that seems beyond obvious when you see it. The picture below shows how the camera reflects the photo it is taking for the objects of the picture to view. Wonder what your picture will look like before it snaps? GiiNii can help you out with C-U-C-Me technology.

I had never heard of GiiNii before this evening, but I’ll be keeping an eye on them. The company has an impressive line-up… if it can survive the economic woes of the CE market in 2009.