With a view to feeding my inner geek, I took the opportunity to visit The Gadget Show Live at the Birmingham N.E.C. last Friday. Those of you that know me might say that my inner geek isn’t much removed from my outer geek, but nevertheless – the show (based on Channel Five’s successful UK Television programme) was a huge event, much bigger than the same show last year, with a ton of exhibitors and visitors in attendance.
Here’s a round-up of some of the cool and quirky gadgets that caught my eye.
3D is the next big thing
Firstly – it’s clear that 3D is the big thing for 2010 and beyond. Every major manufacturer, from Sony to Panasonic, had a 3D Television on display and the good news is… the experience of viewing them is awesome! Panasonic were taking pre-orders for their 50” Plasma 3D Television, whilst the Sony stand had a continuous stream of people sitting down to try on 3D specs and view the screen (as seen right).
NVidia were also showing off their 3D Vision, wired 3D specs demonstrating a PC running Batman: Arkham Asylum (which genuinely looked great) but there were also some less stellar efforts, a pair of “Cinema Glasses” – which had earphones attached – were supposed to give the impression of sitting in a large screen cinema. Sadly, they felt large and uncomfortable, and both the GG (pictured below sporting said specs) felt mighty uncomfortable wearing them for just a few minutes, let alone a feature length movie.
Ultimate Pocket Computer
3D apart, PsiXPDA had their “Ultimate Pocket Computer” tiny full-keyboard PDA on show – a device reminiscent of the old Psion devices, in this case running Windows 7 or Linux Ubuntu, and with built-in Wi-Fi and a 3G SIM Card slot.
The device *was* tiny, no doubt about it, but it felt slow and clumsy in use, and the price tag of £400+ was off-putting. That said, if you’re looking for a ultra-small device for web-browsing whilst at Conferences and the like, this could be for you. Me, I’ll stick with my Samsung nc-10 Netbook…
Whilst not exactly thrill-inspiring, there were also a couple of Power related Gadgets on display. The iDAPT Innovative Adapter caught my eye – it’s basically a power docking station that can accommodate two or three devices at a time by way of interchangeable power-adaptors. The cost of the unit was around £30, and the adaptors costed around a fiver each. The range of adaptors available was very impressive – with everything from an iPhone to a TomTom to a Nintendo Wii controller, as well as all the major Mobile Phones. IDAPT boast 4000+ compatible devices. If they added a feature to automatically cut-off charging when a device was charged, I’d be recommending this without hesitation…
Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries
Sanyo were also showing their new Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries. Not very exciting, granted, but what is interesting about this technology is that the batteries retain up to 85% of their charge for a year or more. That means they come charged out of the blister packet, ready to use, and unlike conventional rechargeable batteries, if you don’t use them for a few months, they don’t need re-charging before use. Price wise they are comparable to conventional rechargeable batteries. Impressive!
Security products were also on display, including a myriad of IP CCTV Cameras and Home Automation. The EnigmaTag Property Protector was interesting – it’s basically a nail varnish sized bottle of liquid which you dab on to your expensive gadget kit. The liquid contains unique micro-particles that then give your marked gadgets their own coded fingerprint, which can be identified by special Police scanners to in theory, re-unite stolen items with you. I’m unsure of the Police Scanner take-up – so my gut feeling is that many of these stolen items would sit in a Police store-room un-scanned and un-re-united (is that even a word?!) – but it’s an interesting product.
On the subject of Home Automation, two products caught my eye for totally different reasons.
Firstly, the Bath-o-matic connects to existing phone or CAT5 cabling and allows you to, get this, run a bath to your d esired temperature by remote control! It will aid oils, soaps and salts as required, and can be fitted new or retro-installed to existing bath-tubs. Yes, really! Clearly a IWOOT product for the Tubb household! 🙂
Self-Washing Cat Toilet!?
Secondly, have cats but hate kitty litter? The CatGenie is for you. It’s the world’s only Self-Flushing, Self-Washing Cat Toilet. It’s shaped like a Dome, and has a (and I quote) PawMat! Again, I’m sure this device will do great business as there is a need for it where you live in a Flat or Apartment and Mr. Whiskers can’t get outside for his ablutions, but I couldn’t stop laughing as I spoke to the nice lady on this exhibition stall. Thankfully, she took it all in good hum-meow. Ahem.
Nintendo DSi XL
Gaming devices were everywhere you turned, and the new Nintendo Dsi XL was on show. As the man from the Nintendo Stall, who clearly doesn’t understand the value of Word of Mouth marketing and Social Networking to a company even as big as Nintendo, asked me to refrain from taking a photograph of the GG using a Dsi XL (for “Security reasons”) we won’t talk about it.
The very Nintendo Wii-like Blobo looked cool though! It’s hard to explain how it works, other than to say it’s a soft coloured ball that you then use in a Wii-mote like wireless way to control on-screen characters in cartoon-based games, ala Wii Sports. Like the Wii, people of all ages took to it instantly and I hope it’s a big success!
A device that people seemed interested in, but perhaps couldn’t see *much* of a practical use for, was the Mantra Lingua TalkingPEN. It’s basically a chunky pen that you scan across written words, which are then spoken to you via the in-built speaker. Fascinating to see, but the only practical uses I could imagine for it are as a Childrens Learning Aid, and as a Foreign Language tool.
In Car Wi-Fi
On to more practical gadgets, and Mobile Provider Three had their “In Car Wi-Fi” on display. Yes – your own Wireless Internet connection in your car! In a nutshell, it’s a Three MiFi Huawei Wireless Modem with an in-car charger and holder, that then allows up to 5 Wi-Fi devices, such as an iPod Touch, Netbook or Nintendo DSi, to connect to the 3G Wi-Fi signal. It’s available on Pay-As-You-Go and I can see this being a hit with families eager to keep the kids quiet in the b ack seat of the car on a long journey – although from experience I know that the 3G signal can be very spotty when travelling at 70mph down the M6…. Cost was £59.99 including 1GB Data allowance.
Sony had their e-Book Reader on show, and whilst both the GG (pictured right testing it out) and I were impressed, the device did feel sluggish in use. I’ve never tried out the Amazon Kindle, but I suspect it might be the better way forwards for e-Book readers.
The SWAP Smart Watch and Phone was very, very cool! It’s basically Dick Tracy technology come to life – a Wristwatch with a Sim-Card holder, Bluetooth Connectivity, a built-in Camera and WAP browser, which you can make and receive mobile phone calls to and from with a talk time of around 90 minutes. It wasn’t *too* chunky, and whilst it was a bit sluggish in use with a tiny screen, and whilst the cost of £300 might be off-putting for many people, it’s undoubtedly the first of what will be many Wrist-Watch Mobile Phones to hit the market. Bring it on!
Finally, The Centre for Computing History had a whole section of Retro Gadgets on display.
For a retro-geek like myself, this was heaven! There was everything from an Atari 2600 VCS to Pong to an Apple II (the pinnacle of that companies innovation, in my opinion…) plus Speak & Spell, the Amiga CD-32 (which still looked great!) and of course, Pac-Man (which the GG became addicted to…).
The irony of this display is that as a retro-geek collector, I’ve got most of these Gadgets sat at home in boxes, rarely dusted off to play. Clearly, I need to create my own Computer Museum to get the most fun from these devices…
All in all, The Gadget Show Live was a fantastic day out and a lot of fun! Here in the UK we don’t get the fun of shows like the Consumer Electronics Show or CeBIT – so if you get a chance, make time in your diary next year to visit The Gadget Show Live!