The Top 25 Coolest Gadgets of CES 2014
Ah, January in Las Vegas. The gambling addicts with failed resolutions have fallen off the wagon and into the casinos, the strippers have put away their Santa hats, and the world’s biggest electronic goods manufacturers have rolled into the convention center for the annual Consumer Electronics Show (which, funnily enough, isn’t actually open to consumers; stick that in your D.A.R.E.-sticker-festooned pipe and smoke it, Alanis). As is the case every year, the 2014 show had untold thousands of digital devices and services being hawked within its walls. Luckily for you, we’ve managed to cull this high-tech herd down to the 25 most noteworthy gizmos of this year’s expo.
Alienware Steam Machine
You’re probably familiar with Steam, the online PC game store and app created by game developer Valve. But you probably aren’t familiar with the company’s Steambox initiative, aimed at helping hardware manufacturers break into the game console market by providing them with an operating system (SteamOS) and content (PC games from the Steam store). The Steam Machine is the Steambox from longtime Valve collaborator Alienware, which is Dell’s gaming PC and peripheral subsidiary. Details were hard to come by at CES, but word is pricing will be comparable to current offerings from the Big 3 (Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo) and it will be available this fall.
If you’re in the market for an Android tablet but think even the one with the biggest screen isn’t big enough, the Snakebyte Vyper may be your salvation. The tablet itself and its 7” touchscreen don’t break any new ground, but the equipment it comes with does: The $199 standard version comes with a docking station that sends whatever is on the tablet’s screen to your TV, and an AirMouse remote control to let you interface with the tablet without touching it. And for another $50, Snakebyte will add a Bluetooth gaming controller. That might seem like a lot of dough, but having dedicated components that are a breeze to set up to communicate with each other holds quite a bit of appeal.
Most smartphone cameras work pretty well for impromptu point-and-shoot photography. But if you want to take more sophisticated snaps, having just one lens really limits your options. The new case you see here, the iZZi Slim, expands your options by quite a wide margin by adding a fisheye, a telephoto, a macro and a wide angle lens to your iPhone 5 or 5S’s arsenal. And as the name implies, it doesn’t add much girth to the phone. Expect it to retail for $99, considerably less than iZZi’s prior products.
What’s cooler than being able to take a 360° panoramic photo? Being able to take a 360°x360° panorama, of course! The Panono is a small polycarbonate-bodied ball stuffed with 36 2-megapixel cameras. Toss it straight up into the air, and all 36 cameras snap pictures simultaneously at the apex of the ball’s flight. And if you aren’t in a tossing mood, you can attach the Panono to a drone. Expect sales of this clever little sensor sphere to begin this fall, priced at or around $600.
Audi Smart Display
One of the biggest news nuggets at CES 2014 was the announcement of the Open Auto Alliance, a partnership of Google, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Audi and Nvidia that aims to bring Android-powered automotive multimedia systems to market in the next few years. But the first Audi product to reap the benefits of the alliance isn’t a car at all; it’s a tablet. The Audi Smart Display acts as a sort of remote control for an Audi vehicle’s audio, navigation, climate control and other systems, plus you can use it like a normal tablet and connect it to the Internet via the car’s 4G/LTE hotspot. Audi wasn’t forthcoming on details like price or when it will be available, but word on the street is the release will coincide with the arrival of the yet-to-be-revealed third-generation TT in dealerships.
Electric skateboards are pretty neat, but also pretty heavy. That changes with the Cruiser from Yuneec Technology’s E-Go brand. This self-propelled longboard tips the scales at 13.9 lbs. The company says it will cover up to 18 miles on a charge and will get you up most hills. Of course, that second capability isn’t super surprising, considering the Cruiser will lighten your wallet to the tune of $700.
In a move that’s sure to shock hipsters into spitting PBR all over their scarves, Polaroid used CES 2014 to announce a production version of the Android-powered Socialmatic camera concept. Featuring a 14-megapixel front camera and a 2-megapixel rear camera (for selfies), the Socialmatic can upload pics to your social media site of choice via Wi-Fi or, in a nod to Polaroid cameras of old, print them out on special paper via an ink-free process. Expect pricing info to emerge closer to the camera’s on-sale date sometime this fall.
MakerBot Replicator Mini
Despite some worry from some circles about homemade guns from CAD files, 3D printers appear to be well on their way to becoming a ubiquitous home office and small business computer peripheral. And one of the companies leading this charge, MakerBot, has unveiled its smallest and most affordable 3D printer yet, the $1,375 Replicator Mini. Select or create a 3D model in the easy-to-use tablet app, send it to the printer (via cable or Wi-Fi) and, in a little while, you’ll have a roughly 4”x4”x5” object you can hold in your hand. Yes, these things will only get smaller and cheaper as time passes, but we might have a hard time waiting…
Typical speakers with integrated subwoofers are fairly large and ungainly looking. The Clearview Clio manages to look much smaller than the competition’s offerings by hiding the speaker membrane (the part that vibrates) in plain sight. Specifically, the membrane is a thin, curved sheet of clear acrylic glass protruding above the base of the unit (which houses the controls and the subwoofer on the underside). The Clio gives you 2.1 stereo sound without the need for wires, as it can receive audio from Bluetooth-enabled devices. Clearview says the Clio will be available beginning in March for $349 each, and will be offered in three base colors: Silver, dark bronze and charcoal.
Sony 4K Ultra Short Throw Projector
The popularity of digital projectors seems to be growing, and Sony has fired a big honkin’ volley across the bows of its competitors by way of the super-duper-creatively-named 4K Ultra Short Throw Projector. As the name implies, it projects images in 4K resolution (provided, of course, the source is also 4K resolution), and as the name also implies, it can be placed a short distance away from the wall or screen onto which you want to project. In fact, it can be placed right up against the wall or screen, allowing you to project an image as big as 147” measured diagonally without having to worry about people walking in front of it. The only really negative we can think of is the anticipated price: Somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000. Yeeeouch.
Chevrolet Performance Data Recorder
It’s one thing to take your high performance car on a track day; it’s another to be able to have onboard video of that track day, or have telemetry that you and/or an instructor can analyze after the fact to make you a better driver. The Chevrolet Performance Data Recorder, a Cosworth-developed system exclusive to the 2015 Corvette range (including, we assume, the soon-to-be-revealed Z06), does both.
A 720p video camera mounted above the rearview mirror shows the road or track ahead, and an in-cockpit microphone captures the sound. A separate GPS antenna updates the Vette’s location five-times faster than the one for the navigation system, and a data recorder that’s tied into most of the car’s key systems saves info like speed, gear, engine RPM and steering angle, plus lap and sector times. The data can be transferred to an SD card (The slot is located inside the glovebox.) for review on a computer using a piece of software called Cosworth Toolbox. And in case all that isn’t cool enough, there are rumors that you’ll eventually be able to network GoPro cameras with the system, allowing for multi-angle recording. We need to go to the store now, because this thing just ate all the Awesomesauce.
Sperling Heavyweight Turntable L-1
Sales of music CDs and digital music downloads were both down last year relative to 2012, but vinyl record sales were up by almost a third! Yes, we realize that 32% more than next-to-nothing is still nothing-adjacent, but that’s still a bit of a surprise. Well, it might not be a huge surprise to Audioarts, which is the U.S. importer of the German-engineered-and-built Sperling Heavyweight Turntable L-1. This beautiful brute features not one but two tone arms, meaning you can have two different phono cartridges (i.e. needles) for albums belonging to different genres. The price for this analog amazingness? Well, we haven’t been able to find it published anywhere, but we’re guessing it’s just under a metric butt-ton of Benjamins.
Sleep Number x12
With so many everyday objects getting “smart” (read: computerized) these days, it was only a matter of time before the humble bed did. Sleep Number’s new x12 has the company’s signature twin adjustable air chambers, yes, but it also has an array of sensors from Bam Labs to track your sleep pattern, heart rate and breathing, and relay that data in the form of a customized report to your iOS device. And if your significant other is snoring, you can raise his or her side of the mattress remotely so you can slumber in silence. How much for all this digital dreamland amazingness? An eye-popping $8,000.
DJI Phantom 2
Drones have been a hot topic lately, but don’t assume they’re just for Uncle Sam. The new Phantom 2 from DJI is one of the most sophisticated consumer market aerial bots yet, with a GoPro-ready camera mount, pre-programmable flight path with GPS guidance, available video downlink to a monitor or mobile device on the ground, and more. Yours for $870.
Late model full-size pickup trucks and SUVs have big dashboards, so we’re somewhat surprised that aftermarket audio companies have been slow to take advantage of all that cockpit real estate. Alpine is one of the first (if not the very first) to do so with its new X009 head unit. It has all the features you’d expect in a modern aftermarket car radio (HD Radio tuner, USB, Bluetooth, Pandora Internet Radio and Siri compatibility, etc.), with the added bonus of a mammoth 9” touchscreen. And if you happen to have a GMT900-series GM truck or SUV or a 2009-present Ford F-150, Alpine offers a companion Perfect F.I.T. dash kit that features physical buttons for certain functions and an OEM look.
Smartphone cases with solar-recharegable auxiliary batteries aren’t a new thing, but the compact size of the Surfr from EnerPlex is. This $99 case (available in a variety of colors) for the iPhone 5/5S contains a 2,000 milliamp-hour battery that effectively doubles the phone’s battery life. Just don’t expect it to double it very quickly, though; an hour in direct sun will only net you an extra 10 minutes of talk time. But during a power outage or serious emergency, some is way better than none.
DVRs are fantastic, but having to watch your recorded shows on the TV to which it’s connected isn’t. That’s where the Tablo from Nuvyyo comes in. It records over-the-air network TV (though not cable or satellite, unfortunately) onto an external USB hard drive (that the user must provide); from the hard drive, the Tablo can then beam recorded content to your smartphone, tablet, laptop, smart TV or other Wi-Fi-equipped device. Nuvyyo says the two-tuner model (for recording two channels at once) will retail for $220, while a four-tuner one will arrive soon after for $250.
There are so many uses for Apple iOS devices, it’s hard to keep track of all of them. Now you can add “air conditioner remote control” to the list, thanks to the Haier Tianzun. This stylish cooling unit is, Haier claims, the first home appliance to be certified by Apple as conforming to its MFi third-party device standards. And the company says that it will introduce more MFi-approved appliances in the coming months.
Ever wanted to be able to see in infra-red a la Predator? No? Well, the thermal imaging experts at Flir rolled out something for people that do. It’s called the Flir One, and for $349, it turns your iPhone 5 or 5S into a thermal imaging camera (plus the fact it has a battery separate from the one in the phone means it can provide a battery boost in a pinch). Aside from fulfilling one’s Alien-stalking fantasies, it will also be great for things like finding where drafts in your house are coming from, or see what sort of wildlife is rummaging through your trashcans in the middle of the night.
Phone Halo StickR TrackR
Don’t you just hate it when you misplace your keys, phone, TV remote or other easy-to-lose items? Phone Halo says it has a solution called StickR TrackR. Priced at $25 a pop, these little medallions – which can be attached to an object via a string or stuck on via double-sided tape – will reveal their location to an app on your iPhone or Android smartphone within a 100 foot radius. And if you happen to misplace your smartphone, you can use StickR TrackR to locate it.
Sway Motorsports Sway
Electric scooters are a great way to get around town, but what if you’d like a little more stability from your ride? Enter the Sway, a three-wheeled contraption from Sway Motorsports. The company plans to offer three versions, with top speeds ranging from 35 mph to 70 mph and ranges between 20 and 60 miles. Look for sales to begin next year, with a starting price of $4,999 for the base model.
French high-end speaker manufacturer Focal chose CES 2014 to debut the Dimension, a stylish, thin soundbar with an available companion subwoofer. The soundbar attacks your eardrums via five separate channels and serves up bass as deep as 50 Hertz; add the subwoofer (which doubles as a base on which to place your TV) and the frequency drops to a bone-shaking 30 Hz. Focal charges $1,399 for just the soundbar, $499 for the sub and $1,699 for the pair if you buy them together.
One of the main drawbacks to mobile devices is their limited screen size. Touchjet has a solution for that bugaboo in the form of TouchPico. This $500 projector allows whatever is on your Android device’s touchscreen to be splattered across up to 60” of tabletop or wall (though you will have to use the special stylus that’s included). And if $500 is too steep for you, Touchjet also announced the $150 DroidBox – a gadget that plugs into the back of a normal projector to give it the same functionality as the TouchPico – at CES.
Sony PlayStation Now
If Sony and its PlayStation division are intimidated by the Steam Boxes, the Ouya and other upstart gaming consoles, they certainly aren’t showing it. Instead, they used CES to launch PlayStation Now, a streaming gaming service that will let you play PS3 games on the PS3, PS4, PS Vita and 2014 model Sony Bravia TVs. Support for other devices and generations of PlayStation games will follow, but initially, the games (which can be rented individually or through a subscription service) will be streamed to your device and playable in 720p resolution. Additionally, game saves will be stored in the cloud, and it will be possible to play with other PlayStation Now gamers and gamers that have the same game on an actual disc. Neato!
Pivothead Smart Colfax
Google Glass may be the best known brand of smartglasses, but they weren’t the first to stick video cameras on eyewear. Pivothead has been doing that for a while now, and its latest project, the Smart Colfax. The camera (located on the bridge between the lenses, which can be substituted for your own prescriptions) can shoot 8-megapixel still photos and 1080p video. Plus, there are different slide-on modules that can do things like extend battery life or let you live-stream the camera’s video feed. Base price for buyers who back the project on Indiegogo is $409, while buying the glasses (which will also be available as sunglasses and called the Teller) and all the accessory modules will run you about $650.