Best of CES: 8 new gadgets to make you say "Wow"

Cool new consumer gadgets that still solve real-world problems

After spending the week at the Consumer Electronics Show, attending press events and wandering the show floor, I had a mighty long list of products that made me say, “Wow.”

Sure, there was an endless parade of new high-powered 4G cell phones, 3D televisions and tablets, some of them wow-worthy, but there were also unique products that solved old problems in new ways. From a device recharger that collects energy from your backpack, to making your existing home appliance use less energy, here is my personal Best of CES list.

Use your body’s kinetic energy to charge your gadgets

nPower PEG by Tremont Electric: The sun doesn't need to shine to make this hybrid charger work – it doesn't depend on solar energy but on movement. The charger harvests the energy you create as you walk around. It looks something like a small bicycle hand pump. Toss it into your backpack and its internal battery gets a charge by being jostled around. It also includes a USB port so you can use it to charge your devices the old fashioned way.


Add Garmin GPS tracking to … anything

Garmin GTU 10: Attach this 3x3x8 device to devices you want to keep tabs on … your notebook computers, your backpack, the trunk of your car as your teen drives away. It will locate the device via a service from AT&T after the tracker is registered.

Garmin GPS tracker

Credit-card sized scanner fits in your wallet

Planon SlimScan SS100: This is a full-featured document scanner that is literally the size of a credit card – thin enough to fit in your wallet. Scan receipts, other pictures, whatever paper documents you want, convert to OCR, if you want, with the included PaperPort SE Software (Windows only). Instead of taking pictures of receipts and business cards with your cell phone, you can travel with a full-featured scanner in your pocket.

SlimScan credit card sized scanner

The smartphone that talks to your heart monitor

Sony Ericsson Xperia smartphones with ANT+ wireless sensor:  If you use a heart rate strap for exercising, it communicates with the monitor or the fitness machine via a wireless sensor called ANT+. ANT+ is embedded in all kinds of health and fitness products, such as Concept 2 indoor rowers, Johnny G spinning bikes, treadmills, Nike watches, etc. Sony Ericsson offers the first ANT+ enabled smartphones in its Xperia family (some of which are available now, unlocked). This includes its brand new Xperia Arc introduced at CES that includes lots of other envy-producing features. With ANT+, (and a heart strap), your phone can act as your bike computer, personal trainer, GPS, MP3 player and phone – in one device.

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc smartphone

If you already own a smartphone and it happens to be an iPhone, Wahoo Fitness offers Fisica Fitness Sensor Key, a dongle that adds ANT+ connectivity to it.

Wahoo ANT+ dongle

Feels like a pen, acts like a wireless travel mouse

The SwiftPoint wireless mouse: This is a small ergonomically designed mouse designed to operate on the edge of notebook’s case itself, next to the touchpad. You grip it like a pen, so it offers finer-tuned control and reduces the hand fatigue that a portable mouse can often cause. Bonus: a beautiful design.

Swiftpoint Mouse

Make your electrical outlet tell you its output

ThinkEco Modlet: In 2011 expect to hear a lot about the devices for creating the “smart home” also called the “connected home” meaning a house that uses energy more wisely. Modlet, which will be available in spring 2011, is one of a soon-to-be onslaught of consumer devices that gives you better feedback on how much energy your appliances are using. This one is awesome in its simplicity – just plug it into the electrical outlet and use your browser to monitor, manage power usage.


Put old appliances on a new wireless sensor network

Jet Lun JIM portable ZigBee Infrared Sensor: ZigBee is shaping up to be one of two competing standards for building smart, connected homes (the other is Z-Wave). Zigbee is the choice being made by many utility providers for smart meters. But once you have ZigBee at the edge of your house, you need ZigBee-enabled devices on the inside to do any monitoring/automation. Given that such home appliances are only now being developed, chances are your fridge and air conditioning unit doesn't support it. With the JIM sensor, you can instantly add ZigBee to any of them and via infrared, it will add them to your ZigBee sensor network. (ZigBee is also popular for home security systems.)

JIM ZigBee sensor

The camera is in the goggles

Liquid Image video goggles: Lady Gaga may have stolen the CES show when she introduced Polaroid’s video-embedded GL20 Camera Glasses sunglasses.

LadyGaga GL20 camera glasses

But when the average person wants to film themselves, chances are they are doing an activity that requires goggles, not sunglasses (skiing, mountain biking/dirt biking, car racing, scuba diving). Liquid Image has come up with a set of activity-specific family of goggles that embeds a HD camera (choice of 720p or 1080p). No more awkward helmet mount on the side of your head … the video lens is right between the eyes.

Liquid Image camera goggles

Other lists of CES gadgets that you may like: 

The 11 hottest Windows and Android tablets unveiled at CES

CES 2011: Gadgets Galore

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.