CES 2014, the mega technology event in sin city is now wrapped up. It was a tough event for many reasons! Much of the country was frozen so almost all flights to Las Vegas were diverted or delayed for hours (It took me 36 hours of flying time to get there). The event itself had a chaotic layout and had way too many companies showcasing almost the same products and thought. There was very little innovation and way too many humdrum ready-for-retail products (this happens every three years when all the concepts and prototypes mature into fairly boring ready-to-sell devices). All of it makes this, the best of CES, a tough list to get into. A company had to have an earth-shattering innovative product to qualify. Just good, or nice or even amazing wasn’t enough to make the cut. Here then, with a drum roll, is the honour list.
3-D Food Printer: ChefJet Pro
This was love at first sight and even more lust at first bite. A 3-D printer that prints colourful, awesomely delicious sugar, chocolate and candy in practically any design. The the only real limit is your imagination. And as my imagination concerning food is very wild, this was a place I spent a lot of time. I want one at home, one at work and one in my car, now!
The Toughest Guy on the Floor: Panasonic Toughpad
Walk into a company booth for a hands-on with a new device and you are usually told to be careful, not drop it and not get wet hands on it. This was different. I was requested, cajoled and begged to drop this tablet by flinging it up towards the roof, then standing on it with all my weight after it had crash-landed, and then taking an entire bottle of water and pouring it into all its ports and openings and sides. I truly enjoyed banging this one up. Pity the tablet has no war scars to show. It is truly built to take abuse of every kind.
Panoramic images from 36 Cameras at once: Panono
Blowing the whole idea of what a panoramic image can be like to bits, this tough ball has 36 cameras built-in, each capable of shooting in HDR mode. Throw the ball into the air and at its highest point, it’ll automatically take a picture from each of its 36 cameras then stitch them together for a 108-MP panoramic shot that is virtually impossible to describe. Try beating that with your cameraphone.
A Drone that can climb walls: Parrot MiniDrone
Parrot’s original big-sized drone was always on everyone’s list of things to buy. But its price and size made it a formidable toy to own. Here comes a better-sized alternative in every which way: the MiniDrone. The cool part is that this one can also climb walls and fly along your roof, so crashing it is almost impossible.
Augmented, Virtual and Surreal Reality: Oculus Crystal Cove
Here’s a company that has a goldmine of a product but just doesn’t want to ship. Its latest prototype is now streets ahead of anything else. Strap it on and the headset puts you into a world of staggering augmented reality. Anything you see on the screen reacts and changes to your head movement and even your body movements. This takes gaming and movie watching to levels people hadn’t even asked for.
Perfecting an iPhone: Mophie and Typo
If you were to list the top three most aggravating things about the iPhone, they would usually be the lack of external storage, battery life and the typos on its touchscreen keyboard. Well, it looks like perfecting that device is on every accessory company’s to-do list. Mophie comes up with a case that protects your phone, has a built-in battery pack and up to 32GB of storage you can use right away. And Typo is a slide-in keyboard for that army of people who just don’t want to switch to an iPhone because it doesn’t have a Blackberry-level physical keyboard. Now, it seems, you can almost have it all.
Swiss Army Knife: ZTE Projector Hotspot
It’s easier to list the things this device doesn’t do, but then that would make no sense. This is a super-small (smaller than the palm of your hand) Android-based projector with a four-inch capacitive touchscreen. It projects a 120-inch 1080P 100-lumen picture onto any surface, can also be used as 4G LTE hotspot for up to eight devices. Plus, with its 5000mAh battery, it can be used as a portable smartphone charger too. Phew!
Pure Lust on Wheels: Audi Quattro Concept
There’s no point talking about the technology built into this car, that it has laser headlights or that it has an incredible array of connectivity and intelligence built within. Who cares? This is a car that is purely a lust-and-desire visual phenomenon. I saw people standing at the Audi booth mesmerised and frozen, till they were asked to move along and make space for others. I know the feeling; I was one of them.
With that I’m closing the curtains on CES 2014, a year that will go down as more practical than jaw dropping. This also means that next year will be the start of a new cycle of jaw-dropping prototypes and concepts. All I have to do now is figure out how to get there without a jaw-dropping flying time of 36 hours!
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3