Author Archive | Robin Raskin

Will Last Gadget Standing Jump the Shark?

Let’s see, we’ve had Elvis impersonators, roving robots, Dr. Evil, mad scientists….could Last Gadget Standing get even kookier?  I’m afraid so.

Next week’s tenth-anniversary edition could be it. In addition to me, Harry McCracken, and your judging team, the event will be hosted by Jon Hein and special guest Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’Abate from The Wrap up Show on the Howard Stern channel on SiriusXM Radio. Hein’s tech claim to fame came is the creation of Jump the Shark, devoted to the moments where there’s only one way to go: downhill. (Just ask Fonzie).

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Help Us Whittle Down Our Last Gadget Standing Contestants

Top 25Believe me, picking products that epitomize emerging technologies at CES ain’t easy. Come to think of it, even getting a cab isn’t easy at CES. But we Last Gadget Standing judges have spent the last few weeks sorting through a fabulous selection of products. I figure our judges have each easily seen at least a couple of hundred new products this year year alone. And when they get a little jaded or overstimulated we turn to you for crowdsourced intelligence.

We’ve choose eighteen products we think you should keep your eye on. (We also have more products–including ones from Fujitsu, Intel, Nvidia, and other companies–that we can’t even talk about until January 5th, when the press day at CES begins.)

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Keep Your Gadgets Dry–and Useful

Last Gadget Standing Nominee: DryCorp DryCASE

Price: $39.99

Top 25Dry bags, which outdoors types use to protect delicate gear, are notoriously bad at letting you grab a shot or answer a phone before it’s too late.  The DryCASE–from a company that also makes waterproof devices for the medical industry, such as bandage covers–is a transparent bag that allows use of a phone or camera while keeping it dry and clean. You pump out all the air with the included hand pump and the bag vacuum-seals around the contents, leaving them waterproof. The air-tight seal guarantees that the contents of the bag will stay dry even when submerged 100 feet underwater.


Shoot Your Own 3D

Last Gadget Standing Nominee: Fujifilm Real 3D W3

Price: $499.99

I’m not sure if the world is ready to start taking photos in 3D, but Fujifilm sure came up with an attractive was to do it. The FinePix Real 3D W3 digital camera is the first compact consumer 3D digital camera capable of capturing both 3D still images and HD 3D movies at 720P resolution, thanks to its dual-CCD, dual lens system. You can view 3D photos and movies on the W3’s autostereoscopic widescreen display–no glasses required–and the HDMI output port lets you connect the camera to 3D TVs. Other features include Advanced 2D Mode, which takes advantage of the dual CCD/dual lens system to capture two different 2D images at the same time–zoom and wide angle, for instance, or two different sensitivity settings.


Assisted Computing for Senior Citizens

Last Gadget Standing Nominee: VitalLink

Price: $4.99 a month

For many older adults, increasing frailty, limited mobility and the trend for younger families to relocate towards employment opportunities (and away from their aging parents) contribute to social isolation. And isolation has been found to have an effect on overall health.

VitalLink provides an innovative and intuitive Internet-based solution to help overcome these challenges. By creating a friendly shell that runs on a touch-screen Windows PC, company has made it simple for an elderly person to use a PC, including making video calls, cycling through family photos, watching video, reading news (in any size type), playing games, and even watching Netflix movies. In fact, for many users, VitalLink could be an all-in-one communication and entertainment center.

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An iPad for the Toddler Set

Last Gadget Standing Nominee: Rullingnet Vinci

Price: $479

Parents love to toss their kids their iPads for a little fun and games, but the iPad isn’t really a toddler device.  Vinci, on the hand, was designed for toddler hands and tough use. It’s a infant-proof tablet–designed for children up to age three–with apps that include games, storybooks, and music videos.  Rather than focusing on academic teaching, they aim to show babies the world and let them be in control. And it sets out to address four key areas of early childhood development: cognitive, educational, emotional and social.

Vinci is a bit pricey at $479, but it’s built for babies with their own unique needs.Top 25


Blocks With Brains of Their Own

Last Gadget Standing Nominee: Sifteo Cubes

Price: $149

Sifteo Cubits provide kids with a new way to play.  Cubes are wireless 1.5″ blocks with full-color screens that interact with each other and respond to motion to unleash a whole new world of games.  The cubes are outfitted with  motion sensing, neighbor detection, graphical displays, and wireless communication features. Pile them, group them, sort them –and you have many variations of game play.  While traditional game consoles often lead to “screen stare” and tired thumbs, say the product’s creators, Sifteo Cubes start interacting with you and each other as soon as you pick them up and move them around.  Sifteo’s initial collection of titles will include games for adults, fun learning puzzles for kids, and games people can play together.

Cubes are scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2011.


Are Two Screens Better Than One?

Last Gadget Standing Nominee: Acer Iconia

Price: TBD

When I first saw this, I thought I was looking at the world’s biggest Nintendo DS. But Acer’s Iconia a true original.

It’s a notebook computer, based on the Intel Core i5 processor.  It has two LCD screens–one on the bottom and one on the top, offering you a ton of options for usage.

At the launch Acer said the Iconia offers the “versatility of a conventional 14” form factor with a unique dual-screen layout and highly intuitive all-point multi-touch functionality, which means you can use all the fingers of your hands.” You can browse the web or watch a video on the top screen while you’re composing a document or creating a spreadsheet on the bottom screen, for example. Or just browse the Web across two screens by laying the notebook flat.  Reading a large Web page is a total treat.

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Please Don’t Touch the Musical Instrument

Last Gadget Standing Nominee: Beamz C4

Price: $199.95

I gotta tell you that I call this thing the Digital Theremin. Musicologists may recall that the Theremin was one of the early electronic instruments that played music as you passed your hands past radio antennae. Well now the Beamz lets you pass your hands through lasers. As you pass the points you make glorious sound.  Coupled with synthesized background beats, you sound good even if you’ve never played a note before. Beamz connects to a PC via USB and includes Beamz Player, an application that lets you play fifty Beamz songs, including works by Grammy-winning artists and independent musicians.

So how cool is it to pas your hands through laser beams and “play” light?


Turn Your Mac Display Into an HD Display

Last Gadget Standing Nominee: Kanex XD

Price: $149.95

The Kanex XD does one thing and while it’s probably something that shouldn’t need doing in the first place, it does it well.  It transforms your 27-inch Apple iMac or Apple LED Cinema Display into a High Definition display. This allows you to connect and play your HD devices:  Blu-Ray DVD player, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, or digital set top box in HD format. Reviewers have noted that Apple’s limit of 720 dpi 720p on the screen (no fault of Kanex) is an issue. But, they’ve also noted that  Kanex provides a true, crisp, and clear picture from any HD source with no video scaling. To sweeten the deal, full control of volumn and brightness is available through the unit’s Bluetooth keyboard, and the XD also supports audio pass-through to enhance sound as well as video.