3 fun tech items from the electronics show

So many innovations at the Las Vegas electronics show, but a lust in my heart for only a few.

Crosscut archive image.

The Samsung Galaxy Note is slated for release Feb. 19 through AT&T.

So many innovations at the Las Vegas electronics show, but a lust in my heart for only a few.

Despite its lavish, glittery trappings, media hype, and executive speech-making, the annual Consumer Electronics Show is all business. It’s not open to the public. Nearly 150,000 people who stream through the Las Vegas Convention Center and several hotels rummage through roughly 1.8 million feet of exhibit space over its 4-day run.They vote with their dollars, euros, rubles, pounds and shekels for the goods that you, the general public, will eventually be offered for sale.

Because I’m immersed in gadgets and write about them, there’s not much that I generally see that I want for myself, but I did see a few items I want to share with you. These are personal choices, not necessarily trends.  (If you’re looking for a more general view of the show, or what was hot, you may want to look at the coverage from Time Magazine; it seems to offer a better consumer's eye view of the show than the usual tech site suspects — CNET, Engadget,TheVerge.)

Anyhow, here’s my short lust list:

SteadiCam for iPhones. SteadiCam is a technology that allows moviemakers to shoot scenes with no movement limitations and yet produce remarkably stable pictures, is now available for use with iPhones, GoPro cameras, and other lightweight consumer cameras. Picture a couple dancing, and the camera does a 360-degree circle around them—and there’s no camera crew to be seen in the background, no lighting equipment, etc.—and you’ll get an idea of what SteadiCam does.

The official product name is the Steadicam Smoothee.

For about $179, plus $30 for a module that works with your camera device, you can attach an iPhone, iPod GoPro phone or similar to this remarkable lightweight version of the professional Steadicam setup, and produce footage that is almost good enough technically to be shown in theaters. Sure, you can use it to shoot your kids and grandkids playing in a tub, but I’m also hoping that startups in Pioneer Square, or small companies in South Seattle can make use of this technology to do some amazing quality visual work without paying high prices to either purchase or rent gear.

Rumor has it that a SteadiCam module is being developed for Seattle-based Contour Cameras, another leading sports camera recently profiled in these pages.

Samsung Galaxy Note. About 10 years ago when gadgets like the Palm PDA first came out, I remember wondering if these multi-featured devices for reading, music, watching video, emailing, etc. would ever also be a phone. In the smartphone age, certain devices have come close (I’m talking about you, iPhone), but nothing has come along yet that is so elegant and yet functional as the new Samsung Galaxy Note. It combines the best of a tablet and smartphone plus a usable sketchpad in one single device.

The first thing that hits you when you hold it might be, “Damn, this is a big phone!” or “Damn, this a small tablet.” The form factor might be an issue with some people, and that’s obviously a matter of individual taste. I personally found no problem with it, and in fact found it to be as good a compromise between the two functions as exists in today’s market.

The Note is lightweight — about 2 ounces — and incredibly thin (Samsung has not yet divulged those specifications). Its screen is a super-bright OLED  screen, and in use it will give you every centimeter of its screen for work, reading watching movies, etc. It has front and rear-cameras and  a 1.5 dual-core processor. It’s impressive.

Then there’s the sketch feature. The Note comes with a small stylus that seamlessly inserts into the tablet (phone?). It offers 256 pressure levels, meaning that it’s responsive for heavy or soft impressions in both handwriting and sketching. Electronic devices used as writing instruments have usually been pretty bad, but in writing a note on the Note, I found its ability to capture my handwriting quite good on first impression. I think it would be incredibly useful once I get used to it. The software also allows handwriting to be turned into type/text, a Samsung rep told me.

The stylus is tiny, but Samsung will sell an optional $50 pen enclosure, which will encase the stylus so you’ll feel as though you’re holding a standard pen.

The unit runs Android Gingerbread currently, but will be upgraded to the new Ice Cream Sandwich software, according to my Samsung source.

The unit will be sold by AT&T, and will run on AT&T’s 4g LTE network; the network is up and running in the Seattle area. No price nor delivery date has been announced; you certainly can expect a two-year contract from the phone company. But this device may well be worth your wait.

Sony’s Tablet P, on first glimpse, looks like a compact elegant woman’s makeup case. It’s  about 7 inches long and 3 inches wide when closed, with a smooth curved surface that would look great as an accessory in a Lancome ad. At 13 ounces, it’s slightly heavy but will fit easily into pocket or purse.

When you open it, it becomes a dual-screen 6-inch Android tablet. The two screens are slightly further apart than I like; I hope that Sony puts out a subsequent model where the screen come closer together instead of presenting users with roughly a half-inch black bar between its screens. Reading a browser is slightly annoying with that black dividing line.

Some have compared it to a Nintendo DS mobile game unit. They wouldn’t be far from the truth.

Its specifications are reasonable: a 1GHz Tegra 1 processor; 16 GB of internal RAM but no functional connectivity to its SD slot. Measured against the Samsung Note, it would be a definite no. 2 in my book.

All that being said, however, the Sony P is an ingenious solution for someone looking for a lightweight portable tablet with a small form factor. No price nor release date has yet been announced, but it seems to be a real product and not “vaporware.”

The will be hundreds of reviews of new gadgets coming out of this show. These happen to be three I thought you would find worthwhile.


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors