Monthly Archives: January 2010

Fanboy Moment: Stan Lee at CES

When we walked into CES on day one and saw a guy dressed as Spider-Man handing out fliers, we had to ask what it was all about… turns out Stan the Man himself was going to be appearing at the Marvell Semiconductor booth signing autographs for the first 300 lucky folks. This was my big chance to thank the big guy himself for creating Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and so many of the characters that put the Marvel into Marvel Comics.

CES Day 2: Wink Glasses and Femtocells

I’m in Las Vegas right now attending the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This is the king of all gadget shows, and I’m here with the modest goal of learning everything about every technology of interest going on in the world today.

It’s day 2 now, and I’m doomed. Absolutely doomed. I’ll never see all the cool stuff before it’s time to go.

Carolyn and I have covered about 40% of the show over two grueling days, and there’s only one more full day to go before we have to pack it in and head home. So, with limited time to see this sprawling show (it has five–count ’em FIVE fold-out maps required to show the different booths!) we decided to concentrate our energies on those things most likely to be missed by big outlets like Engadget and Gizmodo.

We spent the morning doing things like viewing augmented reality systems from Alcatel-Lucent, and later quizzing the Taser folks about their new narcware device that tattles on your teen for texting while driving and sends messages back to Mom. (In reality, however, it was just a way for me to get an up-close look at the terrifying “multiple shot Taser” they had just rolled out –And were rumored to be demoing periodically on “volunteers”).

As the day wore on, our tired feet took us over to a little booth where Carolyn tried some sort of electronic nerve stimulation massage device that looked like a Walkman attached to a spiky electrode that gave the feeling (Carolyn says) of fingers gently massaging her back.

Having seen Spinal Tap way too many times, I had to point at the Walkman-type controller and ask, “Yes, but does it go up to 11?” in my best Nigel Tufnel voice. Carolyn¬† promptly gave the control a twist, let out a yelp, and actually managed to rearrange her hair from the jolt it gave her.

Later, we spotted a booth along a side corridor demonstrating “Wink glasses”. These devices were designed to prevent eye strain, and look like a fashionable pair of clear glasses, apparently fitted with an LCD shutter system on one eye. If your pupils don’t move for five seconds while wearing them, the¬† shutters close, and the glass goes white, causing you to blink.

I tried the glasses, and they worked beautifully. Of course, I immediately thought of myself, seated around a conference table while a particularly dire PowerPoint presentation drones on…my glazed-over eyes hidden behind pure white glasses.

Tomorrow should take us to the main floor of South Hall, where all the big guns are located, but the last–and potentially most disruptive–technology I saw today was the “femtocell:” basically a cheap bridge for your cell phone to your hardwired internet connection which acts like a personal cell tower.

Word has it that AT&T (whose cell reception is somewhat less that ideal at my home), is fairly close to a national roll-out of these devices. If so, it would allow anyone to solve their own cell phone reception problems by simply dropping one of these $100 or so devices onto their home network. Any calls you’d normally make over the cell network would get routed over the hardwired network instead, freeing up cell bandwidth while greatly increasing reception. There were a host of other possibilities, but I’ll admit that they had me with “You’ll see 5 bars whenever you’re home” so I sort of tuned out. Faster, AT&T, please!