There are plenty of trade shows and conventions in Las Vegas, for obvious reasons, but the one that generates the most talk is the Consumer Electronics Show in January. This year’s edition was brimming with the latest hi-tech toys. I read my friend Holland Cooke’s account of the show and was immediately jealous that he was there and I wasn’t.
Ford Motors CEO Allan Mulally wowed the attendees with the new MyFord Touch Drive. It’ll appear in upscale Fords later this year, and by 2015 four out of every five Fords made in North America will have the 8-inch screen in the center of the dash. It responds to voice commands. It’ll read your incoming text messages to you. And you can surf the web with it - but only when the car is in “Park”.
And - here’s another nail in radio’s coffin - it will be VERY friendly to your iPod and music library. Mulally put on a side-by-side demonstration that had people buzzing. One driver took just over 30 seconds to find a song on his iPod, and he had to look at it and touch it, diverting his attention from the road. The other driver, using the MyFord Touch Drive, found the same song in less than 5 seconds, without taking his eyes off the road or his hands off the wheel.
Speaking of cars - one of the other new products at the show is called “Car-M.D.” It’s a computer program you can buy, to help figure out what’s wrong with your car. It tells what the mechanic really needs to do to fix it, and how much the repair should cost. Sort of an electronic “Click and Clack”, without the humorous comments.
Wanna shake it like a Polaroid? You can, again - the Polaroid folks unveiled their new camera at the show, which looks like the classic Polaroid camera, but it’s digital and has a built-in printer. A 3x4 print costs half a dollar.
Parrot introduced the AR-Drone toy helicopter. It’s controlled by wi-fi, and you can fly it by tapping the screen of your iPhone or iPod Touch. Cooke says it’s got four propellers and two on-board cameras, one for flight control, and one which sends aerial video back to your iPhone or iPod Touch. Cool!
To further enable “helicopter parents”, Taser introduced a couple new products, neither of which are stun-guns. “Mobile Protector” is the ultimate nanny for your kid’s cell phone. It allows parents to block and monitor text messages and inappropriate phone calls, and it controls when your kid can have access to texts and calls.
And Taser’s “Driver Protector” sends an alert to you if your kid is speeding or gets into a wreck, and has sort of a “LoJac” function that can help you and the cops find a kid who’s gone missing or has been abducted. At that point Cooke opines “the cops can then Taser the perp.”
In all, more than twenty thousand new products were debuted at this year’s show - more than enough hi-tech toys to keep Santa and his elves very busy.