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from the L.A. Times

Category: CES Video

CES 2012: Ion Guitar Apprentice turns aspiring guitar heroes into students [Video]

Pick. Thrash. Wail. Let out your inner Jimmy Page, Jack White or Yngwie Malmsteen -- with an iPad.

The Guitar Apprentice app and controller from Ion Audio, which we looked at during the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, aims to help students learn the basics of playing guitar before they drop some cash on a full guitar and amp setup. Although playing iPad guitar isn't as sexy as the real thing, this might reduce the number of Squier Strats and practice amps languishing in the closets of frustrated students who never pegged down barre chords.

The Guitar Appretice controller has a fret board.

The most obvious comparison is with the popular Guitar Hero and Rock Band video games, but Guitar Apprentice offers a more complex setup than the video game controllers, with buttons simulating the six strings on each of 14 frets on the neck, in a body similar to the classic Gibson SG. LEDs on the frets light up to show basic note or chord patterns, and students strum or pick simulated strings on the iPad screen. Effects such as delay, reverb and flanger are also available to customize distortion effects.

VIDEOS: 2012 Consumer Electronics Show

Guitar Apprentice is one in a series of music learning app-and-controller sets from Ion Audio, which also includes Piano Apprentice and Drum Apprentice, as well as Drum Master, which comes with a full-size electric drum kit. The plastic instruments connect to the iPad, and each shows students where or how to play, lighting up frets, piano keys or drum pads as appropriate. Teachers also appear on the apps to present basic lessons to users.

Apps are Core MIDI, which enables integration with other music apps such as GarageBand. The app and controller, when released, are to have a retail price of $99.

Just keep in mind: Although the frets on the controller are designed to simulate fretting real guitar strings, it doesn't look like the app will alleviate the sore fingers students will have if they ever move up to a real guitar.

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-- Armand Emamdjomeh

Twitter.com/emamd

Photo: The fret board on the Ion Guitar Appretice. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

CES 2012: Phone-to-phone gaming and more with Alljoyn [Video]

Some times the coolest new things you see at the Consumer Electronics Show aren't gadgets or apps or even 55-inch OLED TV sets (although, admittedly, those are cool). Sometimes they're just technologies, which is what digital stereoscopic displays and gesture recognition were before they became 3D TV sets and XBox Kinect.

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A good example this year is Alljoyn, an open-source software project coming out of an innovation lab run by Qualcomm. Alljoyn enables nearby users of an app to interact with each other, even when there's no local data network. Multiple people in the room can join the activity, whether it be playing a game, taking turns in the virtual DJ booth or working on an electronic whiteboard. And unlike collaborating through a congested Internet, there's little or no delay -- the users' devices are seamlessly synchronized.

The magic isn't in the short-range communications technology -- Alljoyn runs on top of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. What's special is the ability it gives developers to quickly add proximity networking to just about any app, even if they have no expertise in radio communications. For example, it took programmers at Namco only a week to add Alljoyn capabilities to their Pacman Kart Rally game, according to Qualcomm's Liat Ben-zur.

VIDEOS: 2012 Consumer Electronics Show

The demos at the Qualcomm booth showed how nearby tablets, smartphones and even a tablet and a connected TV could join in games and productivity apps. Because Alljoyn connects apps, not devices, users can collaborate simultaneously with separate groups on different programs, with no overlap -- for example, working on a virtual whiteboard with one team while collaborating on a document with another.

Ben-zur said the potential uses include a wide variety of entertainment, education and business applications. The breakthrough here, she said, is that any developer will be able to make apps that can seamlessly discover and interoperate with related apps nearby. She added, "I believe this is a new Pandora's box for mobile."

-- Jon Healey in Las Vegas

Healey writes editorials for The Times' Opinion Manufacturing Division. Follow him at @jcahealey.

Photo: Two tablets play an Alljoyn-equipped version of Spud-Ball by Signature Creative. Credit: Jon Healey

CES 2012: LL Cool J hypes Boomdizzle -- and no, it's not headphones [Video]

LL Cool J wanted to make one thing clear at the Consumer Electronics Show this week: He's got a new product, and it's not a line of celebrity headphones.

Instead, the rapper-actor wanted to talk about the Boomdizzle Virtual Recording Studio, which he said eliminated the need for an artist and his or her team to be in the same place to record music. LL Cool J co-founded Boomdizzle, an online community for artists, in 2008.

"The problem was: I'm in L.A.; my producer or my engineer's in New York. I want to go in the studio tonight, but I want to collaborate," LL Cool J said at a press gathering at the Las Vegas Convention Center. "I don't want to email you my track and then you email me back your bass line, then I email you back a vocal and then you email me back a drum and then we email back and forth and back and forth."

VIDEOS: 2012 Consumer Electronics Show

The Virtual Recording Studio provides the digital production, mixing and sound tools for artists to create music, LL Cool J said. To demonstrate the technology, he recorded a song Tuesday in front of an audience at CES while his engineer was in New York.  Llcoolj

The platform will be completely Web-based and feature a "simple, accessible user interface," he said. Users will be able to upload tracks and see each other over a video chat feature. He noted that the Virtual Recording Studio was not just for professional musicians, but for casual users as well -- such as friends who wanted to get together online and sing karaoke.

"I think that that basically revolutionizes the world of music," he said. "If LL Cool J was 16, 17 years old and I was just starting out, I think I would grow vampire teeth to sink my teeth into this product."

When the software launches, LL Cool J said, part of it will be free, another part will be pay-as-you-go and yet another portion will be subscription based. "I want to make sure that as many people have access to it as possible, and I also want to make sure that it does well as a business."

The initial launch of the technology will be by invitation only.

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-- Andrea Chang in Las Vegas

Twitter.com/byandreachang

Photo: LL Cool J announces Boomdizzle's Virtual Recording Studio at CES. Credit: Andrea Chang / Los Angeles Times

CES 2012: High-tech specs -- little Bond in your bifocals [Video]

  

Most folks will tell you: Growing old ain't sexy.

And realizing you need bifocals? Even less alluring.

But you might still be able to keep a little 007 appeal in your life even as you are ever nearer to 7-0. PixelOptics is at CES promoting its electronic focusing glasses, emPower

VIDEOS: 2012 Consumer Electronics Show

The reading lens is embedded in a super-thin layer of liquid crystals and can focus within a fraction of a second -- the time it would take you to blink. Inside the arms of the glasses are a computer chip, rechargeable battery and what the company touts as the world's smallest accelerometer.

You trigger the electronic bifocals by tapping and swiping the arm (manual mode) or simply by tilting your head down toward what you want to read (automatic).

emPower glasses by PixelOpticsThey are practically a smartphone for your eyes -- if only there were Bluetooth for answering calls hands-free.

The emPower lenses are available now in about 1,500 locations across the U.S., including a handful of optometrists selling them in the Los Angeles area. They will be in Europe in the spring.

They aren't cheap. About $1,200. This includes the lenses, frame and charging station. So you don't want to leave them lying around. And, unfortunately, the lenses and module can't be reprogrammed if your prescription changes.

I thought these glasses might appeal to my fortysomething husband who's dealing with the reality of getting bifocals. It would probably make him feel a bit like Bond -- James Bond -- even if, these days, he's a tad closer to Sean Connery's Bond than Daniel Craig's.

-- Michelle Maltais

Twitter.com/mmaltaislat

Image: You can tap and swipe your glasses to turn on the bifocals. Credit: PixelOptics

CES 2012: Sesame Street Kinect shows promise of TV voice, gesture control [Video]

At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we saw a bit of a scramble by TV makers such as Samsung and LG to show off what they working on or releasing in the coming year that would allow us to control our TVs using voice, gesture and facial recognition.

Many technology pundits and analysts have said these sorts of announcements, which also took place at last year's CES, are in response to rumors that Apple is working on an "iTV" that will offer a new way of controlling a TV and maybe even how we pay for or watch channels and TV shows.

But as many video-game lovers out there know, TV voice recognition, gesture controls and facial recognition are already here in the form of Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing camera, which is an accessory to the Xbox 360 home gaming console.

However, Kinect is just getting started, and currently has a small number of apps. And it's still a device that sells for about $150 and requires an Xbox 360, which starts at $200. Make no mistake, there will be a cost of entry to the future of TV.

At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show TV makers such as Samsung and LG showed off TVs with voice, gesture and facial-recognition control, but such controls are already here in the form of Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing cameraAt CES 2012, Microsoft showed off a bit of what the future may hold for Kinect, the Xbox and TV with demonstrations of its latest Kinect-enabled app for the Xbox, called Sesame Street Kinect (you can see our demonstration of the app in a video atop this article).

Sesame Street Kinect is what it sounds like, episodes of the long-running children's program tailored to use the Kinect camera. And what Kinect can do is really impressive.

Since 1969, children around the world have sat in front of TVs repeating back the alphabet, colors, words and numbers to characters on Sesame Street (I did it when I was a child). Until Sesame Street Kinect, which is set to release later this year at an unannounced price, the characters on the screen couldn't respond to the viewer's actions. Now, to a limited extent, they can.

The demonstration we saw featured the Grover, Elmo and Cookie Monster characters prompting viewers to interact by either saying certain words or moving in certain ways.

For example, we took part in a demonstration in which Grover drops a box of coconuts and asks that the viewer pick them up and throw them back to him.

I At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show TV makers such as Samsung and LG showed off TVs with voice, gesture and facial-recognition control, but such controls are already here in the form of Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing cameraf the viewer stands up and moves in the way that they would throw an imaginary coconut (don't throw a real coconut unless your trying to break your TV) then Grover catches each one in his box, even reacting to how hard the Kinect interprets the viewer's throw to be.

The experience was a lot of fun for a room of four adults, and I imagine kids will enjoy this sort of thing too. Jose Pinero, am Xbox spokesman, said a similarly interactive app from National Geographic is coming this year as well.

Although Microsoft has sold more than 66 million Xbox consoles and more than 18 million Kinect cameras, the tech giant realizes it has something bigger than just video games on its hands with Kinect.

Both Kinect and Xbox Live are headed to Windows 8 later this year. Hopefully, that will mean more interactive "two-way TV" apps like Sesame Street Kinect, and more apps related to media outlets such as ESPN and National Geographic.

There are also rumors that the company is working to get Kinect built directly into TVs, which would very likely place Xbox Live and Kinect in direct competition with Google TV and Apple's expected entry into the TV market. That's a living-room showdown I'd like to see.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles in Las Vegas

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photos: Sesame Street Kinect in action. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

CES 2012: Video baby monitors are tapping iOS and Android devices

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After you get past checking every 30 seconds that your still and peaceful-sleeping baby is actually breathing, you may want to leave the room -- for a few minutes anyway.

My household already has its share of useful tech gadgets that do video -- times two. So the idea of paying yet again for something else to carry was not appealing. There aren't enough dollars and certainly not enough hands to carry all these devices.

There are some iOS-device-to-iOS-device apps out there that use the home WiFi network. But, really, who leaves an iPhone or iPad trained on their sleeping child? And the video, I found, left something to be desired. Very choppy.

VIDEOS: 2012 Consumer Electronics Show

At CES this year, Y-cam is showing off a product it plans to market this year: BabyPing. The British maker of wireless IP home security cameras have moved inside to the nursery.

Although we haven't had a chance to really put the product through its paces because it's still being tested, Y-cam promises a Wi-Fi monitor that communicates with iOS devices in the home via an app.

The camera uses your home network to transmit. What the company touts is that the app can run in the background, like traditional video monitor.

When the app detects crying, it will bring video up or issue an alert. It will also give an alert if the signal drops off.

The camera also has night vision with infrared LEDs  that are undetectable, so no light on the camera is visible in the room.

The company hopes to get it to market in the spring or summer with a retail price of $199. It's now going to trial audiences in Britain, where the company is based.

DropcamHD
Also vying for a little room in the nursery is Dropcam. This HD camera is a little more than a monitor.

Dropcam offers video via the cloud, so you can access the monitor remotely on a Mac, PC or an iOS or Android device. The company promises bank-level security through AES 256-bit encryption. 

It too offers infrared night vision, automatically turning on when the light dims. The night vision shuts off again when the light returns.

Dropcam will alert you via email or iPhone alert when your baby stirs or cries. It allows you to respond via two-way audio with the click of a mouse or tap on the phone. You can invite friends or family to watch your camera as well -- and turn off sharing with a click.

You can also pan, tilt and zoom the camera remotely for a closer look.

That all is to be included when you buy the camera for $149. For an additional monthly fee, you can upgrade to add a DVR function. Storage for seven days' worth of video costs $10 a month or $100 a year. (You can add other Dropcams for a reduced rate.) Or storage for a month's worth of video goes for $30 a month or $300 a year. It ships this month.

This one could probably double as a cam for Shiba Inu puppies as well.

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-- Michelle Maltais

Twitter.com/mmaltaislat

Image at top: BabyPing by Y-cam is expected to hit U.S. markets around summer. Credit: Y-cam

Image in middle: Dropcam can send alerts to your iPhone when your baby starts to stir. Credit: Dropcam

CES 2012: Samsung tablet + Kinect + motorized skateboard = wear a helmet

Move over Segway, and make room on the road for the Board of Awesomeness.

Chaotic Moon Labs' Kinect-controlled motorized skateboard zoomed through the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, showcasing a quirky mashup of technologies -- one that hopefully won't end with the rider getting a mashed-up head.

By attaching a Samsung tablet to the Kinect, the Austin, Texas-based software laboratory set out to "make Kinect do everything it's not supposed to do," which includes helping accelerate a skateboard and its rider to 32 mph.

VIDEOS: 2012 Consumer Electronics Show

It did it by creating an electric skateboard with the Kinect as a built-in gesture sensor, so the rider can accelerate by pushing his hands forward, and slow down by pulling them back  -- a little bit like skateboarding with an invisible steering wheel.

The board has giant all-terrain tires, as well as an 800-watt electric motor, so you could probably skateboard up San Francisco's Lombard Street if you needed to. (Note to readers: Don't.)

The brain of the conveyance is a Samsung tablet powered by the new Windows 8 operating system, which you better hope doesn't crash -- because if it does ...

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CES 2012: Former Laker Robert Horry talks tech, basketball

Like many celebrities, Robert Horry is at the Consumer Electronics Show this week to help promote a tech company. Problem is, when we sat down with him Tuesday to chat about Haier America, basketball's Big Shot Rob conceded he hadn't yet seen the appliance brand's latest products. 

In fact, he says he's not much of a techie.

"I try to keep my life as simple as possible," he said. "[If] I get all this high-tech, I'm going to buy more stuff and more stuff."

No matter. The affable former Laker, who won three of his seven championships with the team, was happy to talk generally about the brand, which is a sponsor for the NBA, and his hopes for his partnership with the company: "Haier has a lot of good products, and I'm just trying to get in good with the family so they can remodel my kitchen," he joked.

He was also eager to chat about his basketball days, saying he still keeps in touch with Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher. Although he's a Lakers fan, he said he sees challenges ahead for the team this year, including "a lot of young cats on their team," tough competition from the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat, and leftover issues from the trade drama at the start of the season. 

"I just think sometimes, with the way the season started out with them and all the turmoil and the guys being traded and them trading guys and trades not going through, you put a wall up as a player," he said. "Even though you go out there and play, it's still not the same because in the back of your mind, you always got that fear of being traded, so you don't play as well." 

These days, Horry works as a sports commentator and lives in Houston -- though he noted that "everybody thinks I live in L.A."

"L.A. is just too expensive for me," he said. "That's one thing about me: I'm from the South and I'm cheap."

Horry said he goes to a lot of Houston Rockets games now that he's retired and has free time. "I try to keep my face in there just in case one day I want to try to venture into the coaching realm or the GM realm or something of that nature," he said. "I'm waiting for my son to turn 13 and go to high school, and then I want to get back into it."

But back to tech: Horry, who has attended CES a number of times in the past, said he loves coming to the show to see what new products are coming out. "My favorite part is going to booths and coming home with a bag of stuff," he said.

One device he won't be going home with: a 3-D television. 

"I can't watch 3-D. It gives me a headache," he said. "I just saw a guy with a 3-D camera and that was cool, but after looking at it for 2, 3 seconds, my head started to hurt."

But Horry said he loves watching television shows -- "The Closer" is a top choice -- and has three Apple TVs in his home. As expected, he said Haier's TVs "are great." His favorite model?

"The big ones," he said. "The thing about them is they're slim and you can put them anywhere. Right now, I'm working on getting one to put in my bathroom. Sometimes you like to sit back and take a nice bubble bath and watch NBA TV."

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CES 2012: Ava robot, controlled by iPad, Kinect, roams with ease [Video]

 

IRobot, the company that cribbed its name from the annals of sci-fi greatness, rolled out a drone at the Consumer Electronics Show designed to help engineers and developers explore how to get robots to do what we want, as well as things we never thought of but soon won’t be able to live without.

At first glance, iRobot's Ava looks like a Roomba vacuum cleaner jury-rigged with a Microsoft Kinect and an Apple iPad tablet. And, indeed, on a closer look, it is. But according to the company's brochure it is much more. It has a “comprehensive sensor arrays (laser, sonar, and 2-D/3-D imaging)...” The whole concept is that it is a development platform for the various technologies that make robots cool (or scary), so it is a very simple robot by itself, but it has the potential to do many thing you would expect from an autonomous robot, and possibly some you wouldn't.

The brochure also include some images of things you might want have your Ava do, like collaborative work, caregiver support, mobile kiosk or security. Mostly it shows things that you can already do with an iPad, but now it has legs of its own.

VIDEOS: 2012 Consumer Electronics Show

Other cool features include touch-sensitive skins, autonomous charging, speech recognition and omni-directional motion as well as Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity.

The idea is that if you’re the guy who designs robotic claws, or facial recognition software that allows a robot dog to follow its human boy to the bus stop in the morning and pick him out of the crowd of kids getting off the bus at the end of the day, the first thing you need before you can really get down to business is a robot. One that actually works. This can be somewhat of a barrier to entry for roboticists who don’t work for DARPA or Michael Bay.

Ava can move independently, navigating through crowded rooms using its sensor array, or it can just follow you around, all while being aware enough of its surroundings to stay out of trouble while it tags along. That might not sound like a lot, but a lot of different technology is needed to make that happen.

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CES 2012: HP Envy 14 Spectre Ultrabook is in a class of its own

 

Surrounded by every electronic device imaginable at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, HP's new Envy 14 Spectre is in a class by itself, mostly because the class it's in -- “the premium consumer Ultrabook” --  seems to have been invented just to have some place to put it. Let's take a look. 

The first descriptor used is "premium." That's a good one, and if you are paying $1,400 for something about the size and thickness of a place mat, whatever it is you are buying should be stamped with the word premium. Generally this would indicate a plethora of features, like Beats Audio for doctor-recommended sound quality (is Dr. Dre still licensed to practice in California?) and the HP Radiance Display that delivers 1600 x 900 lines of resolution. OK, the Spectre has all that. So far, so good.

Right after premium comes the word “consumer,” and that's a little odd because that usually indicates a dearth of features, where things are stripped out to make the product less confusing and cheaper or accessible to the masses, the opposite of premium. So that word makes the least sense, seeing as it has high-end video and audio (knob notwithstanding), a slew of inputs and outputs -- including trusty old USB (though in it’s latest 3.0 variant), HDMI and Mini DisplyPort, and a $1,399.99 price tag on a laptop is enough to knock it out of the consumer arena and right back into premium land. It’s kind of like a rich kid who dresses in old clothes so he can make friends with the poor kids, then invites them to his birthday party at the country club with the strict dress code. Just because you add the “consumer” to something doesn’t make it any more affordable, it just makes it take longer to say. 

Lastly, it’s an "Ultrabook" because it’s thin, and that’s what ultra means in computer-ese, and into its 20mm of thinness HP has crammed a good deal of stuff, like an Intel Core processor, HP Wireless Audio to stream your music throughout your home, a multitouch trackpad, an HD webcam and a battery that “boasts up to 9 hours” of life among other things. So maybe they are using “ultra” to mean “going beyond” because they amount of tech stuffed into this machine is beyond what one might expect in a package of its dimensions.

So, marketing lingo aside, the really interesting thing about the Envy 14 Spectre is the material used to build most of it: glass. Corning Gorilla Glass to be specific. Not surprisingly, the monitor is fronted with glass, but so is the rest of the lid. It’s almost as if they took a giant iPhone 4 and attached it with a hinge. So, right off the bat, half of the computer is built out of glass, then you have the palm rests and some of the chassis! All this makes for a more durable and lighter package, according to the company, though at about 4 pounds that last bit seems like we’re having our chocolate rations increased from 15 grams to 10 grams. But who cares what it weighs? It’s a laptop made out of glass! I’m not even sure what the advantage really would be for that, but I feel cooler just to have typed out that last sentence.  

Perhaps the most telling thing about this device is who HP thinks would want it, and judging by the product photos in the company’s news release, they are aiming for the coveted “I’m far too cool to even acknowledge my expensive new computer sitting there” demographic. 

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