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Category: Michelle Maltais

CES 2012: Be careful what you write -- your iPad will be watching

Photo Jan 11, 11 16 55 AM

Some of us just love to write on paper -- even those devoted to digital devices.

As addicted as I am to tech, I'm an analog paper hog, with drawer after drawer filled with notebooks, notepads and empty journals. No matter how quick or proficient I get at tapping on my virtual keyboards, I'm not really a "screen writer." I still prefer to physically write to help me remember.

And my notepads and my tech tools never connect -- unless I shoot a photo of what's on paper.

Targus plans to marry writing and technology on a new device, iNotebook, around June or July to let you write on regular paper and transfer what you've written onto your iPad. It's expected to cost $150.

The iNotebook itself really is the combination of an iPad app, the case, a transmitter/recorder and a special pen that connects with it.

How it works is that the transmitter sits above the page and watches you write with the special pen via infrared sensor and records what you write. Then through the app and a Bluetooth connection with your iPad, it shoots over your words -- or doodles -- in your very own hand almost simultaneously.

The downside: There's no optical character recognition. So what you write is what you get. As a result, there may be no visual character recognition either, depending on your handwriting.

Indeed, when Targus' marketing vice president Al Giazzon used it, he said the result was "exactly as bad as my handwriting is." Accuracy in motion. (If this takes off, we might see what a detrimental effect our ubiquitous typing and and tapping has had on penmanship.)

On the plus side for those of us still juggling iPads and notepads, you don't actually have to pull out your tablet from your bag unless you want to watch the near-instant transfer of your noodling and doodling. And really, you don't even have to have the iPad on hand. The small transmitter can store up what you've written in its memory buffer for transfer later.

"You would have to write a manuscript to fill the buffer," Giazzon said.

Targus expects to release a black leather portfolio first with plans to expand the color palette later. The special IR ink pen will have an iPad stylus on the other end. The photo above is a prototype, with style and usability tweaks to come from focus groups and designers over the next few months, Giazzon said.

Who's the target for iNotebook? Targus expects interest in the school and business markets -- "Anywhere where writing is fast," Giazzon said.
 
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-- Michelle Maltais

Twitter.com/mmaltaislat

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: Video baby monitors are tapping iOS and Android devices

Main

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: SuperShell gives iPad 2 protection in tiny hands

 

I recall before I had my baby the empathetic terror that shot through me as I watched my friend's child dragging her naked iPad by the power cable. It was story time. Great.

Now that I have my own child, enamored with all of my (expensive) tech toyM-Edge Supershell case for kidss and tools, the terror is all the more real. Keeping these tools away from their quick but not-yet-agile hands is quite a task. And sometimes, technology can be a great teaching tool.

M-Edge, the maker of cases for today's most popular handheld devices, has a case they say can withstand the rough treatment an iPad can get in the hands of kids and toddlers. We took a look at it at CES in Las Vegas.

VIDEOS: 2012 Consumer Electronics Show

The SuperShell is a super lightweight case made of closed-cell foam that's easy to grip, doesn't slip out of small hands and, if it does, will bounce back, almost literally, after a fall.

We watched the representatives toss the encased iPad 2 on the floor several times without damaging the tablet. (Check out the video above.)

Granted, if your kid takes his toy drumstick to the screen, it's not going to be protected here.

But if you've got a droolly teether, the case may even take an actual licking and still keep ticking.

Parent reviews on Amazon say the $30 bright lime-green color makes it easier to find the iPad after your child drops it like a hot potato and moves on to the next thing.

You can still access the front and back cameras of the iPad 2, its ports, speaker and most of the buttons. The volume buttons are covered, but then again do you really want little Chris or Christy blasting the repetitive music of kid-friendly apps?

Coming this year are SuperShell cases for iPhone and Kindle Fire.

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-- Michelle Maltais in Las Vegas

Twitter.com/mmaltaislat

Image: SuperShell case for iPad 2. Credit: M-Edge

CES 2012: $1,300 earphones -- how does that sound?

 

How much is good sound worth to you? $1,300?

Well, then Harman Audio has a pair of earphones just for you. The AKG K3003 high-performance three-way in-ear headphones were on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Why would anyone need such pricey sound?

VIDEOS: Consumer Electronics Show

Ask Chris Dragon. He represents the target audience for this product.

Dragon is not only Harman's director of marketing; he qualifies as a bonafide audiophile. He owns about 20 pairs of headphones himself. He plays guitar -- and has 16 of them with two more custom-made on the way. As a musician since childhood, he has a love of good sound.

In fact, he said, in a company of about 11,000 employees, there are many musicians in the bunch.

"We wanted to deliver best in-ear product out there. AKG -- that's kind of the DNA of the company," Dragon said. "We like to build the best in class."

In addition to producing pristine sound, they are "tunable," meaning you can tweak the bass or the high-frequency sound. They come with a neutral diaphragm in place, and you can swap it out for either bass boost or high frequency. This swap isn't for thick thumbs or clumsy hands. The diaphragms are small and slip out of your fingers easily.

They also have controls integrated for Apple products.

Obviously, these aren't for everyone. You're not going to find them at Target or Best Buy. Launched in November, only 125 of them have been made so far. (The serial number etched in the one on display was 0125.) Each of the K3003 earphones are handmade in Vienna. Dragon said he expects that they will sell in the thousands.

So what does $1,300 worth of audio sound like?

Well, we still don't know. (I'm not chancing expensing those bad boys.) But Dragon answers as a guitarist might: You get the sense of being confined, but you don't feel like you're in a room the size of your head.

"When I finally laid my hands on a pair, I put on three pieces music," he said. "You won't believe me, but I heard nuances in these that I could only pick up before" on large speakers with sound that fills a room.

The "original price" listed on the site is $1,499. Sound like a bargain?

-- Michelle Maltais in Las Vegas

Twitter.com/mmaltaislat

CES 2012: iPhone app scratches an itch for wannabe DJs

Turntable techniquesWhat does it take to be a pro DJ? It used to be two turntables and a microphone. Not so anymore. It's not unusual to see iPads and iPhones instead.

DJ really doesn't mean disc jockey these days; it's more apt to call them digital jockeys.

Pro equipment can get really pricey and take a few trips from the truck to set up.

But IK Multimedia has an app that may put the power of a pro DJ in your pocket.

At CES in Las Vegas, the company announced that it will soon release DJ Rig, an iPhone app that brings smooth transitions, scratching, sampling and beat matching to the party.

The app includes features found in other DJ apps such as access to the on-board iPhone music library and playlists, auto-sync technology, interactive waveform display and auto looping.

What makes IK Multimedia suggest this app may be a game-changer are features such as detection and adjustment for volume and cross-fading equalizing, a sync mode that detects beats per minute from external devices in real time and automatically syncs the tempo of internal decks to external decks. It has an on-the-fly sampler and live sampling capabilities.

And, if you want to go a little old school, the new DJ Rig app has a scratching engine that is supposed to emulate the behavior of real decks. The app also promises to include several output configurations, so you can adapt to different audio setups.

The regular version will cost about $10; there will be a scaled-down free version, expandable through in-app purchase. A universal iPad app is also in the works.

Among other coming-soon announcements for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad from the company out of CES: a mobile mixer (iRig Mix, $100), a live-performance stompbox guitar/bass interface (iRig Stomp, $60) and a compact voice-recording mic (iRig Mic Cast, $40).

-- Michelle Maltais in Las Vegas

Twitter.com/mmaltaislat

Photo: Professor Stephen Webber, background, watches students practice turntable techniques at Berklee College of Music in 2004. Credit: Adam Hunger / Associated Press

CES 2012: GoPano Micro gives iPhone 4 a 360-degree view

 

It used to be that only "real" cameras had the cool lens accessories. But more and more are coming for the camera on your phone. One that caught my eye at CES gave a new perspective to iPhone video.

GoPano Micro -- which really made me want to yell "up periscope!" -- is a lens by EyeSee360 that lets your iPhone 4 and 4S shoot real-time 360-degree video. You attach it over the iPhone's camera using the case that comes with it. And in conjunction with a free app, you can shoot the scene around you with minimal effort.

The video isn't just panoramic. It's also interactive. You can tap the screen -- or click in the video on your computer -- to shift perspective and see what's on the other side of the camera. You can also flatten out the image to see all angles at the same time. 

GoPano Micro sells for about $80.

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-- Michelle Maltais in Las Vegas

Twitter.com/mmaltaislat

CES 2012: Bikn aims to be new lost-and-found for iPhone

 

Are you the kind of person who loses your keys all the time but always seems to have your phone nearby?

Treehouse Labs has a leash for you. Its new lost-and-found system, Bikn (pronounced "beacon"), is basically two low-powered radios talking. One is on the case you put on your iPhone; the other is on the tags you attach to your stuff -- or your people. Then the Bikn app connects them.

Some folks consider the ubiquitous smartphone a kind of leash. Now you can actually "leash" your favorite devices -- and your two- and four-legged family members who might wander off -- using the same device.

The kit performs two functions -- tracking and "leashing." You can set a perimeter of near, medium or far.  When your tagged person or item moves out of the established perimeter, an alarm sounds.

The $99 kit comes with two tags and the case. Additional kits come in pairs of two tags for $49. You can "leash" up to eight items.

Of course, you have to keep track of your iPhone -- but I suppose that's what Find My Phone is for.

 

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-- Michelle Maltais in Las Vegas

Twitter.com/mmaltaislat

CES 2012: Liquipel claims to get the drop on water

 

Ever watch in slow-motion horror as your pricey smartphone leaves your hand too quickly and drops into water? Or maybe you forgot to take it out of your pocket after a workout or workday. The stories of toilet tragedies are myriad.

But, according to a Santa Ana start-up company at CES in Las Vegas, it doesn't mean your phone has to go down the drain. And maybe you can save the rice for dinner instead of for trying to save your phone.

With an iPhone sitting in a cylinder of cascading water, representatives from Liquipel were showing off their patent-pending coating that provides invisible armor against accidental water exposure at Start-up Debut at the Consumer Electronics Show.

This doesn't mean you can take you iPhone in the pool with you, but it might be a little more safe sitting on a towel nearby.

They were dunking iPhones nonstop. But for some reason, the tissue demonstration is the one that got my attention. (Although dropping an iPhone into water without warning is dramatic, the tissue example is more tangible.) Two dry tissues -- one treated with Liquipel -- are placed into a dish of water. You quickly see the difference.

They pushed it in the water, poured water on it. The thing refused to get wet. When you touch it, you feel that the treated tissue is just as nose-friendly as it should be.

I got some video of the demo. (Sorry, it's a little dark. The mood lighting in the Foundation Room might be conducive to meaningless connections, but it's a tad challenging when you're really trying to get to know the score.)

Danny McPhail, co-president of Liquipel, says the coating will outlast your phone. It permanently bonds with your device on a molecular level.

The company is "talking with manufacturers," according to McPhail. I asked whether the fact that the demo was exclusively with iPhones was any indication of where we might see the first treated phones for sale, but there was no confirmation.

While we have to wait to see which phones come packaged with it, the average clumsy consumer can have his or her phone treated for $59. The only challenge for the perpetually connected is that you have to give up your phone for a couple of days for treatment. I had to take oxygen because my phone was out for a few hours. They do offer a priority service for $10 more.

The Liquipel site lists 11 different kinds of phones (Apple iPhone 3G through 4S; HTC Evo 4G, Shift 4G, MyTouch 4G and Thunderbolt; Motorola Droid X and X2; and Samsung Charge) that can be treated with the vapor.

Frankly, it'd be great to not feel as if your phone might melt, like that green gal from Oz. 

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 -- Michelle Maltais in Las Vegas

http://twitter.com/mmaltaislat

CES 2012: What's in our bags for the year's biggest gadget show

Michelle Maltais' tools of the trade for CES

This post has been updated. See note below for details.

The annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show has begun. Team LAT is getting into place, and our coverage has started.

I'm still en route.This year, instead of flying as I usually do, I'm road tripping it. In fact, I'm cruising along Interstate 15 as I type -- riding, not driving.  And I'm traveling a little lighter than in years past. My bag is smaller, so are my computer and camera. But they're all more powerful.

The bag is as much a part of the story as what's in it. I'll be checking whether it's more than just a pretty purple package. I got this raspberry-colored Powerbag for Christmas. (My family knows I have power issues -- I mean with all of my devices.) So I plan to put it through its paces, charging its contents during CES.  Although I believe in redundancy, since technology can and does fail on you when you most need it, I'm carrying only one laptop this CES. That's mostly because I can file text, photos and video from my phone more easily than in years past if I need to. (I'm writing this on my iPhone on the ride into Las Vegas from Los Angeles.)

In the main compartment, I have my 13-inch MacBook Pro, its power cable and my magic folder with analog materials -- important printouts and my CES pass. I am using a removable pouch for USB cables, a hub, an SD card reader, earphones, my glasses, pens and quick-grab snacks.I can also store the many flash drives we collect throughout CES with product details and photos.

In the middle compartment, a 1TB external hard drive fits next to a tiny tripod for the small HD video camera I have in there, since I'll be one-man-banding it. The small video camera will also double as a still camera. Inside the camera is an 8 GB Eye-Fi SD card to quickly transfer photos to either my iPhone or laptop so I can blog or Tweet from either device.

I have an iRig mic to connect with my iPhone if I need to shoot video with it. (Unfortunately, it doesn't work with the camcorder.) Having a more powerful directional mic should help cut the din of the convention center.

The front pocket of the bag is for my iPhone and BlackBerry, which will need charging sooner than later. I carry both because AT&T works in places T-Mobile doesn't and vice versa.

I've also got my brace for weak and weary wrists, hand wipes and the power cable for the bag. There's also a power strip hanging around, but I'm still on the fence about carrying it. We'll see how well the Powerbag holds up. Stay tuned for a review of the bag later in the week.

[Updated 4:20 p.m.: Times videographer Armand Emamdjomeh and tech reporter writer Nathan Olivarez-Giles share below what gear they're using this year to cover CES.]

Armand Emamdjomeh's bag and all that's inside it

Armand Emamdjomeh:

As a disclaimer, I'm a big fan of Canon and Apple, so this equipment list might not hold any surprises. That being said...

Since I'm focusing on video, the centerpiece of my setup is a Canon 5D MkII. I've called this "a photographer's camera that shoots beautiful video," and even though the model is a few years old by now, it certainly never disappoints with either. The 24-105m f/4 lens isn't quite as good as the 24-70mm f/2.8, which boasts a wider aperture and is a better all around lens, but the extra focal length is good for closeups and interviews, and the image stabilization makes up for the slower aperture. In terms of glass, I also packed a 50mm f/1.4 lens, just in case we get into some really poor lighting. With the 5D's maximum ISO of 25,600, and shooting fairly clean up to 3200 ISO, putting the 50mm lens on on the camera really lets you shoot just about anywhere.

For audio, I have a RODE shotgun mic that mounts on the camera hotshoe, and for more precise sound we have a set of wireless lavalieres and a handheld microphone for interviews. To get all that sound into the camera there's the Beachtek XLR adapter, which mounts on the bottom of the camera.

To hold that rig I have a Manfrotto 680B monopod - it's small, light and maneuverable enough to keep shots steady even in a crowded space.

The hub is my 15" MacBook Pro. Enough battery life and processing power to make video processing in the field not a complete nightmare. And obviously, there's a pen and notepad.

Other things in my bag, AA batteries and Clif bars, for refueling.

And of course, the lynch pin of all this, that which could serve as a backup for every single one of the above devices should any of them fail, is my iPhone 4s. Plus, what would a tech conference be without Instagram?

Nathan Olivarez-Giles' bag and all that's inside it

Nathan Olivarez-Giles:

This year, my bag for CES is a lot different than the set-up I took with me to Vegas last year.

The biggest change might be my lack of a camera. Last year I had with me a Sony HDR-SR7 video camera, spare batteries and a shot-gun microphone for shooting video. This year, I'll be spending more time in front of the camera instead of behind the camera, so the video that will go along with what I write will be shot by my colleague Armand Emamdjomeh, who shoots the gadget review videos we do every Saturday on the Technology blog.

My laptop this year is also lighter. Gone is my 2007, 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro. Instead, this year I'm using a thin and light Apple MacBook Air that's only a few months old. Along with that of course comes its charger. I also have a thumb-drive for transferring files from one computer to another quickly when an Internet connection is slow our not available.

I've also got a paper notepad and three pens for note taking I'll be doing and my iPhone 4S will be used for recording audio of interviews, which I'm planning on uploading to my SoundCloud account, and for a few photos of some of the new gadgets making their debut at CES this year. Along with the iPhone 4S comes its charger and a set of Apple headphones as well.

Other apps on my iPhone I'll be using this year will be TweetBot, currently my preferred Twitter app, and maybe a little bit of Instagram, Facebook and Path too.

A Nintendo 3DS, its charger, and copies of the games Super Mario 3D Land, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Mario Kart 7 are also packed inside in preparation for an interview later this week I have scheduled with Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America Inc.

The bag I'm throwing all of this stuff in is a Powerbag that was sent to me as a review unit. So far, I haven't gotten the bag working but Michelle Maltais is writing up a review of her Powerbag for the Technology blog, so maybe she'll help me figure out what I'm doing wrong or if it's broken.

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-- Michelle Maltais

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