Hot Gadgets Vie For Attention At Electronics Show

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The annual Consumer Electronics Show is underway in Las Vegas — think of it as a gadget fest. Technology companies are showing off their latest TVs, computers, cell phones and related gizmos.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

The annual gadget fest in Las Vegas is in full swing. It's the Consumer Electronics Show or CES, where technology companies show off their latest TVs, computers, cell phones and other tech wizardry.

NPR's Laura Sydell joins me from Las Vegas to talk about some of this year's highlights. And Laura, what was your favorite this year?

LAURA SYDELL: Blio. It's an e-book software and I have to say, it was just lovely. So it comes out next month and you'll be able to access more than a million books on it. And what's so great is that unlike some of the other e-book software you see out there, this one is color, it's interactive, so great for children's books. They showed us "The Three Little Pigs" and that was pretty wonderful. Great for textbooks. So say if you had an anatomy book and you were a medical student, it has interactive quizzes in the book. So it has all this nice stuff. I really loved it. It was one of my favorite things here.

BRAND: And just to be clear, the Blio is actually software. It's not a physical object.

SYDELL: Exactly. It's software so you would read it on one of these various devices.

BRAND: So would Blio have the same kind of access to book titles as Amazon does or with a Kindle?

SYDELL: It has different access to different books, and about a million free books. And you can read them on laptops, PCs, netbooks, certain e-readers, and you can read them perhaps on what's one of the biggest categories here, tablet computers. You know, it's a kind of interesting category and there's been a lot of buzz about them; although, most people probably don't know what I'm talking about at this point.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: Yeah, I know. I don't know what you're talking about.

SYDELL: A tablet computer, in its most basic form, it's a computer without the keyboard, and it didn't do well when it was first introduced in a big way about 10 years ago, but the technology's gotten better. In this day and age, it would basically be kind of a combination e-book, film watching device, music device. It would let you e-mail and you could use a stylus to actually write on it, and so instead of carrying all those different things, you could carry it in one thing and that's a tablet PC.

BRAND: OK. That sounds very appealing. What other hot stuff did you see this year?

SYDELL: Well, I have a pair of 3D glasses in my pocket.

BRAND: Just in case the world becomes 3D?

(Soundbite of laughter)

SYDELL: 3D technology is really big. You know, the film studios are behind it, the television networks, the hardware makers. ESPN has said they're actually going to start broadcasting some games in 3D and they are hoping that 3D will be the hope of the future for the film industry and the television industry. Everybody's banking a lot on this and so it is everywhere. I don't know if people are going to want to pay all that money, since they just laid out all that money for HDTV, but it is pretty cool to look at.

BRAND: Well, anything else you saw that was especially fun or surprising?

SYDELL: How about this, a TV that watches you back?

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: Yikes.

SYDELL: So it actually - this television could actually see where your head was, and if you were on one side of the room it would direct the audio towards you in that direction. Also, if you're like a short person, as in a kid and you walk really close to it, the screen will talk back to you and it'll say move away from the screen.

BRAND: All right. NPR's Laura Sydell at the Consumer Electronics show where she's watching TV's and TV's are watching her.

Thanks Laura.

SYDELL: You're welcome.

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