The Coolest Gadgets You're About To Want

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The Consumer Electronics Show wraps up this weekend in Las Vegas. That's where some of the world's coolest gadgets have made their debut over the years. Remember Pong on Atari? That was unveiled at CES in 1975. We've come a long way since then: 3-D television, tablet computers and cars we can talk to. Host Liane Hansen speaks with NPR's Laura Sydell about the latest toys unveiled this week.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

(Soundbite of beeping)

HANSEN: The Consumer Electronics Show wraps up this weekend in Las Vegas. That's where some of the world's coolest gadgets have made their debut over the years. Remember Pong on Atari?

(Soundbite of beeping)

HANSEN: That was unveiled at CES in 1975. And we've come a long way since then: 3-D television, tablet computers, cars we can talk to. NPR's Laura Sydell was at the show in Las Vegas and she joins us to fill us in on the exciting products from this year's show. Welcome, Laura.

LAURA SYDELL: Nice to be here.

HANSEN: Does that sound of Pong take you back?

SYDELL: I'm not old enough to remember - I'm just kidding.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: But I'll tell you what I'm not ready for is 3-D television.

SYDELL: Yes, 3-D television. They're there and the glasses along with them, and there were a lot of them this year at CES. Everybody's putting out a 3-D television, and of course there is content that's coming up for 3-D - Sony, Discovery and Imax have teamed up. They're going to create a channel with just 3-D content. ESPN is going to put out about 85 games starting this year in June.

They're going to start with the World Cup, and they're going to have that in 3-D. And there were lots of TVs to watch them on. And it was pretty lovely stuff, I have to say.

HANSEN: Really? You liked it? It worked for you?

SYDELL: It does work in a certain way, although I have to admit I walked by a poster promoting it and you saw the families all sitting around with their 3-D glasses and it looked odd.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Like those old photos from the magazines of the '50s, right?

SYDELL: Yeah. It just looked odd. You know, somebody joked, you know, 3-D is the technology of the future and it always will be. You know, we've been talking about a long time, really, since Pong, right?

HANSEN: Really.

SYDELL: Just think about how long we've been talking about 3-D. But the technology's come a long way. The entire industry is behind it, they're pushing it. Now, I have to say as to whether or not it's going to happen as fast as they think it is, I'm skeptical.

HANSEN: Computers - Sony and HP, others - unveiled their version of something called the tablet. Not a phone, not a laptop; what is it?

SYDELL: Okay. Briefest description would probably be it's a laptop without a keyboard. With the latest versions or some of the versions I've seen you can use a stylus like a pen, so you could actually write into it. You can carry your movies, your books. And I want to say even though there were a lot of e-book readers on the floor, I think what we're really evolving to eventually is tablet computers. So, the e-book is a transition phase.

HANSEN: How soon will we see that?

SYDELL: Well, we're going to start seeing them very soon. But here is the big news that was looming over CES. At the end of the month, Apple is expected to announce a tablet computer. There are a lot of rumors about it. I believe when there's this many rumors that Apple's going to do something it's usually true. And everybody's waiting to see because Apple has this tendency to really push everything forward and create these beautiful. I mean, think about the iPod and the iPhone, right?

HANSEN: Speaking of an iPhone, was there really a helicopter drone at one company's making it can be remote controlled using an iPhone?

SYDELL: Yes. It's made by this French company called Parrot, and you can control it with an iPhone. And it kind of floats and hovers, and I think the idea is that you might be able to develop games for it. So, you know, kind of games that would be both computerized games and real world games. Go searching for clues with your own personal drone.

HANSEN: Wow. Lots of announcements about getting Internet in cars, voice-activated systems. Can I ask you about Magic Jack 2.0? This is a device, little gadget's going to sell...


HANSEN: Yeah, I mean, actually it's something the cell carriers it's protesting because it's using radio waves without permission, right?

SYDELL: Yes, that's right. Well, Magic Jack's been out and there's been about five million people who purchased the previous Magic Jack, which basically let you make Internet phone calls on your computer. But the key here is that this one will actually, if you have your cell phone in the house, it will connect to your cell phone and you'll be able to make free cell phone calls. That would actually use the radio waves that these carriers have spent a lot of money to buy. And so that is why they're protesting.

The people who make it say, well, you don't own the waves that are actually in somebody's house and this is just for making free cell phone calls in the house. But it could save people a lot of money. These tech battles sometimes over who owns the airwaves can go on for a long time.

HANSEN: Finally, did you see the Google phone?

SYDELL: Yes, I have, and I liked it. People keep asking me is it an iPhone killer? I dont know if it's an iPhone killer but it moves quickly. I found the battery life to be longer than the iPhone, and I definitely found it to be something that was comparable to an iPhone. I really liked using it.

HANSEN: And the Google phone is called the Nexus One?

SYDELL: That is correct.

HANSEN: NPR's Laura Sydell was at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this past week. Laura, thanks a lot.

SYDELL: You're welcome.

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