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Big Gadgets Mark Consumer Electronics Show

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The Consumer Electronics Show opens in Las Vegas with some 140,000 people in attendance. They will be able to get a glimpse of the world's biggest TV screen, the smallest computer and solar batteries. And they will review a lot of things that connect to each other without wires.


The makers of the One Laptop Per Child device are still hoping for some oohs and ahs when they show off their gadget at the world's biggest technology conference. The Consumer Electronics Show starts today in Las Vegas. One hundred and forty thousand people are expected to descend on the city for a glimpse of the world's biggest TV screen, the smallest computer, solar batteries, and lots of things that connect to each other - without wires.

NPR's Laura Sydell has this preview.

LAURA SYDELL: The real show hasn't started yet but hundreds of people, including this reporter, stood in a line that snaked around a lobby at the Sands Expo this weekend to get a glimpse of the preview.

This year, consumers may be excited to learn that electronics companies have been teaching devices to talk to each other. Jean Charles Piaget(ph) with Handsfree shows off a digital photo frame that connects wirelessly to your home computer.

Mr. JEAN CHARLES PIOGET: Some of the newer model we'll launch later this year will have the tuner capability and also wireless, might be able to interact with the Web site...

SYDELL: So your digital frame will connect to the Internet, where it could pull pictures from Flickr or another online photo site.

There's been a lot of talk in the past about being able to view the Internet on a television set. Coming to market this year will finally be affordable devices like the Internet View from Adlogix. Christian Hay(ph) says you attach the device to your computer and...

Mr. CHRISTIAN HAYES: YouTube video or any kind of online video content, instead of watching it on your small-screen laptop, you can then transmit it and watch it on your big-screen television.

SYDELL: Wireless technology is also going green. Growing awareness about global warming is making the public more interested in products that conserve energy.

Mr. ALAN PENCHANSKY (Iqua): This is the Iqua SUN. It's the world's first solar-powered Bluetooth headset.

SYDELL: Alan Penchansky is with Iqua. The Iqua SUN has a tiny photovoltaic cell in it.

Mr. PENCHANSKY: Which enables you to use any available light indoors or outdoors to give the unit additional power so that you extend both the talk time and the standby time of the device.

SYDELL: There seems little doubt that this year, wireless is taking off as never before. TVs, MP3 players, cars, home stereo systems, all are connecting wirelessly.

Nelson Allen, director of Digital Media at Samsung, says wireless has been around for a while, but it's getting easier to use and cheaper.

Mr. NELSON ALLEN (Samsung): The cost of Bluetooth chips are under $5 now. Battery power has improved. And in the past, it was the wireless that would drain the battery. So technology is allowing it all to happen.

SYDELL: But can you take wireless too far?

(Soundbite of cooler on wheels)

SYDELL: Like this wirelessly controlled cooler on wheels with two beers over ice making its way across the floor to Ian Chisem(ph) of Interactive Toy Concepts.

Mr. IAN CHISEM (Interactive Toy Concepts): You don't always a want to get up when you need - someone needs a beverage. So I can quickly deliver it to them. It's that simple. You don't have to leave your chair. You just push the button, your favorite beverage is taken to you.

SYDELL: Chisem admits that his device could make an unfortunate contribution to America's obesity problem. There are more than 20,000 consumer electronic devices on display here at CES, but only a few of them are likely to catch on.

Laura Sydell, NPR News, Las Vegas.

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