[Article first published as CES 2012 Day 3 - More Digital Treats from the Desert on Blogcritics.]
Welcome back to my armchair coverage of CES 2012. I’ve been highlighting what I think are the cool gizmos and what have you from the show by scouring much of the interwebs in the hopes that you don't have to. Today we have an eye opening control scheme, tiny hotspot tech, some Verizon Android news and a new console. I threw that last one in there since I'm sure you're still weeping from no Xbox or Playstation announcement. Wipe those tears away. You're welcome, citizen.
The eyes have it: the Tobii Gaze UI
Ever want to control a computer with your eyes? A company called Tobii Technology may have you covered. Their Gaze UI abandons the mouse and uses them two eyeballs in your head to make things go. Once it takes a few minutes to map your peepers to its sensors, you can use its gesture-based interface that tracks your eyes as an on-screen cursor, and it’s designed to handle all of the touch commands of Windows 8. They still have a touchpad as part of the system to supplement the optical controls, used for tapping instead of dragging your finger around for navigation. Or you know, in case you’re all jittery. The unit is still a prototype, and Engadget has a nice hands-on video if you want to take a look, complete with a couple of snags (cut them some slack, it's a prototype). It shows a user using the eyeball tracking with the touchpad for the occasional tapping (sans dragging) and runs with Metro stylings of Windows 8. I'm curious if it's the touch-friendly Windows 8 interface that allows this to work as well as it does (so far). If that's the case then this could be applicable to other touch-optimized OS's on tablets like Android devices and iPads. Well probably not on iPads, unless Apple decides to buy Tobii and keep it all in-house of course. The video is pretty impressive considering this being Tobii’s first public outing with this technology. Plus it’s not a final release of Windows 8 it’s running on either. So while it’s still rough, once it gets a little bit more work and development we could have something pretty phenomenal that can run on tablets while you're on the go, but hopefully not on a shaky bus.
SD Marks the Hotspot: Toshiba FlashAir
You’re probably familiar with Eye-Fi cards – SD style flash memory that have Wi-Fi capabilities to transfer pictures or files to a computer from a camera. This year’s CES brings us a bit of an upgrade with Toshiba’s FlashAir card. Not only does it have the capability to join a wireless network like the last iteration, but it can broadcast its own 802.11 b/g/n hotspot. But that’s not all – the card is pre-programmed with webserver software, meaning that anything stored on it can be accessed from the web using any internet connected device. And with more and more devices being equipped with wireless capability, you can get any of your photos or video from a camera or a netbook or tablet to a web enabled HDTV. Seems like it would definitely be good for media streaming, assuming the power drain isn’t too severe and the range is better than its Eye-Fi predecessor.
No PS4, no X720, but there is the Nintendo Wii U
While yesterday we heard from Sony officially say that they’re sticking with a 10-year lifecycle for the PlayStation 3, and not to expect any PlayStation 4 announcement anytime this year, including later this year at E3. So while Sony and Microsoft are pumping their efforts into current-gen hardware, Nintendo’s taking the dead air on console announcements as an opportunity to officially show off their new Wii U console. There was a lot of speculation and mystery surrounding the console, starting back from their first announcement back in April. Back then all we knew about it was a strange touchscreen type of control scheme which seemed weird at the time, but since seeing Razer’s Fiona and other similar products at this year’s show, it seems almost par for the course now. The tab-style controller has analog sticks and control buttons in the upper corners. There are regular controllers too, but the touchscreen controller has an interesting bonus. For example, in the “Chase Mii” game, players with regular controllers can see themselves on the big screen, but the holder of the touchscreen controller gets a overhead view of where everyone is and where they’re going. It also allows transferring what’s on the touchscreen to the big screen and vice versa, adding a different spin to multiplayer. They didn’t have single player ability set up at the show, but did have some Zelda video rolling. Nintendo’s still being pretty tight lipped about titles under development and other functionality for the touchscreen controller, but I’m sure we’ll see some more from them at E3. Sony will be shilling games, Microsoft will be pushing their ecosystem and other folks are going to be pushing digital game delivery like Steam and OnLive, probably leaving Nintendo the whole stage for physical console news.
Verizon's 4G LTE Mandate and Motorola’s new Droids
Even though I love Android devices, I really wish that there was a Windows Phone on display for Big Red this year. Unfortunately for me (and other VZW customers) that sweet Nokia Lumia is going to other carriers. There may be a reason why – VZW has announced that 4G LTE is going to be a “hard requirement” for any new hardware they plan on shilling. That includes not only Android devices, but devices from Blackberry and Windows Phones. By that logic that may mean that even the iPhone 5 will be talking to the world 4G LTE style when it comes out. Or it also may mean Verizon won’t have an iPhone 5, but we'll see. I guess we’ll have to wait on word from Cupertino. Anyway, that aside, two 4G LTE devices available for viewing were the heirs apparent to Verizon's mobile Android game – Motorola’s Droid 4 and Droid RAZR MAXX. The Droid 4 of course is next in Moto’s keyboarded Droid family line, but the first one to run on Moto’s LTE network. This was one of the big drawbacks on an otherwise solid Droid 3. The D4 also looks like it's going to be geared for more business use than past models, as it has encryption on business functions like email, calendars and task lists. It's not just any basic encryption either, it's FIPS 140-2 (government grade for those keeping score). Business users will be able to run virtual environments too, coming pre-loaded with Citrix Receiver for Androids. I know I'd rather use an Android than a BlackBerry for my work stuff. If any of you have either felt the frustration going from your personal Android to your work BB, or ever had to configure and manage a BB Enterprise Server, I know you understand.
The RAZR MAXX on the other hand, instead of boasting big improvements on its predecessor, has the same hardware and software as the RAZR. The only difference is the battery. One of the biggest weaknesses of the original Droid RAZR was that its impressive sounding 1780mAh battery got you absolutely nowhere. The RAZR MAXX has remedies that, with a 3300mAh battery that lasts for 21 hours of talk time. It picked up a little bit of girth an weight in the process, but that's not really saying much seeing how light and thin the original Droid RAZR was. Both phones will be available soon. Which is good, because I’m getting me a RAZR MAXX, regardless of the near-adult-film-star model name.
Those are my highlights from day 3 - I'll be back again for the fourth and final day with a wrap-up before your weekend.