Tech Goodies off the Beaten Path

With more than 1.8 million square feet of convention hall space and more than 2,700 vendors, it can be a little daunting for some of the smaller technology companies to get attention at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show. So, while the multibillion-dollar companies like Sony, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft were busy laying out their plush carpet and readying their glossy brochures for today's opening there were some off-site media events that introduced products that are sure to impress in 2008.


Vectrix Zero Emission Vehicle — $11,000

A motorcycle that is powered 100 percent by electricity. A stylish, speedy, powerful ride for urban commuters with a conscience. There is no gas in the vehicle. Most of its 500-pound weight comes from a giant rechargeable battery. More than a scooter, the Vectrix can go 0-50 in seven seconds and can cruise at up to 62 mph making it highway legal. The battery lasts an average of 50 miles and recharges in two to three hours. It runs so quietly that the Rhode Island-based company added a subtle hum so people knew it was coming. The thing looks sporty, goes quickly and the efficient rechargeable battery will save the environment and cost only a penny a mile.


Franklin Speaking Spelling Bee (SSB-210) — $99

Franklin's been sponsoring the National Spelling Bee for years evening awarding the winner a $5,000 scholarship, but now it is bringing the fun, or maybe it's the anxiety, home to fourth-graders and above in an innovative little package. The Speaking Spelling Bee has a color screen, three levels of difficulty and three levels of interactivity.

Practice rounds allow you to rehearse and remembers the words you get right and asks you again about words you get wrong. Game Show rounds pit one user versus the computer. Pass Along competition allows up to six players to battle it out on each device. The game is designed for anyone fourth grade and above and Franklin promises adults they will have as much fun attempting to solve the more than 7,000-word vocabulary. There are an additional four games included and room to download more.


Spot Satellite Personal Tracker — $150 for device; $99 a year subscription

The Spot is a little orange box that may just save your life. If you've fallen and you can't get up in the outdoors you may wish you had a Spot attached to your hip, so you can live to tell about it. Cell phones tend not to work when you are stranded in an avalanche, but this device will use a Global Positioning System and satellite technology to send a distress call to a 911 center so that help will know how to find you.

Its one-way messaging also allows for the owner to send OK messages so that loved ones at home can track your progress up the mountain. A setting allows for spot tracking on Google Maps every 10 minutes. A pair of AA batteries will last a year if you only want to use the Spot for emergencies, but if you leave on the tracking you will need to change the batteries every two weeks. The young company rescued its second emergency caller last week after a snowmobile accident left the owner unable to get off the mountain and unable to use a cell phone. The distress signal is received in its Texas-based call center and the location was relayed to the rescue team who was on site within 15 minutes. The device works on land and at sea and on most continents.


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