CES 2006: Picks and Pans

Lost But Not Forgotten: With fingertip-sized tags and a handheld tracker, the $100 loc8tor lets you find those keys or wallets you're always misplacing. I took it for a test run in a crowded CES showroom, and didn't have much trouble homing in on a tag by turning in a circle and then walking in the direction of the strongest signal. The $170 model also has an alert mode that tells you when a particular tag goes more than a certain distance from the handheld. This could be a nice way to keep tabs on my escape-artist dog. Available soon. --Erik Larkin

Ooh, I Wanna Try It: Perfect for avoiding deadlines--the $80 BladeRunner II radio-controlled helicopter. Also ideal for scaring the heck out of the dog. Watch a video of the helicopter almost bouncing off the head of a dopey PC World Contributing Editor. --Steve Bass

Hey, It's More Fun Than Working: Here's yet another digital distraction to help you avoid deadlines. First, you use the radio controller to move around the Vex Robotic robots and scoop up the racquetballs. Then you pop them into the bin and maybe you'll win something. Don't forget to occasionally look around to make sure your boss isn't watching. Check out the video to see how they work! --Steve Bass

Digital Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: As if the gadgets and gizmos weren't enough eye candy, an impressive celebrity corps flitted around the various booths and events at the show. Sightings included NFL football greats at Samsung's booth (I personally saw Boomer Esiason); DaVinci Code star Tom Hanks, director Ron Howard, and producer Brian Grazer at Sony Chairman Sir Howard Stringer's keynote; Tom Cruise and Ellen DeGeneres at Yahoo CEO Terry Semel's speech; Justin Timberlake joining Bill Gates on stage during the Microsoft exec's keynote; and Robin Williams at Google co-founder Larry Page's talk. Next year I'll have to bring my autograph book. --Yardena Arar

Oddest Couple: Among the musicians who appeared at XM Radio's booth were Snoop Dogg and, an hour later, Donny Osmond. Wonder if they met--and if so, what they spoke about? --Harry McCracken

Most Useful Freebie:Vastercable decided to forego the typical big bowl of chocolates at its booth and instead fill it with Velcro cable wraps. The booth was mobbed. --Steve Bass

Checkmate!: I can't imagine a less inviting place to sit down to a game of chess than on the floor of a mobbed, noisy show like CES. But Russian chess grandmaster Alexandra Kosteniuk appeared at one booth to promote an electronic chess game that bears her name (and speaks in her voice), and at least one attendee sat down to face off against her. --Harry McCracken

Smartest Way to Save: Bring your notebook and headset, pay the hotel's $10 daily Internet access fee, and make all your calls using Skype. One marketing guy from Dolby saved $40 on a call to his wife in Australia. --Steve Bass

XXX Marks the Spot: As usual, Vegas was hosting both the workaday types attending CES and the rather different conventioneers attending an event for the "adult entertainment" industry. At times, especially at the Sands Expo Center (which hosted CES on one floor and the adult conference on the other), it felt a little as if you were attending the latter show whether you wanted to or not. (And one limo driver complained to me that adult entertainers were coming outside and slowing down traffic outside the Sands.) --Harry McCracken

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