CES 2006: Picks and Pans

A Show We Won't Be Staffing: Networking and convergence took on a whole new meaning this week at the Sands Convention Center, a secondary CES venue, because this year the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo took place in the same building. It probably explains why so many male editors, analysts, ad reps, and marketers had a lot of "last minute" vendor meetings at the Sands. --Ramon G. McLeod

Free Ride: One of the better freebies at CES this year was a free ride on the Monorail linking the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Strip. The ride was courtesy of Sprint and was given to anyone with a cell phone that supported text messaging. By either sending a text message to a special number or dialing a toll-free number (both helpfully displayed on signs outside the Convention Center station), you got back a text message with a code that you then showed to attendants who gave out free one-way tickets. It was by far the fastest way to get to a hotel near a station. --Yardena Arar

Road Rage: As a CES neophyte, I was well warned to expect long taxi queues and to allow plenty of time to get to vendor briefings. However, nothing prepared me for the chaos that ensued on the roads. A combination of this year's CES apparently being bigger than last year, other expos running simultaneously, and the great weather bringing out slow-moving tourists had a few of my taxi drivers pulling their hair out while we were stuck in gridlock on the strip. Points to Vegas for building pedestrian overpasses, though. --Danny Allen

A Lost Generation: Judging from the abundant GPS offerings at CES, I'm forced to conclude that we're a lost generation--as in, a generation of people who easily get lost and are eager to get directions from gadgets. Products I saw ranged from Garmin's pricey nuvi 350, Sony's first car navigation device, the $700 nav-u NV-U70 (due in mid February) and Fine Digital USA's FineDrive offerings, which are being sold at large retailers and online for prices in the $500-$600 range. Could 2006 be the year of the GPS? --Yardena Arar

Best Reason Not to Diet: Hewlett-Packard's R927 is the company's first 8-megapixel camera. Though it's probably rare that you'd need all that resolution for an enormous print enlargement, it gives you more leeway to crop down to a small portion of your photo. This compact camera packs in a lot of processing options for shutterbugs who are wont to do image editing on a PC, allowing you to add borders to your pics, give them a vintage look, or transform them into something like a watercolor painting or cartoon. The oddest effect is called slimming, which distorts the picture slightly to take a few pounds off self-conscious subjects. On the camera's big 3-inch LCD, the results are fun to look at. The R927 will arrive in the spring, and will cost $399. --Eric Butterfield

Really Low-Light Photography: Planet82's SMPD sensor chip could make digital cameras more sensitive to light than the naked eye. In very low light, the chip produced an image of objects that I could barely see; a camera with a CCD chip was unable to capture an image. The image was black and white, though company representatives say color support is on the way soon. If this chip proves capable of delivering high enough resolution and low noise, you may never use your flash again. --Eric Butterfield

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