The Hidden Oddities of CES

Feeling a bit exhausted, I decided to leave the floor. As I stumbled by the bank of exits doors that led to the sunny, outside world, I found yet another got-to-see product. What caught my eye were the images of policemen and a photo that looked like someone getting shot. As I got closer I saw the company was Taser International (www.taser.com) and knew this was bound to be interesting.

"It's the first USB-enabled weapon," explained Taser Government Affairs Manager Mark Johnson. In his hand, Johnson held what looked like a little black gun, but it was actually a Taser X26, a device that shoots a small, piercing dart at an attacker. The dart is tethered to the gun by a long, thin wire. Once the dart impales the assailant, the attacker's potential victim can depress the trigger, sending sharp, incapacitating electrical charges.

The version Johnson showed off is part of the Taser X26c Citizen Defense System that consumers can purchase this coming summer — those who don't live in states outlawing ownership of stun guns by private citizens, that is.

Two lithium batteries power the device and can be swapped out for a USB interface, which allows users to upload new software or download usage information. The latter feature, only available with the law enforcement version of the Taser, is especially useful for law enforcement because it records when the weapon was fired and under what conditions, even noting the temperature.

The consumer version ($999) includes a free training class, instructional DVD, and four single-use Taser cartridges (new ones cost $30 a piece) that hold 15-foot wires. The law enforcement version ($699) comes with a holster, but no cartridges or training.

You could even get Taser International T-shirts at the show. All you had to do was be shot by a Taser. Remarkably, Johnson said that they had some takers.

Girl Power — Sort of

There was also an interesting juxtaposition at this show. In the LVCC entrance, show organizers were promoting women and technology with the "Technology is a Girl's Best Friend" pavilion (basically a display). Editors from technology and women's consumer publications and Web sites had selected products from the show that would ostensibly appeal to women because of the devices' size, overall design, or utility.

I applaud this very forward-thinking concept, and yet I had only to spend 10 minutes on the show floor before I was confronted by the myriad odd and appalling ways vendors used women to attract the largely male audience. There was the aggressively sexual campaign promoting LCD mounting hardware with girls wearing shirts that said "Mount Me," cheerleaders for Energizer Batteries, and much more in the way of eye candy.

I just wonder how the women who did attend, many of whom work in product management, development, marketing, and PR, felt about these booths. One step forward, two back.

Nearly done reliving the past few days, I looked around to see that I was still dozens of people away from getting my own cab. If I'm not back in my office by the time you read this, please send food and water to the taxi line at the LVCC.

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