Tech Goodies off the Beaten Path

Innovative tech products from smaller companies make a splash at 2008 CES.

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 7, 2008 — -- 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

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

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

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.

Gibson Les Paul Robotic Guitar — $2,500

There are six pre-sets that are adjusted by a single strum that the robotic ears, brain and motors use to bring all six strings into perfect tune. Musicians have to tune their instrument each time they sit down and the Gibson robotic technology promises to make tuning faster, easier and hassle-free. An unnamed Gibson rep's assertion that, "chicks will dig it" couldn't be immediately tested, because all 4,000 guitars have been already spoken for, but Gibson promises to bring this technology to future products including other stringed instruments.

Cricket Laptop Stand — $39.95

iTornado - USB based micro computer that makes transferring files between Mac and PC easy — $79.95

Medis Power Pack Plus — $29.99