Warp Speed Tourism to Tomorrow

The web really is wonderful. To stay abreast of what is happening world wide just so I can write these articles requires some solid research.

One of the more interesting sources for new things are the various electronic shows held in many parts of the world. Their locations invariably are popular tourist destinations; this then means a tax deduction is possible if you avail yourself of this option.  

So I decided to jet over to Las Vegas to visit the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show. Well jet is perhaps inappropriate as travelling over the Internet is more like Captain Kirk’s warp speed. Find the URL and two clicks later you are at the show in Sin City. And you don’t even need an invitation to enter.

As is boringly usual at these expos there are dozens, if not hundreds, of TVs in their various flavours. But I don’t think I’ll ever get one. Why not? The remote controls are almost too large to hold, are double sided and have hundreds of buttons. I know that is an exaggeration but you get the idea.

A PhD would most certainly be required to control these new devices that integrate with almost everything electronic. Perhaps the saving feature will be a Siri-like inclusion so that you can ask the TV set to find you a cowboy movie which it of course will. No more searching through programs.

Similarly the ubiquitous USB speakers abound and I for one cannot see the sense in inventing untold versions of these. Most computing devices these days come with fairly reasonable sound facilities unless you are an audiophile in which case you would not be looking at these USB gizmos anyway.

Viewing the goodies on offer left me with little doubt that the days of the PC in the present form are numbered. The future is definitely made up of tablets and smartphones.

One of the most intriguing things seen is the flexible screen. It can actually be folded over like the page of a book and was demonstrated with what appeared to be a smartphone that actually opened up like a book to reveal that the exposed faces were a flexible full colour display. Most impressive! All of a sudden your phones will have displays like tablets and that idea I really like.

You undoubtedly know by now that Windows 8 is optimised for touchscreens. Windows 8 without touch controls is like 3D movies without the glasses. A touchscreen is practical on laptops or tablets but usually means purchasing a new mobile device.

Although touch mice or touchpads make viable alternatives to touchscreens, Tragus’s Touch Pen for Windows 8 tries something rather novel: it gives touchscreen capabilities to just about any 16-inch or smaller laptop display. Instead of having to spend $700 or more on a new PC, get a $100 touch enabling pen for the computer you already have. At least that seems to be the commercial logic. The system consists of a digital pen and a receiving unit that attaches to the side of the portable’s display.

Setup appeared to be quick and simple without the need for software to be installed; Windows 8 has all the necessary drivers for the Touch Pen. Just clamp the small receiver to the notebook’s display bezel and plugged in the USB connector. Initially, some calibration was needed for accurate input. Plugging in the receiver popped up a previously unlisted control panel tool and a calibrate button steps you through the calibration process. It looked easy.

The next item to catch my attention was what I would normally class as a gadget that, like most of the ones my wife buys, finishes up in the disposal department fairly quickly.

Believe it or not the thing is a Mouse Scanner. No it does not scan mice. It does scan whatever is underneath it and has some clever associated software to organise the scanned image snippets into the true image. Besides the normal buttons, this mouse includes a built-in 100 to 400dpi scanner. You simply press the scan button and slide the mouse over documents. As you scan, the captured images appear on screen and the software intelligently reassembles the complete image. Built-in OCR technology converts scanned text into a document you can edit in Word, Excel, or other text editor. Saved scans can be uploaded directly to Facebook, Twitter or Flickr.

The device, made by Brookstone, produces surprisingly good scans that can be saved in half a dozen formats including JPG, PDF and DOC. Now that is clever and personally I would have immediate use for it.

Another curious device was AhnLab’s V3 Click driven over the Internet. Intended to be a portable security system the gadget is a glowing, hockey-puck–sized box with a big button on the top. It guards PCs against various security threats, signaling whether your PC is safe or under attack. The top glows a bright green if all is well, red if it detects a potential threat and blue if it’s scanning for threats.

The device plugs into a USB port and doubles as a two-port hub. Connect it to your system and the V3 Click loads its antivirus client. It then goes to work in the background, checking for resident viruses, malware or rootkits.

The Click is unusual in that its AV software remains on the box; you can, one at a time, plug it into as many systems as you want. I don’t think I would use it at home but would find it very useful for public PCs in cafés and libraries and at no additional charge. If you insert a USB flash drive into one of the Click’s two ports, it scans the drive for threats before you can access its contents.

There were thousands of devices on display including an immersible phone and a strong presence of technology out of mainland China. There were just too many items to mention. It did prove that technology was moving ahead at an incredible pace which supports the idea that what one buys today is already out of date.

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