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Last Updated: Friday, 5 October 2007, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
Gadgets showcased in New York
Ian Hardy
By Ian Hardy
Click's North America technology correspondent

DigitalLife is not a trade show. Its doors are open to anyone with $15 (7.50) to spare, who wants to see what will be on shop shelves in the coming months.

MagicJack works when plugged into your computer's USB port

A common theme this year was bringing previously high priced technology to the masses.

There is nothing revolutionary about Palm's Centro smartphone: it has a four-year-old operating system and has many of the same features as its cousin the Treo, but at half the price it is aimed at the wallet conscious consumer.

Making all kinds of telephone calls very cheap is the goal for several startups. There were internet telephony hubs on display that work with any analogue phone and you only pay for the unit itself, with the service free thereafter.

Calls and texts

Or you can get a much cheaper $40(20) USB dongle device that also accommodates landline handsets.

Like many net phone services, the MagicJack, which comes with its own telephone number, offers the flexibility of making and receiving calls for free wherever the device is plugged in around the world.

"Let's say you have a family member in Scotland and you live in northern California," explained MagicJack's Donald Burns.

"You could buy the MagicJack, select a northern California telephone number, mail the MagicJack to your family member in Scotland and they could have a North American phone number in Scotland and use it like they were next door at home."

Among the other eyecatching gadgets on display was a dedicated wi-fi-enabled instant messaging device primarily for home use, again low cost.

It is one way to stop teenage chit chat on the home phone and for other family members to get some time on the PC. The Zipit 2 is free, although to many adults a teenager with unlimited texting opportunities might not be such a good thing.

Frank Greer of Zipit Wireless said: "If parents don't like that they have a web page they can go to which connects to our device and they can set the time of day and days of the week when the kid can use the device.

"It's got some very nice parental controls," he added.


Robots in several dubious form factors could be found throughout the show, but thankfully a few showed some promise.

The Looj gutter cleaning robot
The Looj gutter cleaning robot was unveiled at DigitalLife

The most intriguing announcement came from iRobot, which launched a cleaning device for the gutter called Looj.

A powerful propeller is supposed to be able to remove almost anything from twigs, sludge or bird droppings.

"It's simple to use, it's wireless, you just put it in the gutter and off it goes. Very simple," said Colin Angle of iRobot.

The ConnectR robot is designed to sit with your kids and let you read to them from thousands of miles away. It has two cameras, wide angle and close range, with a microphone and speaker to allow for two way conversation.

Think of the possibilities - Daddy can play board games with the family and Grandma can play fetch with Fido from hundreds of miles away - at least that is what iRobot is marketing department thinks you will be doing.

The Spykee robot kit costs $299 (150)

Nikko's Spykee has similar features but costs a lot less and is able to take snapshots of any intruders and e-mail them via wi-fi.

One small hitch - it comes in kit form and has to be built by you so a degree in computer programming could come in handy too.

"We're leaving the programming language open so we know there are going to be some techies who are really going to have fun with this," said Jim Van Den Dyssel of Nikko.

"I'm sure there'll be all sorts of add-ons and plugins available after the product goes to market."

In the video game section, consumers were able to get an early demo of the third installment of Guitar Hero.

It turns out that pressing colour coded buttons on a plastic guitar in time with the hits is a lot of fun for a lot of people, even self-declared tone deaf non-gamers.

If moving sound and vision around your home from PC to TV is a top priority then a new line of Media Center Extenders might be of interest.

Microsoft now enables DivX movies and HD content to fly through the air using the latest variance of wi-fi.


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