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Last Updated: Monday, 10 January, 2005, 10:19 GMT
'Best in show' at the CES tech fair
By Jo Twist
BBC News technology reporter, in Las Vegas

With thousands of new technologies jostling for attention at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the choice for gadgets lovers is overwhelming.

Everything from strange exercise equipment which requires the use of your entire body, to the largest plasma screen in the world which towers at 102 inches (2.6 metre), was on show.

The BBC News website highlights a small selection of the products which caught the eye as the tech fair packs up for another year.

KODAK EASYSHARE 1

Kodak camera
Kodak mix photos with wi-fi technology
This sleek, silver-encased camera reflects one of the main themes of this year's show - the ability to share multimedia content much more easily.

It has wi-fi built into it so that once a picture has been taken, it can be e-mailed anywhere without the need for wires, a PC or any other device.

"This is built for women," said Kodak's Mary-Irene Marek. "We researched women all around the world and they told us they wanted a product that took good pictures, but that was not a phone."

The emphasis on performance as well as design reflects that changing stereotype that women just want their gadgets to look pretty.

It opens up with a flip, not only to protect the camera in a handbag, but also to provide a large, three-inch LCD touch screen with a straightforward interface.

It has a 3x optical zoom, and a four mega pixel image sensor, 256Mb in-built memory, an SD memory card, and three hours' of battery life.

It also talks wirelessly with Kodak's printer dock, and takes 30 frames a second worth of VGA video, which can also be e-mailed wirelessly to others, or to Kodak's online Easyshare service.

The camera comes out worldwide in June and won the G4tech prize in the digital imaging category at the show.

PLANTRONICS SKYPE HEADSETSs

Skype, a service which allows people to make free or cheap phone calls over their broadband connection, is an example of a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) service that has grown in popularity as more people get high-speed internet access.

Plantronics has designed the CS50 USB noise-cancelling headset to complement VoIP.

The headset has eight hours talk time and is just about to hit the shops.

"VoIP is a technology that is really coming into its own," said Plantronics' David Jones.

"It is moving into its pre-teen years in terms of acceptance. The quality and reliability has gone through the roof now."

"In audio technology, a key component is to have devices that convert from analogue to digital and back again to analogue. You also don't want an echo."

GARMIN STREETPILOT C330

StreetPilot
In-car navigation systems are increasingly popular
Gadgets that work in the car, whether they are fully integrated audio and DVD/video systems, or simply the latest in handsfree technology had a much greater emphasis at this year's CES.

The car space is being seen as just as important for technology as the living room.

But in-car GPS satellite systems are quickly improving too and are growing in popularity.

Garmin's StreetPilot C330 has a built-in 2GB hard drive and comes with thousands of pre-loaded and updatable maps.

The interface of the device looks very easy to use, and has large colourful icons on a touch screen display.

Drivers select the category of place they want to find, selecting the eating icon for example. It then displays types of restaurants, such Chinese, which the user selects.

It then reads out the directions. The 3.5 inch display also gives drivers 3D or birds'-eye view map options.

The C330 comes out in May in the UK.

CREATIVE ZEN MICRO PHOTO

Creative media player
Creative's media players rival the Apple iPod
Creative Labs' latest addition to its digital music family to rival Apple's iPod is a colour display version which can store photos.

It comes with 5GB of memory on board, and has an FM radio and voice recording.

It can store up to 6,000 images, uploaded via a USB connection, about 1,500 songs and has an easy-to use touch sensitive navigation system.

The difference between Creative's offering and Apple's photo iPod is the display. It has an OLED display instead of Apple iPod photo's TFT.

OLED gives sharper images, which is important on what is quite a small display at 1.5 inches (3.8 cm).

Like its predecessor, the Creative Zen Micro, the players come in an array of bold colours.

"The original inspiration for the design came from Asian porcelain bowls so you get this rounded shape," said Lisa O'Malley, Creative Zen brand manager.

The look and feel is a key aspect of the product, she said.

It comes out this summer and won the G4tech best in show in the digital music category.

MSI MEGA VIEW 566 PORTABLE MEDIA PLAYER

X2 media player
Video and fashion on the move
Recent research by the Consumer Electronics Association, organiser of CES, has suggested that women make up 57% of the consumer electronics market.

Women want good performance, no fuss, and stylish design in their products, research suggests, and also like to be able to personalise and customise their gadgets to fit in with their lives.

"Women are an important customer of computers and electronics today yet very few companies directly address their needs head-on," said Rex Wong, MSI chief.

MSI's Mega View, which made its fashion statement debut at the show, is a lightweight Linux-based device which plays and records in MPEG4 from any video source.

It also plays MP3/Windows Media music files and stores photos.

It also plays DivX video and claims to be the first portable media centre that is certified for the video format.

It comes with 20GB on-board, and has an SD card slot. The display is a good-sized 3.5-inch (8.9 cm) TFT LCD.

The face plates can be removed and swapped from grey to pink, red, and other colours.

It comes out in the UK at the end of the first quarter of this year. It was a finalist in the G4Tech video-to-go category.

SAMSUNG TX-R3079WH HDTV

Samsung TV
Samsung have reduced the size of CRT TVs
High-definition TVs are fast becoming the must-have technologies in the living room, and with programming in the format fast catching up with demand, high-definition is set to transform how people watch the box.

In Europe, there is a lack of broadcasts in the format, as issues of standards start to be ironed out, but gaming in high-definition could well drive demand for the sets.

High-definition offers extremely high-quality, 3D-like images. But the sets, which are usually plasma LCD based, are still expensive.

Samsung though has developed a new technique to create high-definition CRT (cathode ray tube) sets which are a third thinner at the back end than conventional CRT sets.

This also means that the sets are about a third of the price of plasma screens.

The CRT HDTV is aimed at people who are nervous of spending so much on a technology, like plasma, that has been criticised for "screen burn" - when a mark from a static image is left etched in the screen.

"People trust CRT technology and are comfortable with it - many are still scared of plasma or LCD because of screen burn. We are still educating the public though," said Samsung's Genevieve Cosen.

The set is due out in June this year and was an innovation in engineering and design award winner at this year's show.




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