Page last updated at 18:01 GMT, Saturday, 10 January 2009

Gaming gadgets 'rock' at CES 2009

By Zara Rabinowicz
Shiny Media


Shiny Shiny's Zara Rabinowicz elevates a ball using her brainwaves at the CES tech show.

Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2009 was a confusing mix of identikit products, each aiming to beat each other in terms of weight, size and performance - yes, I'm talking about all those netbooks.

Also on hand were the big boys - Samsung, Toshiba, Panasonic and others - trying to rule the roost in terms of integrated web TV.

On the other hand I saw a rise in the number of gaming gadgets being released, as this is one area that seems to have missed the economic downturn that has hit other products.

Vibrating feedback

Perhaps it is the Xbox price drop that has helped, or the fact that consumers are tending to stay in more, but the plethora of options for gamers was very impressive.

They ranged from interesting console add-ons like the Sure Shot Rifle for the Wii (from CTA Digital) which can be dis-assembled into three types of guns, or the Cooking Mama Wii add-on, which contains a variety of kitchen utensils, from the Wii spatula to the Wii-frying pan. Hey, cooking a virtual egg isn't easy, okay?

On the Xbox side, you can look forward to more gaming chairs with integrated sound systems and 2.1 audio with vibrations feedback set as standard.

Seal shield keyboard in dishwasher
You can put the Seal Shield keyboard through the dishwasher

I was particularly enthused by the XRocker Thunder, a gaming platform that you stand on while playing Guitar Hero as it actually vibrates with every note you play, increasing your enjoyment no end.

This neatly segues us into high end gaming devices, such as the Emperor Workstation.

It was a very impressive piece of kit - well for $40,000 you'd expect it to be da bomb, right?

Fully customisable with the kind of seating you get on Virgin's First Class, this featured three 19in LCD screens with surround sound, so you can totally immerse yourself in whatever game you choose.

Add to this an integrated air filter system and the option to change the colour of the LED panels and you'll never want to leave its cosy confines.

Should this be a little out of your budget, don't worry as CES 2009 saw a proliferation in mini games - small cheap plug 'n' play devices that will offer a few hours of fun, but be much kinder on the pockets.

'Telekinesis powers'

The Riff Rocker was one such game, where for $14.99 you got miniature Guitar Hero controller that can be plugged straight into any computer.

Immediately it opens a web page and downloads the open source Frets of Fire.

I was also extremely enamoured with the Mindflex from Mattel, a bizarre game that aped the telekinesis powers we're accustomed to seeing in movies not real life.

Using theta mind waves you control the height of a sponge ball and move it around a track.

The ball is placed over a fan which reacts to your level of concentration via the headset that you wear, and the idea is that the harder you think, the higher it rises.

The Mindflex has to be the ultimate gadget of the show, which is no surprise, seeing as the kids section outperformed every other area in levels of interest and innovation.

You can look forward to child friendly RFID readers in the new year, new digitalised landscapes and even specific game programs to teach children web design.

The gamebag
The gamebag is a child's seat that has speakers built in

Microsoft has got in on the act, which was highlighted in its keynote speech. It is adding Kodu software to the Xbox which trains young people to be game designers and engineers, via the medium of a LittleBigPlanet lookey-likey interface.

Kodu aims to let would-be designers express themselves in physical terms, using concepts like vision, hearing and time to control all aspects of their amateur game creations.

Once you've designed your game you may find your keyboard looking slightly worse for wear, as hours of brainstorming and spilling Cola, won't have done it any favours.

So why not wash it? In the dishwasher? Saving hours of toil with a fiddly key separator.

Think I'm joking? You'd be wrong. Seal Shield has released a selection of 100% waterproof keyboards, remote controls and mice which are 100% dishwasher safe and have an antimicrobial coating to keep them squeaky clean.

There are so many gadgets offerings on display that it's hard to give even the briefest of overviews without feeling like you're doing a disservice to some of the wonderful products out there.

As a general snapshot, it seems clear that gaming gadgets are the way forward for 2009 - and with kids getting in on the act from an early age, we can predict that these advances are going to accelerate quickly.

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