You can’t be a nerd and not have some interest in the latest technology. This past week in New York City, CE Week
happened (the consumer electronics mid-year convention), showcasing the latest tech across multiple markets. Ranging from big-name companies to small start-ups, 2014 marked my first year attending this show, and it may have become one of my favorite industry conventions of the year.
Located at the Metropolitan Pavilion and Altman Buildings on West 18th street in Manhattan, I set my eyes on electronics related to smartphones, computers, cameras, audiovisual devices, games, toys, accessories, and tons of other things that were both exciting and a grim reminder of the impending robot takeover. Over 180 attendees from around the world showed up, and while I did not get a chance to talk with every single booth there, I talked to more than half of the exhibitors in attendance, so here is quick rundown of some of the favorite stuff that I saw, and a few duds as well. Take a look and embrace your inner geek!
Olloclip – I reviewed the Olloclip for another site about two years ago, and after that I liked it so much that I ended up buying two more to give out to friends. The Olloclip is a highly affordable lens adapter for iPhones and now iPads that gives you four lens in one attachment. Easy to snap onto your smartphone, the classic Olloclip offers you the ability to shoot through a fisheye lens, wide-angle lens, and both a 10x and 15x macro lens.
The only problem I ever had with the Olloclip was how easy it was to lose it, since everyone I know who has one lost in after not too long. The Olloclip currently comes with a small pouch to put the lens in, but it’s so small that it does little to help. The company showed me they are developing a new larger pouch with zippers that looks promising and should definitely solve the issue of misplacing the lenses like I have in the past.
The company also has an amazing telephoto lens that doubles the optical zoom of your iPhone, and still allows you to use the digital zoom as well to give you a high-quality zoom that has not been possible at this price point before. The iPhone and iPad 4-in-1 lens costs $70 while the telephoto lens costs $100, and was one of my favorite smartphone products before this expo, and continues to be one of them today.
Mimoco – We have reviewed Mimoco products before, and I am personally a big fan and collector of their USB flash drives and other products. At this show, Mimoco unveiled their Mimo Power Bots, a rechargeable backup battery for all tablets and mobile devices. The company has a few different styles including their own original designs and licensed characters like Darth Vader and R2-D2 from “Star Wars” and Finn and BMO from “Adventure Time”. You can currently pre-order these and get a discount of $10 from these already well-priced chargers on their official site (licensed characters cost $60 each, and original characters cost $50).
Also on display was the Mimo Power Tube, a designer rechargeable backup battery “with personality”. These chargers are a little bigger than the average glue stick, making them very portable, as well as stylish with very cool designs. We got one of these so expect a review soon, but my early thoughts are very positive on them. I also got a world exclusive first look at some future designs for the power tubes, and I am not allowed to tell you anything other than that. All I can really say is that they will be a hot item when they come out in the fall (hopefully in time for NY Comic Con).
Bell’o Digital Headphones – Bell’o Digital has been in business for over 25 years, making high-quality audiovisual gear at economic prices. I had the opportunity to try several of their headphones and was quickly impressed with their audio quality, and then blow away after I heard the absurdly low prices. Ranging from basic earbuds to high-end headphones meant for editing and professional music production, this company stood out from the rest at the show for having excellently designed gear with amazing audio integrity.
I tried a few of their different headphones, and all were very comfortable to wear, featuring a 24K Gold-plated plug that is removable and replaceable (a great feature since that is what always breaks first on my headphones) that features a controller for your music playing device, lightweight, and they just sound great. The company also unveiled their BDH851 line, which is the higher end headphones that include changeable covers for the ear pieces and hi-def sound great for audio mixing as well as jamming out to some tunes. There were a lot of good headphone companies at CE Week, but Bell’o had the best priced models that did not skimp on sound quality. I got a pair of their BDH821 headphones to review, so stay tuned for that as I go more in-depth on just how good this fairly-priced headgear was.
Rocki – One of the products that got me very excited was the Rocki, which reminded me of a Rupee from the Legend of Zelda. The ROCKI is a portable and rechargeable wireless speaker that fits in the palm of your hand, and lets you stream music wherever you go.
By connecting a Rocki to your average pair of speakers, you then connect on the Rocki app, and can stream music anywhere you want. Very well-designed both internally and externally, this tiny speaker (which lasts four hours on one charge) costs a mere $50, and offers a mountain of versatility and customization to your music. With one Rocki, friends can download the free app to connect to your Rocki at parties and play their music from their devices without physically connecting to your device. A cost-efficient cloud speaker that looks great, the Rocki is going to be a force to be reckoned with for music lovers that they will not want to be left out of.
Gunnar Computer & Gaming eyewear – Hardcore gamers may notice that after late-night binge gaming, they might have some trouble falling asleep. The same goes for TV watching or computer viewing, due to the light that these screens emit which mess with your sleeping patterns, as well as causing your eyes to feel fatigued and worn out. Along came Gunnars, who have developed eyewear to help solve those issues.
Available in general lens like sunglasses, as well as prescription specific, Gunnars are fashionable eyewear for people that spend a lot of time in front of a screen. Comfortable to wear (indoors and out), these are not some cheap plastic glasses with a tint to them. Durable, scratch-resistant, stylish, anti-reflective, and offering the ability to filter artificial light and improve constrast, Gunnars are very useful glasses across the spectrum. They also come available in sunglass form for viewing digital screens outdoors, as well as glasses made for graphic designers and digital artists who need to see true color rather than one altered on a screen. I got a pair of these and will be reviewing them soon, but my initial reaction from the show was very positive and I look forward to giving them a serious test.
Ztylus Revolver Lens Kit – One of my new favorites from CE Week, was the Ztylus Revolver Lens Kit. This smartphone case/attachment does what the Olloclip does, but offers the additional protection of a case that also keeps your lenses in one easy to find place.
Resembling an actual film camera once you attach it to your phone, the revolver easily snaps on and off and offers you four different lens for your camera. The case, which is made from polycarbonate and aluminum, includes a kickstand for hands free shooting and better stabilization when using it, and gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of using it. Whether you are shooting macro, wide angle, or fish eye, this gorgeous lens & case makes quite a statement and works like a charm.
The company also showed off a new hotshoe attachment for DSLR’s, which is an innovative screen cleaner that is meant for wiping off the dirt and oil on camera LCD monitors, as well as computer screens, smartphones, and televisions. I fell in love with the Ztylus revolver lens kit when I saw it and highly recommend checking this product out.
Steadicam Smoothee & Curve – Created by trusted camera accessory manufacturer, Tiffen, the company has now released a Steadicam accessory for iPhones and GoPro cameras. This is one item I can not wait to get and try out myself, as I got to try it out at the booth and immediately wanted to bring this to an MMA gym and see how it worked.
Making an affordable steadicam for a GoPro is something I can get behind, and this accessory, which comes in two types (one that is for only GoPro and the other for both iPhone and GoPro cameras), utilize a counterweight system to stabilize and balance the camera while in motion, eliminating shakes from the human hand while you film. It also has a quick release mount to easily remove and put it onto the stabilizer, which also can double as a stand or be mounted to your standard tripod. This is a product I have been waiting for and my limited time with at the booth was very positive, so much that the booth rep had to wrestle it out of my hands as I tried to run away with it. This is a tool that filmmakers should definitely look into if they use GoPro’s, as it adds a big boost to creating great looking footage at a high level without an expensive rig.
iStick – Finally, a USB flash drive for iPhones and iPads! The iStick was recently funded through kickstarter, with a goal of $100,000 that was met and reached over $1.1 million by the time the fundraising period concluded.
Available in three colors (silver, gray, and gold), the iStick allows you to transfer data seamlessly through computers, smartphones, and tablets without using internet or wifi where hackers could have a chance to nab your info. This tiny storage device works with both PC and Mac, and also comes with a universal music & movie player, photo & document viewer, easy file management, and is generally super easy to use. The iStick will come in sizes starting at 8 gigs, with the largest at 128 gigs, and starts at $129 for the smallest size.
Margaritaville Audio Headphones from MTX – Combining great audio with the power of Cheeseburgers in Paradise, MTX has partnered with Jimmy Buffett to release a designer line of headphones and ear buds. MTX, who has been a notable sponsor of UFC fighters in the past as well as other extreme sports, is going the more laid-back route this time with these colorful headphones.
Compatible with iPhones 3G and newer, as well as iPads and iPods, the headphones feature a device on the wire to let you play, pause, and cycle through your songs, as well as a bass driver in each ear to pump up the volume when you are rocking out. Extremely plush and comfy to wear, the coolest feature about these is that they come with a plughole in the opposite ear that allows your friend to plug their headphones into yours so you can listen to the same music on the same device at the same time! The large headphones, which come in some crazy tropical colors including the ones above that look like Shinya Aoki’s famous rainbow tights, will cost $200-250, and the buds will run you $100-130.
iLuv Selfy – Innovating on the trend of “selfie” photos around social media, iLuv has created the Selfy. This smartphone case doubles as an easier way to shoot a selfie wherever you are, which features a bluetooth remote camera shutter (which was cropped out of the photo to the left). This controller slides into the groove you see in the picture easily, and allows you to press the button to take the selfie, eliminating the awkwardness of your hand placement when you shoot the pic.
The Selfy also has a bunch of attachments, including a mini-tripod with flexible legs, a tripod head to sit on full-sized tripods, a strap for bicycle helmets, a suction cup powered car mount, and a few other mounts which all cost $20 each. The Selfy is available for iPhones and Galaxy phones, as well as iPads, with the smartphone versions costing $50, and the iPad mini costing 70 and iPad Air for $80.
Laundry Puppy – One of the smaller (but rapidly growing) start-ups that was at the show was “Laundry Puppy”, a company with a cute name that offers a valuable service. Laundry Puppy allows you to simply a text the word “Pickup” to them, and they send a local credited cleaner on their way to pick up your dirty laundry to be taken care of for you (which they have all ran background checks on before having them join their group).
This free to use service is currently invite only as they continue to grow and test things, so if you live in the five boroughs of NYC and parts of New Jersey, you can give them a try. They also plan on moving into other areas later this year, so keep your eyes on “Laundry Puppy” and let’s see how they transform a heap of messy clothes into a business.
Miggo – My friends gave me the heads-up on this company since they thought it would be something I was interested. Alas, it was not meant for me, but might be useful to other people. With the tagline of a “Camera’s best amigo”, Miggo makes camera straps that double as a protective wrap for your DSLR. This means you can wrap your camera up to protect it when its in your backpack or bag, and when you take it out to use it, you can unwrap it and it doubles as a comfortable camera strap around your neck.
I definitely like the comfort and protection it offers, but it does not do much for anyone using a higher-end camera. Made for mid-size DSLR’s or smaller point-and-shoot cameras, it does the job for those but would not fit a Canon 5D for example, or cameras in that size, so professionals are left in the dust. It’s a cool product for mid-level shooters, but offers nothing for pros.
FOREO electric toothbruses – Swedish-based FOREO recently launched a skincare line called LUNA, and are now expanding into the dental world with the ISSA. This electric toothbrush uses a nonabrasive, ultra-hygenic soft silicone bristle area that attaches onto the electric base to offer superior flexibility while cleaning your teeth and massaging your gums.
The design of this product looks a bit… “adult” in nature, especially with the color palette they chose, and the reps at CE even joked about that a bit, but once you actually saw the toothbrush in action, you forgot about any snide remarks you wanted to make about vibrators. The rechargeable battery gets a big enough charge to last you a year without needing to be charged again, and the silicone material is super quick to dry and helps reduce bacteria that would grow on your average toothbrush. It’s a fairly expensive product, costing around $200, but it’s a toothbrush that is meant to last for years instead of the plastic one you replace every six months.
Whoosh! Screen Cleaners – While walking around CE, I got a live demo of Whoosh! My iPhone and the Otter case I house it in have been through a lot, and the screen is a mess of dust, lint, natural oils, and God knows what else. Whoosh offers an affordable solution to cleaning off your smartphone and it actually works!
Squirt the sprayer, which comes in two sizes, onto your smartphone, tablet, computer screen or TV with their clear and odorless magical potion, and use the anti-microbial, microfiber clean cloth to first wipe the screen, then flip that over to use the other side to polish it. Moments later, all the bacteria and filth on your screen is gone, and you will instantly feel the difference as your smartphone screen suddenly operates smoother and faster than it did before. Starting at $6 for a 0.3 ounce bottle and cloth that holds about 100 sprays, this is a very useful accessory that is priced perfectly, and a great solution to a problem that nearly everyone has.
“Pencil” by 53 – The aptly named “Pencil” from 53 is exactly what it sounds like, but more. A digital pencil that connects with their app, conveniently called “Paper” to let you channel your inner artist on your tablet devices. The Pencil, which has a removable tip and eraser (for replacements and potentially new tips and other attachments), connects via bluetooth to iPads 3 and newer, costing $75 for a fun and attractive digital drawing tool.
Their app, “Paper”, allows you to draw, ink, or paint using a totally customizable palette of colors and brushes to create art that you can save, share, export, and even print out on paper into a customized book. I use a Wacom as my man digital drawing tool, but the Pencil has an organic feel that I liked using and want to definitely get my hands on to try some more. At the event, Georg Petschnigg, CEO of FiftyThree, announced that the pencil would be gaining pressure sensitivity, making it much more useful to serious creators and putting it closer in line to compete with other products similar to them. I look forward to the company continuing to develop further on the idea, and continuing to expand into a more professional direction with more tools in their clever app.
“MiP” from WowWee – Have you ever wanted the robot from Rocky 4? You know, the one that came at the beginning of the movie to say “Happy birthday, Paulie!”, and was then somehow reprogrammed by the fat slob to have a female voice, and then who knows what happened with those two after that? Yeah, how could you forget. Anyway, here’s a really cool robot toy that reminded me of that, without the awful implications of how Paulie may have defiled his cybernetic counterpart.
MiP is controlled via a free app on your smartphone, and is able to roll around with your commands from the device as well as hand motions, or it can move autonomously on its own. This robot toy can dance, drive, make sounds, stack, fight, hold objects without falling over, and play a variety of games on it – all for around $100. One of the coolest parts about this particular toy is that it can easily be hacked to create new games and functions, giving this a big boost in terms of playability. This little guy costs $100, a very fair price for a robotic electronic toy, and was a lot of fun to play with at the show.
SLXTREME Solar Cases – Another product I really liked that is taking smartphones to the next level was the SLXtreme Solar Case from Snow Lizard. Designed for iPad 4 and iPhone 4 and 5, this very rugged case is also a portable charger, waterproof and designed to keep your phone safe in hostile environments and use the battery more effectively.
Available in solid colors as well as camouflage, this case has been dropped out of buildings and survived unscathed, while also being able to be dunked into six feet of water and still be able to operate. The best feature of this is the solar panel on the back which lets it stay constantly charged using nature, and also has different accessories to allow you to mount the phone to different objects (including yourself). This easy to use polycarbonate case (which is practically bullet-resistant, but I would not recommend testing that out) costs around $150 for the iPhone 5 case and $200 for an iPad 4 case.
A-Audio Headphones – Based out of Miami, Florida, A-Audio brings innovation in look and function with their high-end headphones. These bluetooth noise-canceling headphones were made for playing music the right way, using noise-isolating technology that allows you to change how the device operates by flicking a switch on one of the earpieces to modify the amount of bass and sound depending on the music you are listening to. Extremely comfortable to wear with solid construction, the headphones have rich tones that make listening to music an immersive experience.
The designs look like an expensive Italian wristwatch, classy and stylish, and uses gold plating and a control panel located in the right ear for hands-free functionality. With a lifespan of 12 hours on one battery charge, these are priced starting at $200 and go as high as nearly $400, and were made with the serious music lover or DJ in mind.
Pocket Tripod – Everything you need to know about this item comes from its tagline – “The world’s first 360 degree articulating iPhone stand that fits in your wallet”!. The image shown here demonstrates some of the flexibility of the Pocket Tripod, which conveniently folds up lickety-split to put in your pocket or wallet for safe keeping.
This ultra-thin smartphone holder, which is no thicker than two credit cards sandwiched together, can be used both vertically and horizontally, and can turn angles to move in any direction you want it to be in. With custom-designed hinges and locks to keep the tripod and your phone in place, this nifty accessory costs $25 and was built to last.
“GameSmart” Mobile Gaming Devices from Mad Catz – Last but definitely not least, Mad Catz was in the house with their “GameSmart” line of gear. I have known Mad Catz for a long time (if you are a serious gamer and are not familiar with the brand, we need to have a talk). The company was at CE Week in full force, displaying a bunch of new tech for PC, Mac, and Smart devices including tablets and phones.
From their super thin and lightweight S.T.R.I.K.E. wireless keyboard, to their F.R.E.Q. headsets with amazing live-sound capabilities, Mad Catz knows what gamers want and how to deliver high-quality products that meet and exceed those needs. I really liked their R.A.T. wireless mouse, which looks like a Transformer and practically is one with how it operates. This tiny mouse has an adjustable palm rest with a dozen action buttons, and their M.O.U.S. version is able to operate on any surface, including glass, making PC gaming that much easier to do.
I was very interested in their C.T.R.L. gamepad, which you see in the picture above for Androids and another version for iPhones, this controller makes it much easier to play games on your smartphone, offering pressure sensitivity with the controller and removing the element of fingers blocking and scuffing the screen. I also liked checking out the M.O.J.O., the company’s version of a micro-console that connects with Androids to bring the mobile experience onto big screens. The M.O.J.O. works with all of the Mad Catz GameSmart products for one complete Android experience, including gaming, writing, surfing the web, streaming videos, and anything else you could want.
So that was CE Week in a nutshell for me! I could not talk with everyone, but this is what I personally saw that caught my attention, and I am genuinely looking forward to coming back again for more next year!