Tomorrow’s Gadgets Today: CES Day Two

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How low tech can high tech get? Check out this soft rubber thingy – I have absolutely no idea what to call it – that amplifies the audio from an iPhone. There are no batteries or moving parts; it just funnels sound though a small rubber horn, easily doubling the phone’s volume.  That’s one of the many “goodies” crowding my backpack from a day of wandering the Consumer Electronics Show.

Why did I take it? Well, there were a stack of them, and I simply had to know if it worked as advertised. It kinda did.

Thankfully, there was a lot of high tech at CES today as well. What kind of awesome tech did I see ? Let me walk you through the good stuff.

Let’s start with credit cards. How would you like a credit card that offered several rewards programs – like cash back and discounted gasoline – that you could switch between at the time of purchase? That’s what you get from Dynamics, a company partnering with UMB and other banks to offer a credit card with integrated electronics. Press a button that’s built right into the card to choose the benefit you want before you swipe it.

Are you familiar with the Parrott AR Drone? It’s a remote-controlled quadracopter that doesn’t come with a remote – you control it via your iPhone, iPad, or Android device. That’s it in the photo, flying in the middle of the exhib floor. The AR Drone has been around a while, but Parrott has rolled out a GPS receiver that plugs into the USB port above the battery. No price yet, but you can add it to your AR Drone this spring.

Yesterday I told you about the remote controlled ball Spheros; today I have a toy that’s even better. Combat Creatures is the robot toy I wanted when I was a kid, and now it’s real. Imagine an army of robot spiders that actually shoot soft projectiles at each other. Make a direct hit to disable your opponent, but the projectiles (darts and spinning discs) can’t hurt people or break anything. This might be the absolute coolest toy ever.

And speaking of robots, how about an educational robot toy that’s appropriate for both kids and adults alike? Cubelets are building blocks that magnetically snap together to become robots. There are 16 kinds of cubes – motors, sensors, and logic blocks – which let you or your kids turn into any kind of bot. The best part is that unlike a kit like Lego Mindstorms, there’s no programming involved: Snapping the blocks together is the programming, so you need to work out the logic of how to attach them to get them to do the task you want. They’re not cheap, though; you can get a 6-block start kit for $160.

Finally (for today), the future is here! Yesterday I told you about Nectar, a butane-powered fuel cell that recharges your electronics without batteries. Well, today I found something even more futuristic. Imagine recharging your phone or tablet not from a battery or wall power, but from a hydrogen fuel cell. The fuel cell is rechargeable hundreds of times by inserting it in the Horizon Hydrofill, which automatically extracts hydrogen from tap water. The downside: You need to invest over $350 in the system — $250 for the Hydrofill, plus $114 for the MiniPak, which contains the reusable fuel cell and USB connection for charging. I love the idea, but that’s about 10 times too much money for a system like this.

Want to see other tech gadgets introduced at CES? Check out my wrap up of day one.

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