If you love tech gadgets -- and who doesn't? -- all sorts were on display at the Churchill Club's annual gadget fest this week in Santa Clara. Devices included a collar that tracks your dog's daily exercise, a fork that vibrates when you've eaten too much and a basketball filled with sensors. Professional, portable movie cameras and military-grade thermal imaging devices are also making their way into hands of consumers.
While many gadgets were making their debut, others had already made their rounds in the press, such as Google's Chromecast for marrying the Web to the television, 3D scanners, bulky $600 glasses that create an enclosed theatre similar to watching a 70- to 80-inch television screen.
[Related: 8 Most Interesting Tech Gadgets of 2013]
AllThingsD's Walt Mossberg showed off a Bluetooth glucose meter reader for diabetics, a $150 leather handbag that charges your phone and the Jot pen, which lets users write on plain paper and transfers the writings or scribblings to a tablet. In Mossberg's presentation, the pen didn't work so well, and his colleague, Kara Swisher, questioned the practicality of the product.
"Who would use it?" she asked.
Indeed, a few of the gadgets seemed a little odd.
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There was a device that looked like an old CB walkie-talkie you'd stick under a person's armpit to measure toxic chemicals in the body, such as fire retardant. Another large device was a thermal imaging device that could look through walls (yeah, no privacy concerns there). The device is similar to the one used by the Boston Police Department to find the marathon bomber hiding under a tarp in a boat.
In the world of the Internet of things, a high-tech egg carton connects to a smartphone letting you know how many eggs remain when out you're out grocery shopping. The carton also indicates which eggs are the oldest and need to be used first.
The Gadget Man Can
Enter Greg Harper, president of Harpervision Associates, the gadget man. Like Santa Claus for gadget lovers, he brought a bounty of products to please everyone.
[Related: How the 'Modern Man' Will Wear Technology]
For espionage enthusiasts, there was a camera lens that could attach to a smartphone for taking pictures, as well as detach and be remotely controlled by the smartphone (think: hidden camera).
For athletes, basketballs and soccer balls have sensors that give feedback to players, such as ball speed and rotation, in order for them to improve their techniques. Some European sports teams are putting sensors into jerseys and football helmets to count and measure the impact of collisions, in hopes of avoiding concussions and other injuries by taking out at-risk players.
For audiophiles, Harper showed off wireless speakers that are great for airplane trips because they cancel out the noise of the engine, although quality of sound suffers with noise cancellation headphones, he says. Harper brought out super small wireless speakers with good sound and plush stuffed animals that danced as music played.
For kids, games are merging the physical world with the virtual one. Playing off the Hunger Games phenomenon, Swisher showed a bow and arrow with a smartphone attached to it. Kids can run around physically and shoot each other virtually. Harper showed two miniature cars that run around a racetrack controlled by smartphones. The app lets kids arm their cars with all sorts of virtual weapons and can fire at each other.
There was even something for reporters. Harper showed a Sony digital sound and video recorder that fits into a shirt pocket. The gadget captures great audio and video; most devices either do one or the other or don't do both equally well. It would be perfect for the multi-media journalist.
"I want one of those," Swisher says.
Tom Kaneshige covers Apple, BYOD and Consumerization of IT for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. Email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org
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