Get past all the crowds, cab lines, celebrity spokespersons, bad food and booth babes, and the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was about nifty little gadgets -- a whole lot of nifty little gadgets that take up more show floor exhibit space than any other conference in the U.S.
Historically, one or two products emerge as the clear "winner" in terms of buzz worthiness, but that's gone away in recent years; replaced by more of an evolutionary approach to product development that stresses incremental upgrades over massive new innovation.
Tablets, for sure ... one attendee quipped that the iPad sparked "more tablets than Moses" given the dozens of the new computer devices displayed this year. Mobile phones? Yep, them too. And there was also no shortage of in-car audio systems, HDTVs with 3D, Internet-connected Blu-Ray players and little robotic vacuum cleaners.
Here are five products that caught our eye -- mostly related to music, of course.
CES can easily devolve into a lot of devices that are simply different iterations of the same thing. But the Polaroid glasses that Lady Gaga designed as part of her Grey Label line of products for the camera company certainly were something different. A camera mounted on the bridge of the oversized shades take photos of whatever the user is looking at. The lenses can display those photos outward. And a USB port on the arms allow users to download images to a computer. Probably not a mass-market item, but certainly memorable.
From Oxygen Audio comes the O'Car. It's like a car stereo with a removable face, except the iPhone is the removable face. Users just download the O'Car app to the phone and snap it in. This turns the touch screen into an AM/FM radio tuner, along with preset buttons for favorite stations. And since it ports the phone audio through the car system, any other music-streaming app is instantly accessible ... even music stored on the iPod function of the phone.
A combination of music and motion capture gameplay, Beamz is a less-than-mainstream item that it still worth mentioning as one of the more interesting music-related products hopeing to make a splash at the show. The "interactive music system" has users waving their hands through beams of light to make the device play notes. It also comes with some 50 licensed songs that let users play along to a la Guitar Hero or Rock Band.
Amid the more than 75 tablet computers that littered the show floor this year, many indistinguishable from the other, the Motorola Xoom clearly stood apart from the pack. It's the first to be powered by the new Android platform created specifically for tablet use -- dubbed Honeycomb. It's also got both WiFi and cellular wireless access via Verizon's high-speed LTE network.
Of the many phones that emerged during CES, the HTC Thunderbolt became the early favorite among the smartphone set. Designed for Verizon's new high-speed LTE network, the device has a 4.3 inch super high-res LCD screen, eight-megapixel camera, front-facing video camera with Skype video chat, and even a kickstand-like thing to prop it up for hand-free video capture.