LAS VEGAS — The biggest gadget trade show in the Americas wrapped up Friday in Las Vegas. This year, “wearable” computing was big, along with 3-D technologies, especially 3-D printing.
Here are some of the most notable products and services revealed at the show:
DRIVERLESS CARS: French company Induct demonstrated its Navia driverless shuttle, which putts along at 12.5 mph on a pre-programmed route. It’s intended for university campuses, airports and other locales with enclosed roads.
What about road safety? When a staffer walked slowly in front of the Navia, the vehicle slowed down, rather than coming to a full stop, because it recognized that the pedestrian ahead was moving, too.
Then there was Audi’s automated parking demonstration. With a press of a button on a smartphone app, the computer-equipped car squeezed into a tight space between two other cars. The car has multiple cameras and ultrasonic sensors, giving it a 360-degree view.
UV-SENSING WRISTBAND: The wearable computing trend has unleashed a lot of creativity. One example is a wristband with a “gemstone” that measures exposure to ultraviolet light, the kind that causes tanning and skin cancers. Using Bluetooth wireless technology, the Netatmo June sends readings to the owners’ smartphones, warning, for instance, when they’re approaching their daily limit of UV exposure. Netatmo, a French company, hopes to sell the device in the U.S. for $99, starting in the second quarter of this year.
ULTRA-HIGH-DEF NETFLIX: Netflix demonstrated ultra-high-definition, or 4K, video streaming. The company will offer relatively easy access to shows that take full advantage of the 4K TVs set to go on sale later this year.
ENVELOPING PHOTO BOOTH: At the Nikon exhibit, Los Angeles-based photographer Alexx Henry set up a small tent with 68 inward-facing, off-the-shelf Nikon cameras. When a subject steps inside the xxArray photo booth, an operator triggers the cameras simultaneously, yielding an image of the subject from all angles. Computers then process the images and create a 3-D rendition of the subject. The 3-D model can be imported into a game. So instead of playing with a generic game avatar, you might someday see yourself blasting bad guys.
SUGAR PRINTER: A company called 3D Systems showed off the ChefJet, the first restaurant-approved food printer. The device uses water to melt sugar into shapes as complicated as the mind can imagine. The booth featured a wedding cake held up by an edible lattice-work tower that would have been nearly impossible to create by other means. The ChefJet can print complex works in chocolate, too. Unfortunately, the samples the company handed out didn’t taste very good, but party planners and restaurateurs will likely be excited about the possibilities culinary 3-D printing opens up.
HEAT-SENSING IPHONE: FLIR Systems Inc., the leading maker of professional imagers that “see” heat, is bringing out its first consumer-level product: a jacket for the iPhone that contains a heat camera. Temperature differences show up in different colors on the phone’s screen. It can discern temperature differences as small as one-tenth of a degree. The FLIR One will cost $349, which compares with $995 and up for FLIR’s professional thermal imagers. Practical applications for the camera include identifying leaky insulation and moisture.
Fun applications include spotting wildlife, high-tech hide-and-seek, and crazy party pictures. (“Everyone was so hot!”)
ANKI DRIVE RACING GAME: In this very high-tech update to Scalextric slot racers, your iPhone doubles as a controller for cars that zip around on a track painted with an infrared pattern the cars see with small cameras on their undersides.
Somehow, the cars fly around without rails, unless you do something really crazy. You can shoot imaginary weapons with rapid-fire tapping on your screen, disabling cars in front of you so you can race ahead. For kids, the game is a mind-blower that could inspire them to create their own gadgets, the way Erector Sets once did.