While the pundits were relatively correct in pronouncing the death of CES, and trade shows in general, those who didn’t make it out to this year’s trade show really missed out on what was probably the top show in the last 3 years.

In truth, it’s really difficult to go to CES every year, and expect to see something new each time. I just don’t think that the industry moves that quickly. This is also why most feel that Apple pulled out of its relationship with the MacWorld conference. It’s just too hard to come out with something amazing year-in, year-out on such a tight schedule. However, the benefit of going every year is that you really start to notice when amazing, cool things are coming down the pipe. Case in point, when I met up with fellow NCSU classmates Jordan O’Mara and Win Bassett a few years back, they had discovered a game called “Guitar Hero” which they immediately fell in love with. The rest, as they say, is history!

What were this year’s gems?

I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t get to spend as much time at the trade show as I would have liked, and so I’m sure I missed a lot of stuff. With that disclaimer, here are some of the really cool technologies which I saw that I think will make big splashes in the years ahead.

These guys aren’t a technology, but instead a way to make your
technology look good. I think it’s really interesting that everyone has
the exact same computer, and that there isn’t a larger push by the
masses to be unique. Are unified, recognizable computers the “uniform”
of this generation? Is the thought that I can’t make myself different
or everyone won’t know that I have a Mac, and that makes me cool? Lame.
Anyway, these guys had some really good computer covers, iPod holders,
etc. for all of your digital gear.

  • Microprojectors

This was by far and away the coolest thing that I saw. The days of clunky, A/V club driven projectors seems to have come to an end. The quality was good, but not great, but yet the thought that the full projector get up can be miniaturized to the point where it will fit into your backpack just seems awesome to me. I was most impressed by 3M’s product, though there were some Asian companies which had products that seemed to be close in the race. The main features to look for are

  • Luminance
  • Battery Life
  • Size

And for some pretty obvious reasons, size really matters in this regard! My prediction is that within 3-5 years this technology will be embedded into your smart phone, and you will simply bring your presentations/movies to class, work, community theater, and project away.

A really cool, though still somewhat gimmicky, technology which I discovered was 3-D television. It was quite spectacular to see some technologies created in real time (which is what Sony was doing), and other companies such as TDV Technologies using the glasses, also real time, and providing an out of TV experience. I’m not really quite sure what the use case is today, but I’m imagining a scenario where I can walk into the 3D projection from my screen and watch as Shawne Merriman breaks through the line, and turn around and watch him sack Peyton Manning. That, I would buy.

  • NetBook Computers

The Intel booth was highlighted by the rise of NetBook computers and their ATOM processor. I think that the ultimate goal for NetBooks is truly having a portable document, e-mail, and basic browsing machine for situations, such as travel, where you probably aren’t doing truly intensive work. I’m just not convinced that it’s for me as the machine I have already does quite poorly when I try to get work done. Nonetheless, everything seems to be included (optical drives, webcam, and the standard array of USB slots). Also, you can’t disagree with the argument that you’re paying for exactly what you’re getting, and so I see the value for the heavy traveler.

This was just really, really cool. I took a photo of this because I almost couldn’t believe it. The focus of Gravitonus seems to be accessibility, but they’ve also made quite the fashion statement when it comes to “Pimping My Workstation”. Check out the photo, and the link, but I think as ergonomics becomes a bigger, and bigger, issue in the technology workplace these out of the box approaches will become more and more popular. I’m not quite sure what the pricing is, but that’s probably the limiting factor right now. Nonetheless, this ranked extremely highly on my coolness radar at CES 2009 this year.

  • OLED Technology

The OLED technology which was in the Sony TVs was unbelievable. The colors are ridiculous, and they could be the thinnest monitor-like device I’ve ever seen. Just a few years ago, the push amongst the TV Manufacturers was size of the screen, contrast, true 1080p, and now it seems to be thinness, as this was on display in many places. However, the OLED screens at Sony were hands the ones I found to be the most unbelievable. The width of my thumb was probably 4x wider than the entire television. Just awesome!