CES 2014 is already scheduled, but everyone’s still talking about CES 2013. It was, like all of its predecessors, awesome—and confusing, too. There is s0 much to contend with, so much new tech flailing about, that you can’t see the forest for the plasma display rentals announcing, “No, look HERE, not THERE!” Fortunately, you can choose from hundreds of pundits and know-it-alls to explain it all to you, but as long as you’re here, take a minute and see what we’ve culled from the countless new thingamajigs to see where products are headed this coming year:
Oculus Rift – Star Trek‘s Holodeck is the unfulfilled fantasy of Information Age tech-lovers, and though we’ve dreamed for decades about it, an immersive, 3D, virtual reality environment is still a dream. The Oculus Rift Headset , however, is about as close to a Holodeck as we have. With the kind of pixel-packing that makes images on our iPad rental so lifelike, the Oculus Rift has a 7-inch iMAX-style wide-angle display and sensors that respond to head movements for an immersive experience. Don’t book passage to a parallel universe yet, as few titles are ready for the device, but future titles will include lifelike driving and flying simulations. The Oculus Rift should be reasonably priced, too, as accelerometers and hi-def screens are now commodity items used in a zillion mobile phones.
Razer Edge – Razer collected a whole year’s worth of feedback from its huge gaming community to come up the Edge, a PC tablet “made for, and by, gamers.” This totable PC gaming device has been customized to handle most PC games smoothly, as well as access online services like Steam—in fact, mix in Steam’s “Big Picture” option and a docking station and you can extend play to your TV. The Edge is also a stable, powerful tablet running Windows 8. When you see the price, remember to compare it to high-end laptops, not tablets. It is a bargain in that context, and among the best products from this year’s CES.
Lenovo ThinkPad Helix – This Windows 8 laptop/tablet mashup gets it right. A top-level ultrabook sporting a Core i7 CPU and as much as 256GB of solid state storage—more powerful than some desktop computer rentals—the Helix does double duty (and does it well) as a detachable tablet. On the heels of the 2011 IdeaPad Yoga, the Helix fulfills Windows 8’s promise to make powerful tablets into full-blown computer replacements. A 1080p display 11-inches in size is “business-ready” and the Helix morphs from ultra-potent ultrabook to task-toppling tablet in seconds. Hey, Microsoft: looks like you need to keep tweaking that Surface line.
Makerbot Replicator 2X – Makerbot won the “Best Emerging Tech” award at CES 2012. Despite the dramatic growth its prestigious 3D printing technology, the company is staying true to its roots as “an innovation company [whose] mission is to jumpstart the next industrial revolution,” says CEO Bre Pettis. Now all you need to be a “manufacturer” is an LCD touchscreen monitor rental, a decent computer and one of the Makerbot models. The company’s last release, the user-friendly Replicator 2, was suitable for most anyone with product design dreams, but the Replicator 2X “is for the mad scientist types out there.” The 2X starts shipping in mid-March.