The new year just wouldn't be as *new* without the torrential stream of tech news coming from a little hamlet in the desert known as Las Vegas.
Each year, the technorati descend on Sin City to partake in a different kind of obsession: the one of the Next Big Thing that is otherwise known as the Consumer Electronics Show.
CES premieres all kinds of gadgets from a range of industries - for example, how about a fork that vibrates when you've eaten too much? It's pretty much an orgy of techno-infused gadgetry, and as usual, travel is faithfully represented as a particular segment of the population that enjoys all kinds of indulgent-to-inspired gadgets.
Out of the 20,000+ products introduced at CES, here are Tnooz's picks as Most Compelling:
HearPlanet debuts in-car infotainment integration
HearPlanet offers audio guides of destinations and 300k points-of-interest around the world, and has announced a new potentially-watershed integration: HearPlanet audio in cars. Imagine being able to rent a car and then put on an audio tour of the city tied into the GPS. Business owners can then pitch their establishments via audio, providing background and a different perspective on choosing a business to patronize while traveling.
By packaging their product with the trends towards in-car WiFi and phones, it becomes a fantastically intelligent integration - touch-to-call reservations would be seamless, the need to divert focus from the road would be diminished and rental companies have a value-add product to sell.
Current announcements include partnerships with Aha, a unit of Harman International; Pioneer Electronics and QNX, an industry-leading supplier of infotainment systems to Tier 1s and OEMs.
Nectar Mobile Power System
This is perhaps the winner, as far as CES-gadgets-for-travelers is concerned. Imagine this: a portable power source called Nectar that allows you to go *two weeks* without plugging your gadgets into the wall. TWO WEEKS! This is going to be quite the must-have for juice-hungry travelers, especially for those either traveling light or traveling to cloudier climes that make solar chargers a no-go.
It's ingenious, both as a product and a business: users purchase the Nectar charger (MSRP: $299.99), and then insert a Nectar Pod (MSRP: $9.99) to charge. Once that's depleted, users simply insert a new pod to keep charging. Sold exclusively through Brookstone, the Nectar will be available starting in Spring 2013.
For many, the magic of having a phone in your pocket that can capture anything that happens in life has quickly been replaced by a feeling that we are beginning to miss out on actually experiencing the moment that we are so intent on capturing perfectly with photos and video.
Most folks are stuck behind the phone, with the phone covering their face as they attempt to capture the shot - they can't really see what's happening beyond the screen, and the people on the other side don't see their face.
MirrorCase has come up with a simple solution: drop a mirror into an iPhone case and use the miracle of mirrored optics to allow for video and photo capture at a horizontal plane - basically this means that you can hold the phone in your palm to point and shoot.
You can look down on the screen to frame the shot, and then actually make contact with the subject visually - without the mediating impact of the phone in between yourself and the subject.
Flexible, bendable screens have been promised for years, and 2013 looks to be the year of the first widely-available bendable-yet-functional screen. This reporter has been talking about "pocket paper" for years, pointing to the device as a way for newspapers to maintain relevancy as consumers look to have a more physical and tangible interaction with their digital devices.
Indeed, even last year, there were reports of bendable screens not showing creases after 100k folds.
While Apple has filed for a patent for "flexible displays," Samsung has been stealing the show over the past year with their OLED flexible display technology named "Youm." And with CES being a consumer electronics show, all signs point to Samsung releasing some sort of flexible-screen device in the first quarter of 2013. CES attendees were gleefully bending away on a sample 5.5 inch display with a 1,280x720-pixel HD resolution and a 267 pixel density. The team also demoed a 55-inch TV-size screen with the OLED technology.
Call it the "flexible revolution," but this technology is bound to shape the next generation of device-adoption.
Imagine: a map that can adapt to your location but also be folded in your pocket; an electronic guidebook that slides in and out of your pocket simply and easily; a city-specific, easily-updatable electronic city guide left in a hotel room for guests to use during their stay; a mobile phone that is thin, bendable, lighter and much easier to manipulate on the road.
The possibilities are infinite!
It's only a matter of time before these weight-sensing bad boys are zipping around a city near you - especially given the popularity of Segway tours, some of these electric skateboards are likely to even be piloted by visiting tourists. Technology that makes a certain kind of travel more seamless for some - and for others, just a cool way to get around without having to circumnavigate hillier terrain.
Or if that's not your cup o' tea, how about the Tharo EV?
SpareOne Mobile Phone
The new normal involves super storms, power outages, communication difficulties, and quickly adjusting to a life without some of the more comforting things. One of modern life's great comforts is the mobile phone, the lifeline to friends, family and a sense of normalcy.
Unfortunately, most mobile phones don't have batteries that can last weeks, and most mobile phones are not capable of withstanding flooding caused by inclement weather. That's where the SpareOne mobile phone comes in.
Introduced this year at CES, it can last up to 15 years without losing a charge, and comes in a waterproof bag that ensures a functioning communication device no matter what happens. It also functions without a SIM card, and without minutes.
There's no need to keep a contract, or suffer terrible roaming fees while traveling. It's ingenious and another sign that the emergency preparedness and travel industries have quite a few areas of overlap!