Bring Home the Digital Age

A veteran tech reporter's dispatch from the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas


Wireless Meat and BBQ thermometerAh, the Consumer Electronics Show. The annual tech fest that lures tens of thousands into the Las Vegas Convention Center. We come with great expectations and leave believing the world may stop spinning if we don’t scoop up that 108-inch flat screen before the neighbors. As usual, this year’s show boasted its share of head-whipping home gadgets. Some are must-haves, while others fall decidedly into the category of “just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” like Honda’s ever-advancing robot Asimo, an astronaut-like creature that now takes voice commands, climbs stairs and serves drinks but may inadvertently crush the family dog in its path. Here’s our roundup of the best ways to bring home the digital age.

We’ve all asked ourselves whether or not the turkey’s done. Now there’s a thermometer than can actually answer back. Oregon Scientific’s wireless meat thermometer is compact and makes a better kitchen companion than some spouses. Clip the remote control on your belt and it will notify you if the roast’s about to burn when you’re within 100 feet of the oven. Due out just in time for Father’s Day is the similarly loquacious BBQ thermometer (pictured), with four meat settings and eight temperature settings. Visit the Web site www.oregonscientific.com.

Of all the gadgets on my CES short list, the wheeled alarm clock, Clocky, was among the most anticipated. Unfortunately, Clocky didn’t make an appearance—or was too quick for any reporters to catch. At alarm time, this little clock circles the night- stand, jumps down and rolls around the room flashing lights and emitting annoying noises until the weary are forced to rise from bed just to silence it. While many of us have children who serve the same function, the idea of an alarm clock with personality is just plain fun. Visit www.nandahome.com

The Loop, a new donut-shaped universal remote control from Rockville, Maryland-based Hillcrest Laboratories, satisfies the hunger for reducing remote-control clutter. Instead of cumbersome—and often confusing—buttons, the Loop employs a motion sensor with right and left mouse-like controls and a scroll wheel. Best of all, its shape means it’s less likely to become wedged between the sofa cushions. Visit www.hillcrestlabs.com.

Your mother may never quite catch up with the digital revolution, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want photos of the grandkids. Tabletop frames that download digital pictures out of the PC so that you

can carry them around and show them off were in abundance on the show floor. Westinghouse’s MosaicView frame (pictured) can show multiple images simultaneously. Visit www.westinghousedigital.com.

While our homes don’t look quite Jetsonsian yet, we can inch a little closer with Hewlett-Packard’s TouchSmart PC, designed to fit into the home’s busiest hubs—the kitchen, living room and family room. The easy-to-use PC provides finger-touch access to the Internet, email, music, TV, lighting and the home-security system. Better yet, you can “write” directly on the screen using a pen-like device. The PC is compatible with the new Microsoft Vista operating system, though not with sticky peanut butter fingers. Visit www.hp.com.


Clocky alarm clock

The Loop remote

MosaicView from Westinghouse

TouchSmart PC