Tagged: CES 2012

CES: Panasonic's Smart Viera TVs play games too

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We’ve all heard too much plenty about the 3D revolution taking place in our homes thanks to the new generation of HDTVs and Blu-ray players, but more needs to be said about how another TV technology is going to have a much more profound impact on our living rooms.

The technology is generically known as “Connected TV” and each manufacturer has its own brand name for the feature. “SmartHUB”, “SmartTV”, “VIERAConnect”  – the list goes on. But they all pretty much offer the same thing: in conjunction with your existing home network (either wired or wireless) these TVs connect you to a host of internet content ranging from weather forecasts to Facebook and from general web-surfing to full-fledged video games.

In some cases – the Panasonic Viera shown in this video is a perfect example – these games are just as good as anything you can find in Apple’s App Store or in the Android Marketplace. And just like those other app services, many of the Connected TV apps are free.

Now I’m not saying that playing Asphalt 5 as an app on your TV is the same as playing GT5 on a PlayStation 3 – they aren’t even in the same universe – but for a whole range of casual gamers who aren’t interested in dropping $350 on a console and another $60 on a game, these inexpensive TV-based games might be just the ticket.

And because these games can be played with a variety of Bluetooth accessories, you’re not limited to the TV’s factory remote. That would be awful.

Sync readers, are you ready to ditch your console for this new breed of TV games?

CES: ION spawns a whole iCade family

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Here’s the back-story: A few years ago, uber-geeky gadget site ThinkGeek.com ran one of their annual April Fools Day gags – they prominently displayed a product on their homepage called the “iCade” claiming it would turn your Apple iPad into a full-on classic gaming arcade experience.

Naturally the product was completely fictitious, but that didn’t stop tons of fans from writing in and declaring their enthusiasm for such a device.

Within the year, ThinkGeek had partnered with ION Audio, then a company best known for their USB Turntables and the iCade had gone from creative nerd-joke to a real-life product at CES.

We got our hands on the iCade earlier this year and enjoyed it thoroughly.

It wasn’t long before the imitators started to appear and I suppose that got ION thinking that they had indeed stumbled onto a good thing.

So it wasn’t all that surprising to see that at this year’s show, they were showcasing three new iCade products: the Core, the Mobile and the Junior – all of which stick to the essential formula of giving gamers physical controls for their favourite i-devices.

The iCade Core directly attacks Atari’s own iCade-like product, the Atari Arcade which itself undercut the original iCade by almost $50.

The Core is a stripped-down iCade offering all of the functionality with virtually none of the nostalgic style.

The iCade Mobile is easily the most innovative of the three new products, and does a superb job of converting an iPhone or iPod Touch into a Nintendo DS/i. With its full compliment of buttons and a slick turntable feature which lets you alter the orientation of your device, this could be the hardware add-on that convinces iOS game developers to abandon touch-only control schemes for their games, which would inevitably lead to better, more immersive games on a device that has more than enough horsepower to handle them.

Finally, the iCade Junior – it’s the cheapest of the bunch, but frankly I doubt it will succeed. Awkward to hold and not as satisfying as either the Core or the Mobile from a control-scheme point of view, this member of the iCade line-up is cute, for sure, but little more than a curiosity.

CES: Watch a hard drive get zapped with 1,000,000 volts

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You have to love the guys from ioSafe. They make what might just be the most durable and disaster-proof drives outside of a military installation.

They also have a penchant for over-the-top demos at the Consumer Electronics Show that go to extreme lengths to prove that their products can take a beating.

Last year, we took pot-shots at their Rugged Portable Hard Drive with 12-gauge shotguns.

This year, ioSafe President Robb Moore and his courageous entourage decided to literally amp-up their show.

To demonstrate to the media just how much of a hit their drives can take, they hired none other than Dr. Megavolt a.k.a Austin Richards, to zap their new Thunderbolt Edition Rugged Portable with 1 million volts of electricity courtesy of a Tesla coil which apparently Dr. Megavolt never leaves home without.

As you can see from the video, the Doctor didn’t disappoint. We were treated to quite the show. And yes, the hard drive survived to tell the tale.

And though there’s no question that ioSafe builds one heck of a tough product, they haven’t actually designed the Rugged Portable to be electrocution-proof per se.

It’s ability to survive such extreme conditions results mostly from its construction: the case is built from a solid billet of aluminium, and the drive’s internals are insulated from direct contact. Because electricity always flows around the outside of an object (even one being subjected to a million volts), the aluminium case acts as a protective conduit for the massive charge, keeping the guts of the drive from being fried.

The demo was impressive to say the least, but Moore was also quick to point out that despite the drive’s ability to divert the flow of a direct-hit from a Tesla coil, a power surge from your home electrical system would be a different matter altogether. That’s because such a surge – even a minor one – travels directly through the cables connected to the drive and thus can reach those sensitive areas that physically store your data.

So while the Rugged Portable might well be able to survive a lightning strike if it happens to be in your pocket at the time, you should still invest in a decent surge protector and UPS for your gear at home.