Gadget Gary: Viva Las Vegas

For years, I've heard about a magical convention - a convention where people like me can go to see the latest, coolest, most cutting-edge electronics that are slated to be "coming soon." We all know it, of course, as the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, and lucky for me the Sound & Vision fairy tapped me with his wand and sent me to the big event in Las Vegas this past January.

The trip proved what I used to know only secondhand: CES is a tech-head's fantasy. (I don't think the editors want me to use the word "geek.") [No worries; that's a badge of honor these days-Ed.]

I saw some very cool stuff in the Main Hall from big boys like Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony. It was my first time viewing Panasonic's 150-inch plasma HDTV in person - wow. Its 3-D home theater demo using 2008 Beijing Olympics footage was amazing (although we need to have more stylish 3-D glasses, guys). And LG showed a watch phone, essentially exactly like what Dick Tracy still uses. Yeah, I was lovin' it.

But much more of the gadget heaven I was really looking for was over in the South Hall. I saw some great stuff there, and a decent amount of it will be reviewed in this column throughout the year. Some items were flat-out fun (underwater goggles with a built-in auto-focus video camera; wireless speakers in floor lamps and ceiling fans), some not as fun but still quite functional (dishwasher-safe keyboards and mice), some that'll make my life easier (a small box that plugs into my computer, uses an Ethernet connection, and allows me to look at my hard drive from anywhere in the world via a broadband connection), and some that were just . . . interesting (a device that looks like a toaster and cleans your LPs for a mere $3,499).

Another cool thing about being at CES was visiting booths of manufacturers of stuff I already own to see what they have coming down the pike. The folks at BlackBerry had reps from Slingbox on hand, so within minutes, I was watching TV via Slingbox on my BlackBerry Bold. Over at TiVo, I observed a beta version of a TiVo search engine that's one of the most user-friendly I've seen yet for any DVR. And I saw a great new technology called Powermat ($100), which wirelessly powers all sorts of everyday items. I loved the demo of the Kitchen Aid mixer on a kitchen island, fully working with no visible sign of a plug.

My CES wrap-up: The show was overwhelming, exciting, educational, tiring, and amazing. Now that I know my way around, CES will be even better next year!

Can I book it now, boss?