By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 8:46 pm
A two-screened laptop. A color e-reader. A camera that does 3D. A scanner to go. A state-of-the-art Android phone. A next-generation integrated chip. A camcorder you wear. A watch with GPS. Blocks with brains of their own. And earphones that customize themselves for your particular ears.
Ten innovative products with nothing in common except one thing: They’re our Last Gadget Standing finalists. And now it’s time to figure out which one will be, indeed, the Last Gadget Standing.
If you’re in Las Vegas for CES, please come to our live event at 10:30am on Saturday, where you can see live demos of all ten products and vote for your favorite. That event will determine the Last Gadget Standing. But if you’re not in Vegas…vote anyway! This online poll that will determine the winner of our People’s Choice award.
First, here’s a recap of the ten products, out of dozens of contenders, that have gotten this far.
Why we chose it: In the past year, we’ve seen a ton of different tablet designs, from the ubiquitous iPad to Toshiba’s dual-screened Libretto. However, we’ve never seen anything quite like the Acer Iconia, a Windows computer that looks like a notebook when closed, but opens to reveal dual 14-inch, touchscreens, one of which can serve as a keyboard. Acer improves on Windows 7’s touch-experience with custom gestures, such as placing five fingers on the screen to launch a menu. Add in a suite of touch-friendly software with a browser, media, and social networking jogger, and you have something truly unique.–Avram Piltch
Barnes & Noble’s Nookcolor is the first e-reader with a color LCD screen that’s specifically optimized around reading. Everything about this integrated, Android-based experience screams out to aficionados of the written word–from the screen’s resolution and glare reduction to the software’s unique presentation of books (especially children’s books) and periodicals. Ready for LCD e-reading? This e-reader takes things to a whole new level.–Melissa Perenson
Why we chose it: The coming of 3D has been one of the most significant trends in consumer electronics in the past year. So far, most of the attention has been on ways to view commercial 3D content, so the arrival of tools accessible to consumers for the creation of 3D images is important. The Real 3D W3 is one of the first to make creation of 3D images affordable and simple. The dual-lens camera takes stereoscopic 3D photos and videos and can also shoot in conventional 2D mode. Images can be viewed on any 3D TV display, as well as on Fujifilm’s digital viewer.–Steve Wildstrom
Why we chose it: Fujitsu’s latest ScanSnap isn’t the first color sheet-fed scanner that’s compact enough to go almost anywhere and powered by USB, so you can leave the brick at home. But it’s one of the sveltest, and its software–for both Windows and Mac–is so simple and slick that turning paper into digital form isn’t a chore at all. You can scan directly to Microsoft Office, Google Docs, and Evernote; create searchable PDFs; and customize the toolbar to send scanned pages into your own favorite apps. And while it’s optimized for text-and-graphics documents and speedy scanning rather than photos, the image quality is pleasing, too..–Harry McCracken
Why we chose it: Perhaps the biggest story in mobile devices in 2010 was the emergence of Android-based mobile phones. Heading into 2011, Google is taking Android to the next level with the Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” release, as embodied first in the Nexus S phone manufactured by Samsung. This handset features advanced features, such as a 4-inch Super AMOLED display and a 1 GHz processor – but stands out as the first phone to support Android’s Near-Field Communications (NFC) feature which can let you use the phone to interact with physical tags–so you could use it to check in to locations or even potentially as a credit card.–Michael Miller
Why we chose it: Quick–do you want your next laptop to be fast, or to deliver outstanding battery life? The answer, of course, is that you want both. The second generation of Intel’s Core platform–including the i3, i5, and i7 processors, and previously known by the “Sandy Bridge” code-name-aims to help you avoid having to choose. It integrates a CPU, graphics, and a memory controller onto one die, increasing performance and reducing power consumption. Look for it soon in a laptop near you.–Harry McCracken
Why we chose it: If you see something you’d like to record for posterity, you could take your videocamera or phone out of your pocket, turn it on, and begin recording. Or you could capture it with Looxcie–a Bluetooth headset that happens to double as a videocamera. Even if the cool thing you witnessed already happened, you can save it: Looxcie continuously buffers what it sees, so you can rewind life and snag something after it’s happened. It uses Bluetooth to transfer video to iPhones and Android headsets. And even if it makes you look like a nerd, at least you’ll be a nerd who’s having good, geeky fun. –Harry McCracken
Why we chose it: The Nike+ SportWatch GPS powered by TomTom is a hybrid gadget that combines both GPS technology and an accelerometer, located in the Nike+ shoe sensor. Runners can upload their data to the Nikeplus.com website, where they can track their favorite routes, set goals, receive coaching, and challenge their friends. Key features include the GPS tracking with the shoe sensor –great for runners off trail. The tap interface activates the backlight to mark laps during a run. And the watch has a USB connector molded into the watch strap, so you can plug it directly into a computer, no cable required. –Robin Raskin
Why we chose it: Any parent who’s ever felt that the LCD screen plays to large an influence in their kids’ lives will appreciate the beauty of Sifteo Cubes–a new kind of toy. Sifteo Cubes are smart blocks. Each can talk to the others and sense their proximity, motion and sound. This simple idea leads to all sorts of unique play patterns—from art to number games to thinking puzzles and music. At $150 for 3 Cubes, SIfteo is not a jar of bubbles , but it brings the world of kids digital play away from the screen while still keeping it high-tech, and that in itself is ingenious.–Robin Raskin
Why we chose it: I have a bazillion headphones–all the way from from cheapy cheapy ones to expensive earbuds. None of them fit just me. But now comes along Sonomax with its custom-molded earbuds. The patented fitting system squirts silicon into a membrane while it’s in your ear, a process that takes less than ten minutes The finished buds felt great in my ear, they were solidly seated, and they seemed every bit a quiet as the sound-cancelers I have. It’s a notable case of adapting a mature industrial product for the consumer market.–Patrick Houston
Ready? Please cast your vote for your favorite–one vote per person, please. Voting ends at 10am PT on Saturday. May the best gadget be the last one standing…