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What's Hot At CES?


Back now with Day to Day. This week, just about everyone who makes, sells or loves high-tech gadgets is in Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Our musical contributor David Was falls into that last camp. He makes the pilgrimage to CES just about every year, and he joins us now from the studios of member station KNPR in Las Vegas. Hi, David.

DAVID WAS: Hi there, Alex.

COHEN: So, first of all, one has to expect, given the state of the economy, that this year things at CES aren't as kind of giant and over the top as usual. Is it a bit more toned down there?

WAS: Yeah. Whether it's slot machine, or attendance at the show, things are down by about 25 percent as far as the hotels go. The exhibitors are using five-percent less space, which still amounts to 130,000 people coming to town, but apparently, the economy is hitting this industry as well.

COHEN: You've been wandering around there. If you had to sum it all up in one theme, what would that theme be?

WAS: This is the digital death march of baton, this thing. It's like...

COHEN: Yikes.

WAS: Fitting that...

(Soundbite of laughter)

WAS: Well, you know, literally you need physical therapy after walking around this thing, and I find it fitting that they hold the porn-industry academy awards the same weekend. It's like silicon on one side of town, silicone on the other, but it's all fetish-izing the object. And if there's any theme, it's, like, how do we keep making new stuff? What deeper needs are we trying to fulfill here?

COHEN: As you look around at all these gadgets, what is your nominee for the most inspired product?

WAS: Well, we did a story earlier on Day to Day on how everybody's listening to this degraded signal on an iPod. There's a company called Wadia Digital that has something called the iTransport, which takes the crummy-sounding wav file off of your iPod, but ports it over to your higher-end audio gear, and all of a sudden, you actually hear the adenoids in Bob Dylan's voice again.

COHEN: Very cool.

WAS: Yeah. That's kind of nice. For about 300, 400 bucks, it's really cool.

COHEN: And what about the other end of the spectrum? What's the worst gadget out there?

WAS: The greatest thing I saw was the e-cigarette, the electronic cigarette, which is supposedly to help you quit smoking. A Chinese company is marketing this. A smokeless-nicotine delivery system that you hold in your hand, it makes what looks like smoke; it's actually water vapor. And I figure, the digital syringe is just around the corner...

(Soundbite of laughter)

WAS: You know, if you shoot virtual heroine instead of that horrible Mexican stuff.

COHEN: David, yesterday on this program, we talked about the innovations in watching TV, and I was asking about the future of the remote control in a world where people are just plugging their laptops into their televisions. And I understand you found an interesting alternative to the remote control. Tell me about it.

WAS: I did. This is the way not to lose your remote. Unless you have the tendency to leave your hands somewhere, you're OK in this point. A company called Gesture Tech is eliminating the remote altogether. You simply wave at the TV, and it turns on. You describe a little circle with your hand, and it changes channels. So, if you think you look nuts walking around the mall talking on the phone, wait 'til someone sees you waving at Dr. Phil like he is your best friend on TV.

COHEN: It sounds like Wii for the TV. I love it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WAS: Basically.

COHEN: David Was is half of the musical duo Was (Not Was). He joined from KNPR in Las Vegas. David, thanks.

WAS: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Was