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Consumer Electronics Show 2008

Shape and Color
The Sands Expo and Convention Center/The Venetian in Las Vegas is one of the venues for the 2008 CES.
The Sands Expo and Convention Center/The Venetian in Las Vegas is one of the venues for the 2008 CES.

Another trend at the 2008 CES is design. Looking at the variety of ultra-flat-panel televisions, hidden speakers, ear bud headphones in nearly every color and glossy black audio-video components, it's clear that consumer electronics manufacturers have gotten the message. People want their electronic equipment to look good, even when it's switched off.

This year, anyway, people don't want their high-tech stuff to look like -- well, high-tech stuff. They want it to blend in with the décor, or even complement it, if possible. And manufacturers aren't doing it alone. They're consulting with some of the most famous designers in the world to help them out. For example, Samsung showed off a Giorgio Armani-designed wireless phone.

Convergence is yet another theme of this year's show. In-car audio companies are putting everything you'd want in a radio in one place. High-definition AM/FM, satellite radio, iPod connectivity, CD players, DVD players and even mobile TV all end up in one unit in your dashboard, ready to entertain you no matter how you get your content. And if you plan on just driving, the built-in GPS will help you find your way.

At the Sands Convention Center, several exhibitors are displaying different data security products. For example, Sentry Safe won a CES Innovators award for their ultra-secure hard disk. The drive is encased in a tough shell that's both fire and water resistant. On the other end of the spectrum are companies that sell devices designed to destroy old hard drives, making it very difficult or even impossible to retrieve data.

The Sands is also where you can find some of the quirkier technologies at this year's CES. At one booth, vendors dressed as rock stars gesticulate wildly as the sound of a frantic ­guitar solo drowns out the ambient noise of the show floor. They're demonstrating Air Guitar Hero -- a device consisting of a sensor and an amplifier that lets you shred riffs while practicing your best rock star grimace, all without the hassle of holding an actual guitar.

Or if you're looking for an easier way to get to work, you might try the iShoes - three-wheeled motorized skates that will whisk you down the sidewalk. There are all kinds of robotics, some of them toys, others planned for more robust applications. And Airsound brought a personal speaker that might surprise you -- placed under your chin, the unit delivers stereo sound, even without having two separate speakers. Plug in headphones, and the embedded woofer plays bass into your collar bones. You hear the bass via bone conduction, for a sound you wouldn't get using headphones alone.

For our past coverage of CES and related links, visit the next page.