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Small show, new products

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The technological breakthroughs at this year’s first-ever CeBIT America trade show seem to be few and far between, but I’m happy to report that there are a few goodies I’ve found tucked away that made the trip worthwhile.

InsertArt(1935745)ALL OF CEBIT takes up what I estimate to be one-third to one-half of a single floor of New York’s Javits Center convention hall. That’s about where now-defunct PC Expo left off. Attendance seems very light. A number of well-known players in the computer industry are notably absent: Microsoft, Apple, IBM and many others didn’t show up. There are a lot of booths promoting optimal business conditions in far-away places like Germany and New Mexico. I’m hoping that in the future, the American version of this premiere European trade show will have a chance to grow in size and stature.

Luckily, with a little bit of extra sleuthing, I was able to find another bunch of interesting new items to tell you about. For instance, the InFocus LP120 digital projector. I’ve seen small portable projectors before but this one takes the prize. One fellow show attendee came over and asked if I had seen the InFocus demonstration. He described the device as a “portable projector cut in three parts ... then they threw away two.”

The LP120 measures 2.09 by 3.69 by 9.75 inches and weighs just a hair under two pounds. It’s smaller and lighter than nearly every notebook computer on the market. It offers 1,100 lumens, 2,000-to-1 contrast ratio and 16.7 million colors in its XGA (1024 x 768) native resolution.

Available this summer, the InFocus will retail for $2,799. They were also showing a Coach edition of the projector, which comes with a specially designed briefcase for an additional $500.

ViewSonic makes small projectors too, but they were proudly showing off their Pro Series LCD screens. They had four of their impressive VP211b monitors next to each other to make one very large, very bright, very sharp screen. They’re able to do this because these monitors have a very narrow bezel (the part around the screen) so three or four of them together look like one screen.

The 21.3-inch screen they were showing is capable of UXGA 1.92 megapixel resolution, broadcast-quality video response technology and HDTV high-scan 720p (1280 x 720 progressive format) compatibility. It has height and pivot adjustments; digital and analog inputs; and USB 2.0 connectivity. Online, I’ve seen the VP211b selling for $1,479. ViewSonic also makes 17-, 18-, 19- and 20-inch models in their pro monitor line.

The people from Via Technologies were proudly showing one of the things that can be done with their processor chips. The Nimble V5 is many things: a personal computer, a standalone video conferencing device and an Internet sharing hub in an enclosure that fits in the palm of your hand (2 by 7.7 by 7.7 inches). The V5, which runs on Windows XP, allows you to share peripherals (mouse, keyboard, monitor and router with your existing PC. There’s even a nifty-sounding speaker on the front. Expect the V5 to sell for $699.

Deja View was demonstrating their interesting wearable camcorder. It contains their patent-pending technology that has created a camera/microphone unit less than an inch long and smaller than a nickel. It’s designed to be worn on your eyeglasses or hat. It’s attached by a wire to a PDA-sized remote unit that clips to a belt or waistband.

The feature that makes this thing interesting is that the unit is always on and always seeing what you see at your eye level: it is always recording images. When something happens that you realize you want to keep “after the fact” just press the record button and up to 30 seconds of audio and video have already been captured. Introductory prices on Deja View’s Website run from $79 (you supply the PDA) to $499 for a complete system.

Finally, speaker manufacturer Altec Lansing was showing their new powered multimedia speaker system for PCs, game devices, audio players and the like. TheVS4121 looked great and sounded OK on the show floor. It will have a suggested retail price of $129.99. There were also some interesting headphones at their booth.

On the other hand, Altec took the opportunity to announce another speaker at the show. It’s a giant — literally! Altec is re-releasing an improved version of their legendary A7 “Voice of the Theater” loudspeaker system. Best known for its use in movie theaters beginning in the early 1950s, these limited-edition, horn-driven boxes weigh more than 120 pounds each and will sell for $4,000 per channel (plus an additional $300 each for delivery).

These superefficient speakers need only one or two watts per channel to fill a room. Needless to say they didn’t let us “listen” on the show floor. I’m hoping I’ll be able to do that soon. Just think of a 5.1 channel system using these. I’d need an entire floor of the Javits Center just to listen.