The best of the Gadget Show Live @ Christmas – part 2

Gadget-Show-Live-at-Christmas-Part-Two

Make sure you check out part one of this guide from yesterday.

The Gadget Show Live @ Christmas brought all sorts of fun and games to East London. We had a play with a few choice items.

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Fridja
Ironing is very few people’s idea of a rollicking good time but the Fridja ironing system was the second most desirable item I saw in the whole show (after the OP-1). As I’m often fresh, dressed like a million bucks I need my garments to look crisp. Fridja brings high grade garment steaming to the people, and at £99 it’s at a fraction of the cost of a local dry cleaners.

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Replicator 2 3D Printer
If you read Chris Anderson’s Makers (or even just my review of the book here) you’ll know that there’s a brave new world of 3D printing, where people can apply all the exciting and collaborative elements of Web 2.0 and apply them to the real world of bits and bobs. The Replicator is great for knocking up all sorts of amazing knick knacks, although at £1799 is far from an impulse purchase.

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R2D2
Star Wars landed in the late 70s and then never really went away. And there’s even a possibility that the recently announced sequels buy Disney might be … well good. I was charmed by this inflatable remote controlled R2D2 which can spin 360 degrees and generally float around. It’s best feature is its self-righting system that defies being knocked over – as was throughly tested by the gang of schoolboys I saw trying to give poor Artoo the kicking of his life.

Stickem
Stickems are simple screen wipes made from ultra fine microfibres. What makes sticks special – and fun – is their “self -cling” backing that means you can pop them on the back of your tablet or smartphone and have them handy any time you want to remove any make-up, oil, grease of whatever you happen to have covering your phone. They come in a range of fun designs in collaboration with up and coming artists so they’re a good way of keeping your phone clean and personal.

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Mu
Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest and we just need to take time to think about the simple things that we take for granted. The Mu rethinks the ubiquitous three-pin and makes it a portable pleasure for the pocket-focused smartphone world. The Mu folds down to a compact 14mm completely hiding the three pins via a clever (and patented) swivel mechanism, making The Mu 70 per cent smaller than a standard plug.

The best of the Gadget Show Live @ Christmas – part 1

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Well it’s finally December and the phase “run up to Christmas” (which for us in the media started way back in July), finally feels justified. I’m not a fan of the Yuletide season and wish we could jump over it and straight into January but for a lot of people it’s the season to be merry, spread cheer and invest heavily in gifts for friends and family. The Gadget Show Live is one of the big UK tech events of the year and there’s always lots of fun to be had in the Birmingham NEC. However, this year the organisers felt they wanted to branch out and add an addition Gadget Show Live Christmas event in London. As someone who lives 15 minutes away from the venue and loves gadgets I couldn’t be happier and I popped by to see some of the best in show.

The Gadget Show Live is running all weekend in London’s Excel Centre.

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LG 84″ ultra HD TV
Massive TVs are in many ways the quintessential gadget and LG’s 84″, 3840×2160 Ultra HD leviathan is a TV to humble all TVs. Obviously it has extra features such as built-in Wifi and amazing 3D but at £22,500 you have to *really* like Storage Wars before picking up one of these.

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Teenage Engineering OP-1
Simply the most exciting synth I’ve seen come out in years this was one of the few gadgets I saw that sent my weary heart racing. It looks like a retro toy but is priced closed to £700 and is almost worth every penny. The pocket-sized synthesiser and 4 track sequencer is highly intuitive thanks to its colour coding and every element of the device has been rethought from the ground up. My new favourite thing.

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Orbitsound T9
We’ve seen Orbitsound and their soundbar magic before, but the £200 T9 is perfect blend of form and function. It’s a simply sound set up that cuts down on cable tangle whilst significantly enhancing most TV shows or video. And there’s an old school iPod dock in there as well.

Attacknids

Attacknids
Whilst I’m happy being a fully grown adult, I do rue the fact that we didn’t have remote controlled six-legged robots when I was younger. Attacknids have 360 degree rotating heads and can fire little foam discs as far as 30 feet. Of course being a fully grown adult I can just go out and buy one – especially as they’re only £70.

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Damson Twist
At certain points in my week is seems like all anyone every manufactures is bluetooth speakers. I seem to see at least two a week. Damson bring a little something new to the table with a compact vibrating speaker system that managed to rise above the general din of the Excel Centre. Truly excellent sound for something so small and at £80 significantly cheaper than rivals Jambox.

More to come tomorrow!

Latest Gadgets: Best of the Gadget Show Live 2012

We took out annual pilgrimage up to the Birmingham NEC to visit the Gadget Show Live 2012. As usual there was a weird and wonderful range of gadgets on display, but various things stood out.

iRig-Mic-Cast

IK Multimedia iRig Mic Cast
Released on the first day of the Gadget Show Live, the IK Multimedia iRig Mic Cast is the latest step in IK Multimedia’s plan to plug almost everything into your iPhone. Small and lightweight, the Podcast Mic uses the 3.5 mm headphone jack (rather than the 30-pin connector) and features a monitoring output port and the ability to easily toggle between high and low levels when recording.
http://www.ikmultimedia.com/irigmiccast/features/

Antares Autotune Guitar
When my father was teaching me to play guitar he had the annoying habit of always, always insisting I tune my guitar before playing (as well as the annoying habit of insisting his band had already covered practically every style of music already in the 70s). Anyway, I can set his mind to rest with the Antares Auto-tune guitar. The pretty amazing onboard DSP will automatically tune your guitar for you, keep it in tune and maintain perfect intonation. It uses some very smart technology so you can switch between tunings on the fly. For more info head to http://guitar.auto-tune.com/

Bamboo Stylus duo
Wacom launched a Bamboo Stylus duo for the iPad and Android tablets that combines one of the best capacitive pen tips I’ve used with a premium ball-point ink pen at the opposite end for use on old-fashioned paper.
http://www.wacom.eu/index2.asp?pid=9221&spid=2&lang=en

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Griffin Helo TC Assault
We also popped by Griffin for some old fashioned RC helicopter fun with the Helo TC Assault, a fantasic iPhone controlled helicopter, with built-in soft missiles that you can launch across the office or living room. Check out some footage here.

National Science & Engineering Week

Latest Gadgets got the chance to sample some space-food last week in preparation for National Science & Engineering Week (9-18 March). Although we didn’t get to leave the atmosphere to sample the amusing bouches, we did get to meet someone who has: Britain’s first astronaut Helen Sharman.

AstroFood

Whether we were chowing down on the Mars Breakfast Bar or finishing off with Martianmallows, one thing was clear: this wasn’t your typical food-in-a-tude space snacks. Created by the eccentric The Robin Collective, the spread (of numerous courses and cocktails) was curated to be both delicious, nutritious and adhere to the challenging non-enviroment of space.

The Robin Collective envisage this as the type of food Virgin Galactic would serve in-flight – and when compared with traditional aeroplane food, it really was out of this world.

AstroFood-Two

The Menu

Mars Breakfast Bar: Created from dehydrated bacon, black pudding and other traditional English breakfast ingredients,  the breakfast bar was designed to show that all foods in space will have to be pre-mixed, lest they float away.

Amoon Bouche: Some of the strongest cheese ever made. Because space dulls the tastebuds, every food will potentially have to be quite potent. Mrs Sharman pointed out that back in her day, the Russians used to pump their food full of garlic, whereas the Americans had a penchant for chillies.

Supersonic Salad: Using crops from the Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative (MELiSSA), the salad contained only crops that can be grown in space. Well, crops that are hoped to be grown in space. Brian Ratcliffe from the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen informed us that at the moment, only wheat has successfully galactically germinated. The other potential vegetables are tomatoes, herbs and spinach.

Prof. Ratcliffe informed us that the problem with these foodstuffs is that there isn’t enough protein to fully fulfil out nutritional needs. For that, we need algae. Specifically spiralina – a blue-green algae. We tried it as part of a caprihlana cocktail and were suitably impressed.

He also noted that B12 might be a problem, but could probably be recycled from human faeces…

Martionmallows: The healthiest marshmallows in the world (fortified with vitamins) highlighted every gramme sent to space adds a huge cost. Light-weight ‘mallows are the perfect for maximum taste at minimum weight.

Stardust: Stardust has just one ingredient – miracle berries. Rub the powder around your mouth and suddenly everything sour tastes sweet – including the two lemons and a lime we polished off. Using taste-bud changing technology means that food won’t have to be filled with sugars to be sweet – keeping astronauts healthy in the heavens.

Chewbacca Gum: After suitably stuffing our faces, we finished with an after dinner mint-gum. Made super-strong, the chewbacca gum is designed to exercise the jaw to prevent muscle wastage in a part of the body that is difficult to strengthen in space.

We’d like to thank Helen Sharman and Brain Ratcliffe…….as well as recommend National Science and Engineering Week to

We’d like to thank Helen Sharman and Brian Ratcliffe for this experience, as well as recommend the Engineering Week to everyone (more details, including local events, here)

The Best of NAMM: Beats, beats and more beats

If you know your oscillators from your saw waves then you’ll probably know that last week NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) took place in California at the Anaheim Convention Center.

NAMM is the largest music product trade show in the world. It’s essentially CES for music, and this year was a record year for the organisation with 95,709 registered attendees and over 1,400 exhibitors.

We’re only going to cover a small percentage of what was on offer, from DAW (digital audio stations) to apps and synths to midi controllers.

BitWig

One of the main talking points of the show was a new DAW (digital audio station) Bitwig. It comes from some of the clever bods behind Ableton – and  the Berlin start-up is clearly very brave considering they’re setting up shop in the same town as goliaths like Native Instruments and their main rivals Ableton.

There’s no information on pricing, which would give us an idea on who they are looking to target. But, Bitwig’s main appeal is flexible editing tools and a super-fast workflow.

Included are features such as multi-track recording, clip automation, instruments and effects, time-stretching and VST support. They haven’t revealed too much yet – but you can sign up for a chance to beta test the new software later this year at Bigwig.com. Check out the video below for an introduction.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7V_t8GfH-v4

Akai-MPC

One piece of hardware that caught our attention, and probably the attention of all the world’s music producers, was the new MPC Renaissance from hardware stalwarts Akai. This substantial, vintage-esque, piece studio equipment is designed for music producers and digital DJs and offers Akai’s class-leading drum pads and more rotary controls than a steam train.

The audio circuitry is the same that you would find in a Modern MPC, but the Renaissane comes with a special party piece: vintage mode. According to Akai the software is built in-house and will work with your preferred recording suite by running in VST, AU, or RTAS mode.

It also includes a 6GB sample library for reproducing some of the classic sounds of the MPC3000 and MPC60. On the hardware side, the Renaissance is the mother of all controllers with no expense spared — there’s plenty of room for 16 backlit MPC pads, 16 Q-Link controls, and a ton of I/O, including USB, MIDI, 1/4-inch stereo, and a dedicated turntable inputs.

The Renaissance will cost you though, with a street price is expected to be around £1,000.

But, if you can’t afford that sort of money – then have a look at MCP Fly. Built for the iPad 2, it comprises a 16-pad controller that comes in laptop-style case, which also houses your Apple tablet, and an app that enables you to sequence up to four tracks simultaneously.

MPC-Fly

The concept seems pretty sound to us, though we’re keen to find out just how capable the MPC Fly is in practice.

Digital music store Beatport was at Namm and from what we saw they are getting into the hardware business. One product that caught our eye was their incredibly practical range of gigging cables.

BeatPort

While they don’t offer anything particularly new they did have couple of clever ideas. First off, their range of cables come colour-coded – something someone should have thought of ages ago. There’s no doubt these will be a god-sent for digital musicians and DJ’s, who are often struggling with low lighting levels in clubs when they’re trying to setup their equipment. Another clever touch was the use of hinged USB ports – meaning you can connect equipment securely into the smallest of spaces.

What caught our eye at CES 2012 – Part 3

In our third (part 1, part 2) and final round-up of CES 2012, here are some of the other exhibitors and products that caught our eye while clocking up the miles of exhibition halls!

The ‘Dot’ from Kogeto

The ‘Dot’, from New York based Kogeto, is billed as ‘the World’s smallest panoramic video thingy for the iPhone 4 and 4S’. As you can see from the picture above, the Dot is certainly an eye catching ‘thingy’ and instantly made us curious when we stumbled across it at this year’s ShowStoppers event.

In a nutshell, it clips on to the back of your iPhone and the Dot’s 360 lens sits over your camera. The company’s free ‘Looker’ app then enables you to use the Dot to take a 360 degree video (yes, video!) of your current surroundings.

While the immediate question might be ‘what for?’, it was undeniably something we wanted play with! The initial result was far from convincing with a blurry picture and incomplete 360 video. When we raised this with Kogeto, they said the most likely cause was a protective film on the lens. They also conceded that the current instructions aren’t very clear (no pun intended!) and that we weren’t the only ones who had the issue.

On our 2nd attempt, without the lens protection film and with better lighting, we were able to secure a perfect (albeit still slightly blurry) 360 video capture of the room. In conclusion the ‘Dot’ looks like it will be a fun and quirky gadget to take with you to a party or on holiday. We’ll update you when we get details on UK pricing and availability. For more info visit http://kogeto.com/

Update on Jan 25: Kogeto’s PR people tell us the Dot will be in Apple stores in March retailing at around $79 or 60 euros.

iBallz iPad protective ‘case’

Having been out for a while, the iBallz isn’t exactly a ‘latest’ gadget, but we’re suckers for quirky looking gadgets and we’d not seen this one before. The iBallz is incredibly simple in concept – it’s an elastic cord with four shock-absorbing balls attached to it. You simply slip it around the frame of your iPad and position a ball (which has a small slit) over each corner. The selling points of the iBallz system is that it doesn’t obstruct your view of the screen and it can be dropped from any angle without your iPad touching the floor (check out our video of iBallz).

Initially we were a bit sceptical of the demand for such a strange looking case, but when they mentioned that schools loved the product – it suddenly became clear that co-founders Lee and Derek might be on to a winner. The iBallz is already available for US$20 via www.iballz.info or £19.99 on iwantoneofthose.com

spnKiX motorised skates

CES 2012 was the official launch event for spnKiX – a pair of battery powered, motorised (up to 10mph), skates that you strap over your shoes. Invented and developed by LA-based designers Peter Treadway and partner Janelle, the spnKiX is something they’ve been working on in their spare time over the last 5-8 years (depending on who you asked!). After two or three hours of charging, the spnKiX will give you a range of 2-3 miles and their speed can be controlled via a hand-held remote. According to Peter, the spnKiX can be viewed both as something to play and do tricks with, as well as acting as a short distance vehicle. They are due to start shipping in March 2012 with a retail price of $649. More info is at www.spnKiX.com

‘Flash Dock’ an SLR iPhone/Smartphone dock

The ‘Flash Dock’ enables you to mount a smartphone on top of your SLR camera, using your camera’s HotShoe socket. For those thinking “the what shoe?” – the HotShoe is the socket on the very top of your camera more traditionally used to attach an things like a flash-gun.

However, by marrying your smartphone and SLR, the Flash Dock enables you to use your HotShoe for all sorts of purposes. For example, you could download a spirit-level app from your phone’s app store and use this to ensure your SLR is completely level. Or maybe use the light app to help illuminate a low-light scene. Or even push the dock forwards and use a microphone app to record audio while filming. The only limit is whether someone has developed an app for it!

The Flash-Dock itself is very basic, it’s just a mount and clip, but nevertheless it’s one of those “that’s a clever idea” products that might just prove to be a hit. The French-based company behind the dock are working on distribution, but the expected retail price is $34.95* and they hope it will be available within a month. To find out more information you can visit www.flash-dock.com

*Update on Jan 25: Retail price now $29.99.

Toffee cases and sleeves

 

While not strictly a gadget-manufacturer, the Sydney-based ‘Toffee’ caught our attention thanks to a combination of their beautiful leather iPad cases and having the charismatic Dan llic helping on their stand. We’ve since discovered (thanks Wikipedia!) that Dan is in fact a comedian, writer and performer back in Australia – which might explain how he had the stamina to remain upbeat and friendly even at the end of another long CES day! We’ll be giving away a Toffee Macbook Air/Pro case in our post-CES competition, but in the meantime you can find out more at http://www.toffee.com.au

Rounding up a round-up

So, that wraps up another year of CES coverage. We hope that you’ve enjoyed our three part round-up and stay tuned for coverage of IFA 2012 and of course CES 2013!

What caught our eye at CES 2012 – Part 2

Continuing our round-up (find part 1 here) of CES 2012, here are some of the other products that caught our attention as we toured the various exhibition halls.

ION Audio’s Water Rocker and iPad Guitar Apprentice

This year saw the guys at ION Audio showcasing a number of brand new and forthcoming products. In addition to the Docs2Go scanner for the iPad (see our video here), we also liked the look of their Water Rocker and Guitar Apprentice products.

The Water Rocker is a football-sized waterproof (and submersible) floating speaker system for the iPhone, iPod or anything else that can accommodate a 1/8-inch jack. After putting your source device in the specially designed cover dock, it will then transmit your music (within an advertised 150-foot range) to the Water Rocker. A nice feature is that you can have up to 10 speakers working from a single transmitter – which could be useful if you have a particularly huge pool (lottery winners take note!). The Water Rocker also features a built-in FM radio and it’s due out in the UK in April with an expected retail price of around £89.

Guitar Apprentice is a full-scale, electric controller that turns your iPad in to a guitar. Combined with the app, you’ll be able to follow the lights on the instrument’s neck to learn guitar skills and chords. You strum the guitar by using the touch screen of the iPad which you can simply dock and undock from the main body of the guitar. A nice design touch is the ability to fold the neck of the guitar in half for easy storage. Guitar Apprentice is expected to be launched in the UK in Q4 with an anticipated price of around £99.99.

Belkin WeMo Home Control Switch

The pitch the lady from Belkin gave was simple: imagine you’ve just got to work and can’t remember if you unplugged your iron. With WeMo, you can simply boot up the free app on your iPhone and instantly see whether the switch is on or off. If you did leave it on, then you can turn it off remotely via the app – wonderful! This was just one example of how Belkin’s new line of home automation products could come in handy.

 

This particular product (the Home Control Switch) works with your existing electrical system (i.e. by sitting between your device’s normal plug and the wall socket) and then uses your home’s Wi-Fi network. The programmable switch can also work in tandem with the WeMo sensor product that was also announced at this year’s show.

The RRP for the Home Control Switch in the States is $49.99 and it will be available from March. We’ll update you if and when we get details of UK availability and pricing. Belkin’s WeMo section of their web site is at http://www.belkin.com/wemo/

Celluon’s Prodigy iPhone projection keyboard & battery case

The idea of a projection keyboard (i.e. one that beams the keyboard on to a surface) is not new, but this year the people from Celluon were showcasing a prototype iPhone case which not only incorporated the projected keyboard, but also an additional battery and stand. The company is currently evaluating market demand but seemed confident that the Prodigy would go in to mass production and it could be available by late summer. We were told the expected price would be around $179. Having given the keyboard a quick test, it seemed to work well and didn’t miss any of the keys we pressed.

When asked about future products, the company rep mentioned the concept of a universal dock with projection keyboard which would accept all sorts of devices such as the iPhone, iPad, Samsung phones, Galaxy tablet etc. As it’s only a conceptual product, there were no details on release date or pricing – but perhaps we’ll see it at next year’s CES. Visit http://celluon.com/index.htm for further information.

Tamaggo 360-imager

The unusual design of the Tamaggo was the first thing that caught our eye as we turned the corner of another aisle of CES exhibitors. The Tamaggo is billed as the first consumer picture-taking device with ‘fully integrated, built in panomorph technology’ that lets users take high-res 360 degree images with just a single click. In a nutshell, you hold this ball-sized device in the air and hit the big silver button on the side to take a 360 photo of your current surroundings. It can detect the way you are holding the device and will automatically adjust its orientation accordingly for horiztonal or vertical panoramic images.

The Tamaggo’s vital stats are: 14MP sensor, 2″ LCD touch screen, Mini USB and wireless (WiFi/Bluetooth), weighs 190g and is 92mm long, 55.8mm high and 61.1mm wide. It also features a rechargeable Li-Polymer battery and integrated stand allowing for remote image capture.

The Tamaggo will be available in the US in Q2 for under $200. We will update this if and when we have further details on UK pricing and availability. For further product information, check out the company’s site at http://www.tamaggo.com

What caught our eye at CES 2012 – Part 1

Having recovered from our jet-lag and sifted through the two dozen or so USB press kits we picked up, we can now present you with part one of our round-up of the gadgets and gizmos that caught our eye at this year’s CES.

Eers Custom Earphones

Developed by Canadian firm Sonomax, ‘eers’ are the “first earphones in the world that you buy off the shelf and custom-fit to your own ears, in 4 minutes.” Roughly speaking, the product works by putting the fitting mechanism on your head (see picture) and then two types of silicone flow down into a membrane and into your ear. You don’t get any silicone in your ear of course, as it’s contained inside the membrane.

After a few minutes the silicone sets and you remove the fitting device to, hopefully, find a perfectly cast set of earphones – custom moulded to fit your ear. The product is expected to be on sale in the UK in the 2nd half (update: see below) of 2012 and the current retail price for the US is $199 for the single driver headphone and $299 for the twin driver (better sound quality) version. To find out more about eers, visit http://sculptedeers.com/

Update on Jan 26: Eers are now available direct from Sonomax UK on this page, current price £199+shipping

Sony Tablet P

The next product that caught our attention, but perhaps not for the right reasons, was the Sony Tablet P. Our initial reaction was that it looked like a giant, silver, version of the popular Nintendo Donkey Kong handheld game from yesteryear! Nevertheless we decided to persevere and had a quick hands-on go the intriguing looking clamshell tablet.

The idea is that you can easily slip this tablet in to your handbag, backpack or even jacket pocket – although from our experience you’d need a pretty big jacket for people not to notice the bulge! The Tablet P is 18cm long and 15.8cm wide when fully opened. It weighs 370g and sports two 5.5″ TruBlack touch screens. The model on display is supplied in conjunction with AT&T and enables the ‘P’ to use 3G when on the move.

Alongside Sony’s more conventional ‘S’ tablet and their increasingly powerful XPERIA smartphones, we couldn’t really work out who the ‘P’ was aimed at. The form factor was quite bulky and the sizeable gap between the two screens can make for awkward reading of long pages (see our photo for an example of a split mid paragraph).

While the official press material from Sony states that pricing and availability is ‘TBD’, we found the Tablet P already for sale (at £499) on the Sony UK web site. Given this relatively high price (the iPad 2 starts from £399) we’ll be surprised if this becomes a hit product for Sony.

Penclic Mouse

Penclic, a Swedish based company, have been championing the idea of a pen-shaped mouse since 2002. However this year’s CES saw them launching their new and improved R2 (wireless) and D2 (corded) versions. The Penclic is designed to provide a more natural working position and to combat health related issues associated with a traditional computer mouse, such as repetitive strain injury (RSI).

The Penclic is intended to feel and move like a pen and the mouse buttons are mounted where you grip with your forefinger and thumb. From our quick test the product performed well, although we were initially a little confused about which part made the cursor move. The answer is that you move the whole unit, rather than just the ball/socket mechanism!

The R2 and D2 are already available via the Amazon Marketplace, priced at £59.99 and £49.99 respectively. Update: Check out our Penclic R2 unboxing video

Audi’s triple heads-up display

Over at the predictably stylish (and extremely bright!) Audi stand, they had a demo of prototype heads-up display. Audi’s HUD stood out from existing displays because it featured three ‘projections’, one directly in front of the driver, one in the centre and one for the passenger.

The driver’s HUD showed navigational arrows which can obviously be used in place of a traditional sat-nav unit. The centre screen was showing more details about the route and end destination. Meanwhile, the passenger screen (which is invisible to the driver), can be used to watch TV, etc. All of the screens are gesture controlled.

In a ‘real life’ demo, the guy from Audi showed us an example of an incoming video phone call. This was displayed on the centre screen as a static photo and the name of the caller, but the passenger could drag this across to their screen to view the video call – while the driver could concentrate on, er, …driving!

Our CES 2012 coverage continues…