More Than Meets the Eye at New York Electronics Show

Starts with a whimper, ends with a crackle of new ideas

Mini Projectors

3M was displaying the $360 MPro 110 handheld projector, the first product of its kind and the Grand Award winner in our Best of What's New gadgets category. The projector is at once marvelous and disappointing. It's amazing that such a product exists, but I already wish it were better. Above all I'd like to see a brighter image and deeper colors. 3M reps told me, though, that another version with "many improvements" is already in the works. Optoma's Pico projector playing an episode of The Office_ from an attached iPod. Image quality was quite good considering the extremely bright room._Sean Captain

Mini Projectors

And that's a good thing, because they will have to compete against Optoma's four-ounce, DLP-based Pico pocket projector, which goes on sale in December for $400. Optoma was purposely projecting smaller images than 3M, so it's hard to do make a direct comparison, but the color saturation appeared to be stunning. This is already a battle royale, to be joined some day (we hope) by Microvision's Show projector The Pico really is pocket sized.Sean Captain

Topographic GPS

I also took a look at Navigon's new 8100T GPS unit, the first to display topographic maps (based on data pulled down from NASA). To make the topography look believable, the 8100T generates an "artificial sun" to produce shadows. A 3-D graphics accelerator chip renders the effects. The first topographic GPS, complete with computer-generated sunlight.Sean Captain

LCDs that Are All Screen

By this point I already felt that I had exhausted all the interesting options. So I stopped by to check out Samsung SDI's exhibit of advertising LCDs, and in doing so might have accidentally stumbled upon the future of TV. Samsung was showing off new tech for LCDs with extremely thin frames (7.3 millimeters, to be exact). That allows them to "tile" the frames together into giant video walls with barely visible seams (Samsung's Yong Park said they hope to ultimately get the frame down under 5 millimeters). LCDs "tiled" together in a video wall.Sean Captain

LCDs that Are All Screen

But the same tech could also lead to TVs that are virtually all screen. The trick? Instead of putting the LCD drove electronics along the edge of the screen, they bend the wires coming off the edge at 90 degrees and put the electronics behind it. Just a few millimeters of frame separate the two screens.Sean Captain

LCDs that Are All Screen

Samsung also showed a crazy-bright (2000 nit) panel for outdoor signs that's readable In direct sunlight. No applications for your living room, but damn it was cool. _ Samsung's 70-inch ultrabright LCD for outdoor signs._Sean Captain

Morphing Headphones

And it wouldn't be an electronics show without at least one wacky invention. S1 Audio provided several. Its BUDBUD is essentially headphones that spoon. When you're rocking out on your own, the two earpieces nest together to form one headphone in each ear. When you want to rock with a friend, pull them out of their cuddling embrace to get a second set. Pull the nested headphones apart to get a pair.Courtesy S1 Audio

Morphing Headphones

S1's NxSet is even more…interesting. It's basically a speaker collar that provides your own private boombox. When you want to be discrete, pull out the built-in headphones for private listening. S1's Christopher Gantz modeling his neck-hugging speakers with included earbuds.Sean Captain