The first event at the Consumer Electronics Show, called CES Unveiled, actually takes place a couple of days before the show officially opens. The press reception, which is sponsored by CES' host organization, the Consumer Electronics Association, is an opportunity for a small group of exhibitors to preview what they plan to show at CES.
As usual, products range from somewhat wacky to actually practical. One of the more unusual products was a 3D Webcam from Manchester, U.K.-based Promotion & Display Technology.
The Minoru 3D Webcam has two lenses, which makes it look a little like a cute creature from outer space. You mount it on your monitor, and it transmits moving images in 3D and, yes, your viewers need special glasses to see you in 3D. The software that comes with the Minoru has "stereoscopic anaglyphic processing," that creates the 3D effect.
The $89 price includes the camera, software, and five pairs of red and cyan 3D glasses. I have no idea if it will catch on with the public, but it did win the Fan Favorite award at the Consumer Electronics Association I-stage event in October. The folks behind this product had better hope that those fans, and plenty more like them, have the vision to turn into customers for this unique device.
Also on the wacky side, Lenovo showed off a notebook that definitely looks strange but might actually be practical. The ThinkPad W700ds has two screens (the "ds" stands for dual screen). The primary screen is 17 inches, but if you need extra screen real estate, you can slide out the 10.6 secondary screen from the right side of the unit, adding about 40 percent more screen space.
The secondary screen can be adjusted to your preferred viewing angle, "similarly to how a car's rear-view mirror tilts," according to Lenovo. The idea is to give you additional space while working with photographs, Web browsers, or other applications that might otherwise overwhelm the notebook's main screen.
Lenovo, which several years ago acquired IBM's personal-computer division, also introduced its first all-in-one integrated desktop PC, which features a remote control that gamers can use like the innovative controller of the Nintendo Wii. Its "motion drive" feature allows the user to use the remote as if it were a virtual tennis racket or other moving object.
The remote also doubles as a voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) handset that you can use to make Internet phone calls. The computer itself uses various flavors of Intel Core 2 Duo processors, an optional ATI Radeon graphics card, up to 4GB of memory, and as much as a terabyte (1,000 gigabytes) of hard-drive space.
And for anyone coveting the ultrathin MacBook Air whose wallet might be too thin to actually afford one, help is on the way from MSI, a Taipei-based company that showed off its X-Slim Series X320 "Super Slim" Notebook PC which, at its biggest point, is only .77 inches thick, which is pretty close to the thickness of the Apple MacBook Air.
Unlike the Air, which starts at $1,799, the MSI notebook is expected to sell for between $700 and $1,000 when it becomes available later this year.
After devouring plenty of finger food at the reception, I'm not sure how thin I'll be, considering that hard-working journalists like me will have to attend several more receptions before CES is over. But it's my duty to press on, so damn the calories, and pass the egg rolls.