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Making the Wii Look Stupid


We did catch someone saying "this makes the Wii look stupid." And, actually, it kind of does. The 3DV Z Cam is  a minuscule video camera equipped with an infrared beam, roughly the size of a web-cam, that sits on the bottom of your TV. That's where the fun starts. Flash gang signs to change channels or flick various components on or off; have a virtual dance-off outside of a specific square; KO a cartoon boxer with real jabs. But don't just take our word for it, check out the video above.

The Maestro Will See You Now

Guitar Hero's a terrific game, but doesn't do much in the way of teaching. (Unless you want to learn how embarrassingly uncoordinated you can be; in which case, kudos.) Enter a real maestro. Guitar Wizard and the forthcoming Piano Wizard go where few games dare to tread—they claim to make you more knowledgeable. Though initially skeptical, we have to admit, it seems to work. Their spokesperson promised to have web editor Megan Miller playing a song and reading music within 10 minutes. Lo and behold . . .


PopSci Test Drive: The Chevy Equinox

We test plenty of cars here at PopSci, but it's not everyday we get to try one as forward-looking and promising at the Equinox. The car runs on hydrogen fuel cells; turn the ignition and the car instantly (and silently) churns out  enough electricity  to power six houses. So how does that much raw, green power feel? Check it out as senior associate editor Sean Captain takes the Equinox on a spin up the Vegas Strip.


Can Cellphones Save the World?


With all the glitz at CES, it can be easy to forget that the best tech does more than look slick: It actually solves real problems. And today I learned that we might be holding a major problem-solver right in the palms of our hands. At a forum on tech and the developing world, humanitarian experts explained how a simple cellphone—whether equipped with Web browsers or just text messages—can become a mini computer that brings business, health, and educational information to people in rural areas of Africa and other emerging countries.

The infrastructure is already there: Cell networks are far more widespread in Africa than are landlines or Internet connections, since it’s easier to set up cell towers than to run cables, and spotty electricity doesn’t affect low-power phones as much as it does computers. And given how many cellphones fill the booths at CES, said humanitarian-slash-entrepreneur Paul Meyer, you don’t need to design new products specifically for developing countries. (Not sure if that’s a dig at the One Laptop Per Child project.) “There’s no reason a doctor in Rwanda needs a cellphone that’s any different from the ones bought and paid for by two billion people around the globe,” Meyer said.

Next up, Meyer predicts, is an explosion of cellphone services in developing areas. His own company, Voxiva, has phone-based programs that help health officials track diseases, among other things. And another speaker, Daniel Annarose, described how cellphones are already helping Senegalese farmers earn a fair wage. Annarose’s company, Manobi, sends farmers text messages that list the market price of their crops, so they no longer have to rely solely on the word of the middlemen who buy their goods and then sell them for a much higher price. Manobi sends out 30,000 text messages a day, Annarose said, and many farmers have doubled their income.

By 2010, Annarose said, half of Africa’s 950 million people will have a cellphone—and maybe life-changing information at their fingertips.—Lauren Aaronson

(Image credit: Manobi)

Hydrogen is Hot

Chevy’s fuel-cell SUV zips around

Las Vegas


I knew that GM had built real, road-ready hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. But I didn’t really believe it until I saw one, and drove it.

The Chevy Equinox I piloted—one of about one hundred that GM will put on the road later this year—looked as polished and user-friendly as any new car on the lot. It’s a comfy, soccer-mom/dad vehicle that seems like any other small SUV until you turn the ignition—err, I mean the key. There is no ignition.

That cranks on a hydrogen fuel cell stack that instantly produces enough electricity to power six houses—or to propel the Equinox like a rocket. Its electric motor cranks out the torque as soon as you hit the gas—err, I mean the accelerator. If you think electric motors are wimpy based on how hybrids drive, that’s only because hybrids have very wimpy small motors. With a full-sized model, you’ve got full-sized power. My biggest problem driving around Vegas was to not go too fast and cause an accident.


Continue reading "Hydrogen is Hot" »

Color Burns Bright With Mitsubishi's Laser TV


Those mad scientists at Mitsubishi have built the ultimate entertainment weapon—the laser TV! Lasers shooting out of a television screen isn’t as scary as it may sound. But it does have one big benefit-color.

Lasers can be tuned to the exact wavelength of light you like—down to the nanometer. So TV makers can produce the ideal shades of red, green, and blue to produce the best colors possibly. Mitsubishi claims this allows them to reproduce about 80 percent of all the colors humans can see—versus about 40 percent for other TVs.

Is all that true? I can’t say for sure, but I know that colors were stunning. And maybe I just had too many cocktails at the launch party, but I think I saw colors that I hadn’t seen before on a TV.

In a clip from Moulin Rouge, for example, the yellows in the dancer’s dresses and in their makeup were virtually luminescent. Same for the falling yellow leaves in the great girl-on-girl battle from Hero. In Star Wars’ final encounter between Anakin and Obi Wan, the light sabers glowed a fluorescent blue that I don’t think I saw in the theater.

Continue reading "Color Burns Bright With Mitsubishi's Laser TV" »

Hot Hydrogen-Powered Cadillac

The first consumer electronics car?


General Motors' CEO Rick Wagoner just took the wraps off the Cadillac Provoq—the first car ever introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show. Their latest fuel-cell vehicle gets twice the range of the new Equinox SUVs that are about to hit the road, and its “engine” is only half as large.

It still seems weird to put the words Cadillac, crossover vehicle (small SUV) and environmental in the same sentence . . . maybe that’s why they named it Provoq. (And hopefully they are better at engineering than at spelling.)

In addition to looking badass, the Provoq has just about every green feature you (or GM) could think of. There's a plug on each side for charging the lithium-ion batteries at home, plus a solar panel on the roof for charging on the road. Louvers in the front of the car can open up to provide more cooling or close to reduce wind resistance at high speed. The 300-mile range is nice for convenience, but not critical. After all, you can refill the car with hydrogen in about 8 minutes (at least, at the two or three dozen hydrogen stations in the entire country). 

But this ultra-green car doesn’t have Prius-style timidity. It can hit 100 miles per hour and get to 60mph in 8.5 seconds—faster than Cadillac’s current crossover. And I believe those numbers. I got to drive the super-peppy Equinox around Vegas today and I was amazed at the whiplash acceleration. (Despite the defamation of electric motors by internal-combustion enthusiasts, motors are the ultimate sports car power plants—delivering high torque as soon as you hit the gas—err, accelerator.)

Of course, like GM’s other hydrogen cars, you won’t be buying a Provoq immediately. But you might do it pretty soon. GM hopes to be selling the Equinox by 2010 (in the first city or city that builds enough hydrogen refueling stations to make it practical.) No word yet on when the Provoq will hit driveways, but I sure hope it’s soon.—Sean Captain

More pics after the jump.

Continue reading "Hot Hydrogen-Powered Cadillac" »

Great Moments in CES Demo Stages: Canon's Hideaway Harpist


You could spend a lifetime documenting the hilarity that is the CES demo stage—last year's crazy Intel lady was a highlight in '07, and thankfully she's back again this year—but something about the way this promo harpist for Canon gets neatly tucked away behind a curtain after her performance made me wish for this kind of setup in my own home. Take note, Canon! —John Mahoney

Toshiba Booth Highlights


Despite sad news for the HD-DVD format, Toshiba soldiers on. Long known for their technical innovation (they were the first to develop laptop computers and flash memory), the Japanese company had a few interesting standouts hidden among the regular flow of updated TVs and the like, including a promising Linux-based UMPC.

Continue reading "Toshiba Booth Highlights" »

LG Booth Highlights: A Cellphone Watch to Make James Bond Proud


Although still in the prototype stage, this mobile phone watch mockup from LG is still pretty impressive. Three tiny buttons scroll through a vertical menu interface, and calls I presume are router to a headset via Bluetooth (just guessing here, but holding your wrist to your ear doesn't seem too feasible). No more details now, but we'll be waiting for this one like James Bond in Q's candy store. —John Mahoney

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