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High-tech, but offbeat

Fri., Jan. 11, 2008, midnight

LAS VEGAS – It probably goes without saying that no one actually needs a dancing MP3 player or a robotic guitar tuner..

But some vendors at the International Consumer Electronics Show are betting that people will actually want these things.

Alongside gadgets representing the highest of high technology, CES this week showcased a great collection of offbeat items.

Some might even turn out to be blockbusters. Others, if they’re lucky, will nestle into an ignored corner of the SkyMall catalog.

Roll out the Rolly: Sony Corp.’s Rolly is something that could only come out of Japan, where cuteness is a cult.

The Rolly is an MP3 player the size and shape of a turkey egg. It rolls and spins around on the floor and blasts music out of two built-in stereo speakers, while flapping two speaker lids like it’s a cancan dancer with folding fans. Pulsing multicolored diodes complete the sensory experience.

The Rolly was released in Japan in September, and Sony announced at CES that it would sell it in the U.S. It didn’t reveal the price – it costs about $350 in Japan.

The Rolly will improvise moves based on the music, but users can choreograph their own steps on a PC, then transfer them to the device.

Tune in, pay up: Gibson Guitar Corp.’s Robot Guitar is not a guitar for robots. Nor is it a guitar that plays itself. Why let robots have all the fun?

Like a good robot, the Robot Guitar takes care of the boring part of being a guitarist: the tuning. Tiny motors are connected to a guitar’s tuning screws. Pull out a master control knob, strum the strings, and the screws start turning themselves. In seconds, the guitar is in tune.

It’s also easy to switch between tunings.

A rechargeable battery in the body is good for 250 tunings, according to Gibson’s Aljon Go.

Underwater shutterbugs: CES exhibitors love combinations, which is why there are MP3 players in everything. Liquid Image LLC found a new place to stash a camera: a swimming mask.

It can take video or still images; it’s $99 for the 5-megapixel version and $79 for 3.1 megapixels.

Underwater cameras have existed before, but swimmers have had to hold them. Liquid Image squeezed its camera into the mask by skipping the viewfinder. The two buttons for operating the camera are just above the eyepiece on the right.

It’s not yet rugged enough to go deep with scuba divers, though: Liquid Image recommends going no more than 16 feet under water.


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