CES Unveiled: Where Manufacturers Bring Their B Game To Mildly Impress The Press

The actual tech stampede that is the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas doesn’t start until Tuesday, but the press gets here a few days early so manufacturers can officially announce what’s behind those curtains on the show floor. Additionally, there’s the annual CES Unveiled event, in which a handful of exhibitors compete with the free food and drinks in an attempt to impress the press. You occasionally run into some items — like the baby monitor-type system for elderly people — but this year’s group had few standouts.

There were some audio items that seemed interesting but require further investigation. For one, RCA is set to introduce a sound bar speaker system for your TV that integrates a Roku-like streaming media player. So if you have a TV that predates the current internet-ready trend, this product will give you access to all that content without having to buy a new set. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to sample the sound, so it’s hard to say if it’s a good buy.

Then there are the crayon-shaped headphones for kids that are the result of a partnership between Griffin and Crayola. They’re cute — here’s some photographic evidence — and they have a volume limit so as to not damage your little ones’ eardrums, but we’re curious to see if kids will stick that pointy end in their ears.

The folks at iHome were showing off, among other things, a Bluetooth-based docking system complete with keyboard and speakers that turns your tablet or phone (they were only showing an iPad; we’re going to try it with some Android devices when it’s on the CES floor) into a wireless monitor.

In the growing realm of connected household systems, Nest was pushing its smart thermostat, which in addition to remote access, the company claims learns from your energy usage history so you can change your heating and cooling behavior to save money.

And I was intrigued by the Oregon Scientific combination clock/weather center/charging station (see pic above) that not only features wireless charging for smartphones but also has a second time readout that projects straight up, so if you’re lying in bed at night and can’t sleep, this device will remind you how late it is and what a wreck you will be in the morning.

Not a bad little show in all (and I did manage to score about 10GB worth of free thumb drives thanks to the digital press kits), but there were no mind-blowers — or even any head-scratchers — this year. Hopefully there will be some of both when they fling open the doors to the exhibit halls later this week.

Monday is press conference day, so expect to see some announcements coming from the bigger names in electronics.

Until then, I’m off to the high rollers lounge (to see if anyone dropped any chips on the floor).