Gadgets pack a lot in a little space

January 10

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS – Small but mighty gadgets are the rage in consumer electronics this year — unless you’re buying a television.

There’s a digital camcorder the size of a key ring but with a 1.5-gigabyte hard drive. A flash drive, which erases your Web browsing footprints, is the size of a pack of gum. And there’s a device seemingly dreamed up for a comic book: truth-detector eyeglasses.

“A chip inside the glasses is able to read the voice frequency of the person you are talking to,” said Beata Gutman, a spokeswoman for the product’s maker, the Israeli company Nemesysco. “The voice is analyzed through that chip and there are lights that indicate whether the person is lying.”

All these objects appear in this week’s annual Consumer Electronics Show — along with flat-screen televisions bigger than Michael Jordan.

The ”Voice Analysis Eyeglasses” provide real-time analysis on the inside of the lenses about whoever is talking, says Gutman, whose company developed the technology for counterterrorism and government customers. She said the truth specs were expected to be available at the end of January for $400 to $500.

The tiny Philips Electronics camcorder, about the size of a Pez candy dispenser, can hold digital photos or MP3 songs. Its hard drive can also store up to 24 minutes of video.

Lexar Media unveiled the JumpDrive Traveler, a tiny flash drive. Meant to be used in Internet cafes, student computer libraries or on any computer away from your home or office, the JumpDrive erases all traces of your Web browsing history, including credit card numbers or other data that you entered into the host computer. It will hit stores this month at $60 for the 128-MB version, or $90 for the 256-MB.

In the challenging space between the computer and the television, new contenders include personal video recording software from SnapStream Media that makes it easier to skip commercials and offers better compression for recorded shows.

The electronics show, which will attract some 110,000 visitors on the 1.4 million-square-foot trade show floor, also features the latest in monster televisions.

Samsung introduced an 80-inch plasma TV, expected to debut next year. It’s four inches bigger than the plasma TV that South Korean manufacturer LG Electronics promises for later this year. Such sets will cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Samsung also introduced a television with a 57-inch liquid-crystal display set. Cost and complexity previously limited home-use plasma displays to under 65 inches, and LCDs topped out at about 46 inches.

Televisions such as Samsung’s 6-foot-6-inch plasma model, analysts say, confer status and bragging rights – similar to sport utility vehicles that continue to grow in girth.

“Why are people buying Hummers?” asked Tom Edwards, an independent consumer analyst in Middletown, N.J. “The American public wants the biggest thing they can afford, whether it’s a car or a TV.”

As they get bigger, TVs are usurping functions of other devices, particularly computers and printers.

Epson, of printer fame, introduced two LCD projection televisions with built-in memory card slots, printer and a CD-rewritable drive.