Alt.CES: A maker’s peek at North Hall and the International Pavilion

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Alt.CES: A maker’s peek at North Hall and the International Pavilion

This year, MAKE/O’Reilly author Damien Stolarz (iPhone Hacks, Car PC Hacks) agreed to be our eyes and ears on the ground at CES, scoping out hardware at the show that he thought would be of interest to makers. Here’s his second installment, a tour of North Hall and the International Pavilion. (Here’s Part 1) Thanks, Damien! —Gareth

In the second day of CES, I managed to cover the other halls: Central, which houses all the big names, North Hall, which covers various large categories such as in-vehicle electronics, health, green energy, and the International Pavilion, which was home to technology looking for US distribution. First, let’s browse the International Pavilion…


You can find any meter you need from the Flash Star Industrial Co, Ltd.


Of personal interest to me were the array of drop-in, high-brightness dimmable LED lightbulbs, which can replace a 60W bulb effectively, last for about five years, and can be had for under $30 each. (If you keep them cool, they can last forever.) These might be the same bulbs on Amazon, but I couldn’t tell for sure.


Large-format outdoor and signage displays are more available than ever, and could be useful for various maker projects. Top Tech showed off one of these tri-color dot displays.


Because computers are now almost exclusively connected to televisions, we need integrated touchpads in tiny keyboards because laser mice just don’t work as well on your couch. This was one of dozens of designs I encountered. I tried buying one of them on the spot, but no dice. They should be available after the show, if I can figure out what company it was from.


Multitouch was everywhere. This little trackpad doubled as a numeric input and did a mean pinch-zoom on this on-screen globe.


Now, transitioning to North Hall, I found that wireless power — i.e. inductive-coupled charging — is getting big. This “Chee” q-i symbol could be found around and about, and apparently, the several competing standards have settled down to about two or three… the point is, go buy the inductive charger with the Energizer logo on it, hack it open, and add inductive charging to whatever gadget of yours needs it.

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Maybe you’re thinking to yourself “inductive charging? Whatever,” but you wouldn’t be thinking that if you saw these CHEERIOS BOXES WITH FLASHING LIGHTS! For real. These products glow when you put them on the shelf.


I saw the stacking video blocks that make a game when you rearrange them from the perky hipster people at the start-up from the Dogpatch area of San Francisco, but I wasn’t sure how hackable they were and I can’t remember their name, but it’s OK ’cause I’m sure Twitter loves them already.


Apparently the MIDI SDK has been standardized for iPhone/iPod/iPad and this gadget provides a nice reference platform for MIDI development on these devices — It might be possible to do general purpose iPhone-to-your-gadget development if your gadget speaks MIDI and not have to get into the whole dock connector thing.

Another point of interest here was that the guy showing this off has some software that they use to teach keyboard remotely over the Internet using MIDI. You can check it out at

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The absolute coolest thing I saw at the show wasn’t new at all. But it’s taken almost a century for it to arrive in the right form-factor. It is the record-playing Soundwagon bus. Apparently, this is a Japanese toy that’s been around for decades. Sleeper hit. But I don’t think its hackability has been explored. For starters, someone needs to put a wireless transmitter on the bus and amplify the music.

Next stop: Central Hall…

Alt.CES: A maker’s peek at South Hall

Bio: Damien Stolarz is an inventor, writer, and entrepreneur with extensive experience in consumer-facing new media and digital technology. He is a Partner at Perceptive Development , an iPhone hardware and software consultancy. Damien has authored & coauthored several popular technical books including iPhone Hacks, VideoBlogging and Podcasting, Car PC Hacks, and Mastering Internet Video.

He holds a Bachelor of Science & Engineering in Computer Science Engineering from UCLA. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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