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What you missed before CES even started

Tue, 07 Jan 2014 00:00:00 -0800

CES officially opens Tuesday, January 7, but the news started happening the day before.

What do we mean? Everything from jumping robots to an all-electric formula race car took a bow in Las Vegas on the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show. Here's a sampling of some of our favorite goodies, and stay tuned all week as we wander the CES show floor in search of the best gadgets.

Mark Vaughn
The organizers if the FIA Formula E CHampionship revealed the race-ready car at CES.

Let's start with the race car. Organizers of the FIA Formula E Championship revealed the production/race version of the car that will compete in the coming world championship, which kicks off Sept. 13, 2014 in Beijing. The car looked a little like a bantamweight F1 car except that the front end sort of stuck up in the air too much and the rear end seemed to drag a bit. The wheels and the M&S Michelin tires looked a little too much like street tires, but then you have to compromise between grip and low rolling resistance and what are we, tire engineers now? The cars can make 270 hp but are squelched down to 180 in race mode so their batteries will last 20 to 25 minutes a race. Top speed is 150 mph and 0-60 comes up in under three seconds. Two of the ten races will be in the United States: Los Angeles Feb. 14, 2015 and Miami March 14, 2015.

Mark Vaughn
Toyota showed off its FCV design concept at CES.

Toyota chose the day before CES to make the North American debut of its FCV edesign concept, its first fuel cell-powered car. Toyota execs reiterated the message put out at the Tokyo motor show, too, that they don't see battery electric vehicles being profitable in the near future but that they do see the cost of fuel cell technology dropping to profitability. So look for a car very much like the blue one you see here in Toyota showrooms in California next year. Price and production numbers were not released but Toyota did ease infrastructure fears somewhat with the news that a study showed as few as 68 strategically placed hydrogen refueling stations in California urban population centers could accommodate 10,000 fuel cell vehicles. There are ten stations now but more are on the way, Toyota execs said. Expect word on the new car's name, performance and likely sales volumes this spring. Hint, don't expect “Acres and acres of FCVs” at your local dealer.

Electric skateboard at Digital Experience the night before CES.

A media-and-analyst-only pre-CES event called Digital Experience is also held the day before the show opens and we saw a few cool gizmos there. Makers of the E-GO Cruiser electric skate board claim it is the world's lightest, with a carbon fiber case slung underneath holding a lithium ion battery to keep the weight down to just 13.9 pounds. The board is controlled with a wireless hand-held sliding switch and goes up to 18 miles on a charge. Cost will be $699 when it comes out at the end of the month.

Mark Vaughn
A jumper box that fits in your hand and can start your car.

Cobra Electronics is now offering dash cams of the type made famous by all those crazy Russians you've been watching on YouTube. An eight-gig micro SD card records an hour's worth of crashes and moose strikes for as little as $99. Add GPS to record exactly where the moose was struck and price rises to $149. Cobra also has what has to be the world's smallest jumper battery. The JumPack fits in your hand and yet has enough juice to start a car. Price is $129.

Mark Vaughn
Google Glass can intiate many functions on the coming Hyundai Genesis sedan.

Both Chevy/OnStar and Hyundai parked cars on the carpet with new connectivity features. Chevy owners will be able to download apps to their cars through MyLink thanks to high-speed 4G LTE connectivity of OnStar. Hyundai showed off how owners of the coming Genesis sedan will be able to remotely start their cars, lock or unlock the doors and download point of interest information through smart phones and even from Google Glass. We tried the Google Glass and think it may take some getting used to.

ankidrive showed off new upgrades to its two-month-old racing game setup which allows drivers to race their little half-a-palm-sized race cars by tilting their smart phones. You can even digitally shoot at your competitors. NASCAR should offer that, with paint ball, at least.

The owners of Driver Cloud want to take its Chaufr ride-sharing and add Gofr parcel delivery service. The idea would be the same as a rde-sharing plan but instead of people it would deliver goods.

“Imagine a plumber working at your house who needs a part,” said ceo Steve Juliver. “Rather than him having to stop working and go get it at $85 an hour, he calls Gofr and someone delivers it for him.”

And the jumping sumo? Parrot offers it as a little rolling robot that can leap a couple feet into the air on command. Why not?

By Mark Vaughn