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What's Hot and Not at the 2006 CES in Vegas


This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

An update now on our top story. Doctors says Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has shown significant improvement after a second surgery today to stop bleeding in his brain and relieve pressure there, but he remains in serious condition. Mr. Sharon suffered a massive stroke Wednesday. Stay with NPR News for updates as this story develops.

And now to Las Vegas and DAY TO DAY contributor David Was, who is there for the annual techno-bacchanal known as the Consumer Electronics Show.

David, welcome back to DAY TO DAY.

DAVID WAS reporting:

Thanks very much, Alex.

There are 120,000 people there in Vegas hocking every kind of gadget and gizmo imaginable. It sort of sounds like heaven, but then it kind of sounds like hell.

WAS: Well, that's exactly how I respond to this. It works my repulsion-attraction threshold simultaneously, where you're at once attracted by anything with blinking lights and big LCD screen, and on the other hand the in-utility of half the stuff you see. You think, `Do you really need a phone that doubles as a television-toaster-microwave-etc.?'

CHADWICK: This is the biggest annual gathering of people who deal in all these things that are the objects of our electronic desires: computers, video, cameras and all the content therein. What are the objects of your desire there and also your disdain? What are you seeing?

WAS: You might be interested in this, Alex. I found a regular turntable with a needle that you put records on.

CHADWICK: I remember those.

WAS: But this has a USB connector that goes directly into your computer so that you can digitize your LPs; nay, even your 78s. It'll play at 78. And you send those bad boys, those Al Jolson records directly to your hard disk, which...

CHADWICK: With a USB connector?

WAS: A USB turntable from ION, 150 bucks. And it's got a freeware editing program called Audacity that, if you'd like to, you can take out the hiss, pops and crackles; which is an irony, given that today's record producers actually try to recreate that old sound and put in the hiss, pop and crackles. So...

CHADWICK: All right. What else?

WAS: Here's a good one for you. There's a new word here in Vegas called `vlogging,' which is video blogging. And Creative Labs now makes a camera that will not only track your every movement if you happen to go laterally or horizontally, but it has a TelePrompTer function that allows you to look dead in the camera like they do on local news and pretend to actually be thinking in real time. But I thought, `Well, wait, vlogging is one thing, but you can also do virtual flogging.' So you can virtual box. I saw a comely young lass in tight exercise gear boxing against some horrific-looking Swede and knocking him out continually wearing her virtual boxing gloves.

But also--Alex, I know you've been waiting for this--the virtual bass fishing program. Now think about this. If you actually sit at home, drink a six-pack of beer, you could sort of approximate the experience of nausea and boredom that drinking and fishing really engender, and all without, you know, the risk of drowning, which I find fabulous.

CHADWICK: And you--so what do you have a virtual rod? You cast with this thing and you have some on-screen presentation of this on the bass pond of your dreams?

WAS: Exactly. And, you know, it's got everything but the smell, which they're working on--a dead fish chip, I believe, from Intel.

CHADWICK: David, I'm not sure that The Wall Street Journal's been at the same CES that you have because they characterize this year's theme as refinement. Does--I don't know if virtual bass fishing would go along with refinement, but they mean things are smaller, faster, easier--no big breakthroughs, just kind of refinement. How do you sum it up?

WAS: You know, one of my favorite words in the language is tautology, the department of redundancy department. It's that these digital camel traders are defining for us needs that we didn't know we had. And if you will, all these blinking gee-gaws(ph) are meant to distract us from the overriding spiritual emptiness of the age.

CHADWICK: David Was, a contributing writer to DAY TO DAY and half of the musical duo Was (Not Was), speaking with us from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

David, hold on to your wallet.

WAS: Always.

CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. DAY TO DAY returns in just a moment. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Was
Alex Chadwick
For more than 30 years, Alex Chadwick has been bringing the world to NPR listeners as an NPR News producer, program host and currently senior correspondent. He's reported from every continent except Antarctica.