Blog Date: 
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Charlie Cook

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is always an adventure, and this year it looks like one which will involve a LOT of new phones and new tablets. Given that our focus is not necessarily the same as everybody else’s, here are some of the highlights of the first day of exploring:

Emporia: This Austrian company is bringing some much needed products to the U.S. market. They produce simple, rugged phones for first-time cell phone users, typically seniors and children. That in itself is not all that unusual – the Jitterbug and Snapfon phones already provide much of that functionality. Big buttons, simple use and large displays are becoming more common. Where Emporia is different is in their overall approach – they aim for the broadest possible access to their devices. In practice, this means that some of their phones have first and second level speech navigation, with plans for more comprehensive speech. The company also plans to add some more advanced functions, such as simple navigation, to their phones. With this implemented, the user could have some of the snazzier features of something like Siri on the iPhone, without having to navigate a complex interface – all that would be needed is saying “take me home.”

No carrier has been established for the phone, but the U.S. release is expected in May, and if full speech access happens anytime soon, these phones will be a very welcome addition to a market short on simple but fully accessible phones.

Makerbot: The Access Technology monkeys are always filled with joy by Makerbot. Their affordable 3D printers (about $1750 for the Replicator) are open source and produce remarkably detailed models for the money. For anybody looking to do great tactile models on a budget, and who can design in 3D, Makerbot is a real ally.

Techko Maid: Techko was showing their automated mop and their vacuum. Both had simple, easy to label tactile controls with sound feedback – and who wouldn’t want their vacuuming done by someone (or something) else?

Clara Van Gerven