This was not a year for breakthrough products at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The stars of the show were 100-inch LED TVs (yawn) and oceans of portable Bluetooth speakers; but it’s the small, sometimes odd gadgets that made the trip interesting.
Here are a few examples — nearly lost amid the noise and bright lights — that caught my attention.
A pocket-sized substitute for touch screens
You undoubtedly know by now that Windows 8 is optimized for touchscreens. Windows 8 without touch controls is like 3-D movies without the glasses. A touchscreen is practical on laptops or tablets but usually means purchasing a new mobile device.
Although touch mice or touchpads make viable alternatives to touchscreens, Targus’s Touch Pen for Windows 8 (info) tries something rather novel: it gives touchscreen capabilities to just about any 16-inch or smaller laptop display. Instead of having to spend U.S. $700 or more on a new PC — so the reasoning goes — get a $100 touch-enabling pen for the computer you already have. The system consists of a digital pen and a receiving unit that attaches to the side of the portable’s display.
The Touch Pen I tested was a preproduction unit I attached to the screen of a formerly Windows 7 HP laptop. Although there were still a few kinks and subtle calibration issues with the unit, it proved a clever workaround for exploiting Win8 gestures.
Setup was quick and simple — there’s no software to install; Windows 8 has all the necessary drivers for the Touch Pen. I just clamped the small receiver to the notebook’s display bezel and plugged in the USB connector. Initially, some calibration was needed for accurate input. Plugging in the receiver popped up a previously unlisted Control Panel tool — Tablet PC Settings (see Figure 2). A Calibrate button steps you through the calibration process.