(Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC)
From things that drill to making memories, CES innovators showcased some interesting wares

The 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2014) in Las Vegas, Nevada had only a couple of high profile items (such as NVIDIA Corp.'s (NVDA) Tegra K1 introduction and Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW) AG (ETR:BMW) hands on test-drives with the all-electric i3 Coupe (which mixed 1 Series and Mini design and drivetrain cues).  Big ticket items seemed largely to get the bump to Mobile World Congress 2014 (at the end of February).  Many OEMs also spilled the beans early on new products leaving CES feeling a bit more like a rehash than usual.

I. Dog's Eye View

But there were some nuggets to be gleaned on the show floor.

One neat product I saw was dubbed "AutoPaws Vision".

PawsCam vision
[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

While the space of wearable cameras was pioneered largely by extreme sports athletes, with the advent of cheap, hardy cell phone era optical packages, companies have begun to get creative with tiny cameras.

Sony Corp. (TYO:6758) at its keynote showed off a pet mount for one of its active series digital cameras.  But for something a bit cheaper and more purpose-built there's PawsCam's AutoPaws Vision.

AutoPaws vision supposedly activates whenever your dog moves or becomes active.  Mounted beneath the neck, the makers promise that the camera will allow you to "view the world from your dog's angle at anytime from anywhere."  The camera's multi-axis motion sensor snaps photos whenever you dog "looks" at something or has other interested motions.  It also logs the amount of time it thinks your dog is spending resting, playing, walking, and running.  It also has temperature sensors.

The camera will be coupled with Google Inc. (GOOG) Android OS and Apple, Inc. (AAPL) iOS smartphone apps.  The company's Beijing, China-based employees struggled to convey to me what wireless technology was being used for the camera, but I'd presume it's a either Wi-Fi or (most likely) low power Bluetooth (e.g. Bluetooth 4 LE).

[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

In a particularly sad, but humorous twist, if you're a negligent owner (e.g. leaving your pet in freezing cold or heat, or ignoring it leading to lethargy) it will send you plaintive texts pleading with you to pay attention to your pet.

The company is currently taking orders at $99 USD with a delivery data of Feb. 28.  After the first 100 reservations the price will jump to $149 USD, with a delivery date of Mar. 31.  Another 100 will be added at $199 after that, delivered by Mar. 31.

After the shipments -- much of which might have been scooped up at CES -- it's unclear what's next for PawsCam.  I spoke with them about reviewing the product (as a new dog owner I was somewhat curious to try the product) but was informed there were no review samples.  I also was told they were "unsure" if they would be releasing in the U.S. (although I presume they'll be shipping to their U.S. early backers at the above prices).  A company website is up, but it's pretty minimal information-wise at this point. 

But it does feature quite possibly the slickest and cutest advertising video you've seen, so kudos to them for that.  (The video is English, but all the participants are in Chinese, again leaving some confusion as to its U.S. status.)  Assuming this launches stateside it seems like it could be a hit.

II. Tough, Yet Flexible Composite Bits are Fearsome

Another neat project I saw was "Bad Dog Tools" demo of its hardy combination alloy drill bits.  "Standard" drill bits (i.e. cheap, junky ones) tend to be steel.  Moving up the latter you have things like black oxide (basically just steel bits treated with corrosion resistant layer) and titanium (a metal that's as strong as steel, but lighter for faster spin).  Masonry bits get perks like diamond-ground carbide tips and high-temperature brazing to prevent melting. 

Exotic chemistries like titanium nitrate (which resists heat and adds lubricity for faster tapping of woods, plastics, and softer metals), cobalt (for drilling into abrasive/tough metals like steel, with the best results when working with freshly cast metal), or carbide-coatings (also for steel, works well with hardened steel but is brittle).

The Bad Dog Tools bits feature a unique alloy blend that reads like a laundry list of metals.  The composition includes:
  • Nickel
  • Carbon (carbide)
  • Cobalt
  • Titanium
In a demo Bad Dog Tools employees drilled through solid steel files at 3,000 rpms.  Hot metal began to fly, and the demonstrator quipped that "Usually when you see metal flying that's a bad thing because it's the other metal (your bit)."

Bad Dog Tools
Bad Dog Tools employees fearlessly performed demos that could be downright lethal with cheap drill bits. [Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

But the bit -- briefly glowing -- was pulled up unharmed after a surprisingly quick punch.  After cooling off the bit was shown to have no scarring or other damage.

Yet the same bit was able to punch through ceramic tile and wood cleanly.  The things Bad Dog Tools was doing with their bits were almost alarming.  To show the versatility and the strength of the shank they first drilled into a two by four and rocked the bit back and forth, stressing the shanking.  Impressively the bit did not explode or anything horrible like that. 

Bad Dog Tools rocking shank
The demonstrator rocks the bit in wood, while spinning; bit flexes, but doesn't shatter.
[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

They then took the bit and literally smacked it at a high speed spin, tip first into a metal plate (aluminum or steel?) with a lot of force behind the strike and from different angles.  The tip bounced off the surface... but it was fine.  Had that been carbide and we might have lost a bit of vision.

The entire demo felt somewhat like an informercial for one of those made for TV products, but I must admit, from my own experiences in the shop, the things they were doing with these bits are pretty incredible, to my knowledge.

Bad Dog Tools
The bits are a bit (pun?) pricey. [Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

I also was left either very impressed or questioning the sanity of Bad Dog Tools to show off this demo to members of the public not wearing protective eyewear.  Clearly they were confident in their bits, even under the extreme abuse they were subjecting them to.

The bits are pretty expensive -- a set of 14 (3/32-inch, up to 1/2-inch) will set you back $170, add in five larger bits (up to 1-inch) and you're talking $270.  A seven piece metric set costs $150 USD.  And then there's an extra $40 USD for the sharpener, which of course is itself a complex alloy design, given that the bits cut through most everything.

That's a lot of green, to say the least, but then again a good set of tools is worth a lot more than a lot of poorly built tools that wind up breaking and needing to be replaced.

III. Memloom -- Storytelling for the Digital Era

Sometimes at CES you see something that at first looks boring, but transforms before your eyes into a hidden gem. That's how I felt when I came across Memloom, a startup based in Ferndale, Mich., located roughly 20 minutes north of downtown Detroit.  The site was founded by Alyssa Martina, President/Chief Publisher of local magazine Metro Parent.  It leverages her other publication's new HTML5 video platform to give a set of tools to everyday folks looking to tell a story.

You can scale, crop, and apply basic effects to photos.  Numerous layouts are provided, with the emphasis on a magazine-like feel.  Every story/article has a nice cover page, with a thumbnail image (kind of like DailyTech's thumbs!).  From there you can go wild add pictures and text.

[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

You can even add video, which is all handled by Memloom's Michigan based hosting partners.  I was a bit surprised that Memloom didn't use a popular video platform like YouTube, but the approach may pay off financially, as unlike YouTube, the idea here is private storytelling amongst friends; thus most videos are unlikely to get the thousands of views they get on YouTube.

Being a native of the midwest and being a bit of a blogger in my younger years (cough, cough, Xanga), I can appreciate the beautiful templates and great tools that Memloom is putting in peoples' hands.

Memloom laptop
[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

The service is free to try, but you're limited to 5 stories and 3 GB of storage (videos, pics).  You can win more stories/storage by inviting friends, but to get more service you can also spend $2.95 USD/month ($29 USD/year) to get 25 stories and 15 GB, or $9.95 USD/month ($99 USD/year) to get unlimited stories and 100 GB of storage.

MemLoom pricing

That's effectively identical to Dropbox's pricing, but you get the added upside of being able to turn your content into beautiful stories for friends and family.  Both paid tiers eliminate the ads and "memloom branding", allowing you to pursue your online storytelling free from pesky ads.

Even in today's era of microblogging and more sophisticated blogging platforms, Memloom does stand out for its easy format.  I played with the site a bit in the booth and it seemed remarkably easy to use.  Clearly not everyone wants to spend time on such things, but if you do, I highly recommend checking out the site.

IV. Honorable Mentions

Fotobar, was an interesting business I ran into after Sony's keynote.  The company has paired with Polaroid Corp. to set up photo printing shops in Delray Beach, Flor.; Orlando, Flor.; and Las Vegas, Nevada.

The company's gimmick is printing standard digital photographs in polaroid-esque square frames.  Purists will likely be horrified, but for most it's a kind of neat idea -- if you're willing to pay the price.  As we consume content on our mobile devices, I feel like photo printing technologies -- from the little booth in your local Walgreen Comp. (WAG) store to a hip, purpose-built shop like FotoBar are slowly fading (reverse polaroid style).

Fotobar van
The Fotobar Polaroid van [Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

But FotoBar makes a nice pitch; its van is available for weddings, bar/t mitzvahs, and other private events.  And to those who feel a bit nostalgic about the classic polaroids, but aren't obsessed enough to buy the classic film, it seems a respectful, if flawed celebration, of this classic American icon.

Another interesting product was NovaRevo's "CleanPot", a humidifier whos claim to fame is simplifying greatly a product that's often prone to failure.  The device runs on 24 watts of power and can pump out 350 cc of mist per hour.  It's about the size of a human head and it consists of only five parts.

NovaRevo CleanPot

NovaRevo CleanPot
The CleanPot from NovaRevo [Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

The key innovation of the CleanPot is that it floats on top of a water reservoir (e.g. a pot) and thus does not store much water internally.  This allows for a simpler design and less mineral buildup.  The humidifier uses ultrasonic humidification, which is common in more complex bigger humidifiers with tanks.  It current sells in South Korea for around $65 USD.  A U.S. release is planned, but no specific date was given.  It wouldn't be surprising to see the device pop up at some mass market retailer, given its eye-catching modern design, which you'll probably either love or hate.

Yet another interesting demo was MOSS -- a modular robotics kit.  MOSS consists of lego-robot like parts, but even simpler.  There's batter parts, servo parts, wheel parts, and more.  All are block shaped and they adhere via round neodymium magnets.

MOSS modular robots

MOSS mod robots

MOSS Modular Robotics [Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

The system is currently being advertised as a "programming free" solution, but the makers are contemplating adding in a coding toolkit to allow more advanced users to code custom behavior.  They have not yet settled on a solution, though.  They have plenty of support, though -- the company's $100K USD Kickstarter fundraiser campaign (featuring starter kits for $59 USD) raised an impressive $361K USD.

Oh and then there was these ladies...

[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

... advertising International Paper Comp. (IP) brand Hammermill Paper (think Dunder Mifflin, but IRL).  I'll have some more highlights for you soon, I've developed a strange urge to pick up some printer paper.

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