Engadget alert: Chinese tech toys

Feng Jun shows me his book scanner

Engadget alert, this post is just for Ryan Block who runs the killer gadget blog: Engadget. Sometimes I love pretending I work for Engadget and am responsible for traveling the world finding killer gadgets. Hey, a guy has to have some dreams, doesn’t he? ūüôā

So, I was riding the train up to one of the closing parties in Davos when Tim Weber of the BBC introduced me to Feng Jun, CEO of Beijing Huaqi Information Digital Technology Company. I recorded the whole thing on my cell phone.

He pulled out of his pocket a book for the Olympics. Ahh, here the Chinese go again being proud of their Olympics, I thought.

Awesome Chinese scanner

But then he pulled out of his other pocket a gadget that he aimed at the book and it started talking about what he aimed at. Then he aimed it at some music and it played the song and he started singing along with it.

Damn, that was cool. How did it work? An infrared film over all the logos, pictures, etc that contained microdots that told the scanner what to play. Cost? $70. I want one just to keep on my coffee table.

But that was just the start. Then he pulled out of his pocket something that looked like a thick business card. Only it had 32 GB of memory on it and the damn thing had a tiny USB connector on it. I want one of those!

Finally he pulled out a digital camera. OK, I was getting bored there. But then he pulled out the SD card and unfolded a little USB connector that was on the SD card. Damn, I want one of those too for my little Nikon pocket camera.

Anyway, I got the whole thing on video. This is definitely a company to watch. The Chinese sure are doing some interesting things.

The word-of-mouth killer product of CES


I asked dozens of people “what did you see at CES that you’d spend your own money on?” I also asked “what was the coolest thing you saw?”

Most people stammered on both answers, but yesterday I started hearing about the Celestron SkyScout so Buzz, Shel, and I went over to the Sands to check it out.

It wins my award for the single coolest thing I saw at the show. By far. I’m not alone, either. Shel and Buzz were both speechless when they saw it.

What is it?

Well, for that I asked the inventor, Mike Lemp about it. Here’s a picture of Mike with Shel holding a SkyScout.

Mike and his team has been working on this for five years. It is a revolutionary product. One that you’ll want the first time you play with it. I’m buying one.

So, what is it?

It’s a $400 box with a lens that you look through.

It comes out in April. Order it on Amazon. But do it soon. Amazon has sold dozens and the hype hasn’t yet started on this thing.

So, why am I spending my 400 bones on this thing?

Here’s why.

You look through this device at the night-time sky and it tells you what you’re looking at. Oh, it doesn’t need to be night, either.

Celestron is a famous maker of telescopes (I sold a truckload of their product in the Silicon Valley camera store I used to manage and they always made great products).

It has GPS, gravity, and magnetic field sensors to detect where it’s going.

But it just gets better from there. You can tell it “show me the cool stuff in the sky right now.” It’ll take you on a tour and show you how to point the device with a series of LED’s in the viewfinder.

But it gets cooler than that. It has an audio guide that tells you what you’re looking at and gives you some facts about it.

Oh, wait, there’s more! You hook it up to your computer via USB and it does even more! (Sorry, Windows only for now).

This is going to revolutionize astronomy. It is simply the coolest thing I’ve seen lately (and I’ve seen some pretty cool stuff walking around CES).

What do you think? I can’t wait to go out with Patrick on a dark night and play around.

Apple guy gives Xbox team some advice

Chuq Von Rospach, who works at Apple, gives us some advice on how not to introduce a product. Funny how soon he forgets that I couldn’t find an iPod Nano 4 GB black in time for our wedding anniversary a few months back. We finally found one about a month later, but truth is it is extremely hard to make enough gadgets¬†to go around — especially when demand goes nuts.

I just bring this up because I’m seeing reports of iPod Nano shortages again — this despite MONTHS of sales and preparation. The Nano is very simple to make compared to an Xbox (it has far fewer suppliers to rely on, is much smaller too so can be shipped in greater volumes).

I notice a little bit of FUD, there, though, cause Apple fired IBM and went with Intel (IBM is the chip vendor for the new Xbox). Why did Steve Jobs fire IBM? Cause IBM couldn’t get Steve Jobs any new portable chips, which is why Apple hasn’t shipped a new portable computer in quite a while. Did that cost them sales? You betcha! When I met with Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, he was showing me his new Sony portable computer. Said he went with it instead of an Apple product cause it was a “ton faster” according to him. It’ll be interesting to see what Apple brings out in January at its MacWorld show. I brag about Matt cause he’s one of those guys who’s always used Macs.

Oh, and Chuq wrote about the folks who were waiting in line last night: “Sorry, but some people need to get a life.” Oh, Chuq, how about THESE PEOPLE. Do the folks who wait in line for YOUR products (er, just to be able to¬†visit¬†your stores, even)¬†need to “get a life?” Got it. Hey, Apple folks, if you’re waiting in line to buy one of Apple’s new products after next month’s MacWorld, come and see what an Apple employee thinks of you!

You’re always welcome to stand in our lines, though.

Dozens wait overnight in sub-zero temps for Xbox 360s to arrive

Dan Petersen has, potentially, the coolest mom in the world.

He woke her up at 5 a.m. to go Xbox 360 hunting. They heard that Best Buy was putting on sale tons of new Xbox 360s tomorrow morning, so they have been waiting since early this morning in line at the Best Buy in Bellevue, WA (same one that Bill Gates got his at). He’s the first in line of more than 40 people waiting for one (Best Buy handed out numbered tickets hours ago).

I visited the line at about 8 p.m. tonight and they were all bunkering down for a long night ahead. The temperatures in Redmond and Bellevue¬†are below freezing. These are dedicated buyers. I listened as other shoppers walked past “what are they waiting for?”

Those in line told me that they had friends waiting in similar lines elsewhere in the United States.

I checked in on another store (EB Games). They have a paid waiting list of 176. Probably only a handful of those will get Xbox’s before Christmas.

What’s funny is while I was talking with Dan and his mom my boss Jeff Sandquist came up behind me and hugged me. Hey, who’s that?

He spent a few minutes telling Dan all about the Arcade Gallery and challenged Dan to a game.

On the Xbox mailing list tonight there are more reports of Xbox 360s showing up worldwide. So, if you want one, you should check around tomorrow.

Best Buy stores open at 8 a.m. — Patrick and I might go just to see how many they actually have. The store personel wouldn’t tell us anything, saying they aren’t sure how many they’ll have. Even those who are waiting in line aren’t guaranteed to actually get one.

For those of you who aren’t quite nuts enough to wait overnight in sub-zero temps for an opportunity to buy an Xbox, Paul Mooney has links to a few interviews with Xbox execs. MSNBC has some Xbox cartoons. Spong interviewed Japanese buyers about the Xbox 360 and came away with the conclusion that Xbox marketing sucked in Japan.

Xbox 360 Insider has video of the Daily Show joking about Xbox. Dave Kramer has “Xbox 360 improvements we can (almost) all agree on.” Scott Hanselman writes his first impressions¬†(and a lot more): “It’s the shiznit. It’s freaking awesome. If you can buy it. Now. Seriously, stop reading.”

James Clarke writes about his experiences trying to buy one in Hemel Hempstead (the retailer was forcing him to buy a bundle of games). James, no, Microsoft is kept — by law — from forcing retailers to do anything. That would be price fixing. The retailers set their own pricing and policies. Finally, Engadget recently toured the Xbox team’s offices and reported about that.