This year's Consumer Electronics Show turned out to be the largest on record, despite a slow economy and what many industry pundits agree is a dearth of genuine scene-stealers.
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But as with most years, avid - and hardy - attendees can always find a few gems that stand out from the inevitable tidal wave of headphones, Internet-enabled home appliances and gadget casings.
Here are a few high and low moments, compiled by Reuters from the Las Vegas show floor: Hits: - Tagg, a GPS-enabled dog or cat collar so you need never lose your beloved companion again. A minute GPS unit clipped to pet collars will send an alarm text or email to your app-installed smartphone should Snuggles wander outside of a prescribed zone.
- Hewlett-Packard's all-glass-encased Spectre was probably the most eye-catching of the so-called 'Ultrabooks' and drew throngs of onlookers. Intel is hoping the new generation of ultra-thin, instant-on, lightweight laptops - essentially a riposte to Apple's MacBook Air - will safeguard its market share as tablets and smartphones encroach on its traditional personal-computing turf. - The Tobii, which tracks eye movements to execute commands - what it calls "gaze interaction" - taking gesture-controlled interfaces a step further and upping the sophistication ante. Along with Nuance's voice controls and Microsoft's Kinect gesture-recognition technology, it offers an alternative to the fast-getting-old keyboard-mouse input model in an era of touchscreens. Zoom, auto-center, destroy virtual asteroids - moving just your eyes.
- Samsung Note, the beefed up "phablet" with a 5.3 inch screen that sits somewhere between a phone and a tablet. It may seem unwieldy held up to one's ear, and the screen - at half the iPad's size - might seem wanting as well, but its sleek lines, pin-sharp Android apps and unique shape drew in the crowds.
- Nokia's Lumia 900 phone, running Windows, marked the once-mighty Finnish handset maker's return to the U.S. market - and Microsoft's biggest phone gambit yet. People clamored for a feel, but demos were limited and there is no release date yet. - Massive, 55-inch "OLED" TVs from Samsung and LG, which are both cautiously hopeful the costlier, but crisper screens will re-energize a faltering global TV market after flat sales in 2011. Bonus: look at them sideways and they almost disappear. Misses - Microsoft Corp signed off after 14 show-opening keynotes with a bizarre, news-free presentation featuring a "Twitter choir" and a Q&A anchored by Ryan Seacrest. The company is reportedly revamping its marketing organization. - Panasonic Corp's combo digital photo frame and Skype terminal. "The idea of some engineer who has been locked in a room for 10 years," one observer quipped. - Dish Network Corp's stunt with a fidgety live kangaroo onstage, to launch its new "Hopper" package. For a video, click on http://blogs.reuters.com/mediafile/2012/01/09/dishs-kangaroo-pitchman-doesnt-cooperate/
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- A Samsung Electronics Co Ltd's fridge that streams Pandora and Twitter. It's OK to take a break from the Internet every now and then. - And last but not least: Sony Corp's strange "Wedding Invitation" promo for its Internet-enabled TVs. Verbatim from the invite: "Internet plopped down on one knee. After nervously fidgeting around, he blurted, "I can haz marriage?" and presented TV with a giant ring. She, of course, said yes. And the rest is history." (Reporting By Poornima Gupta, Sinead Carew, Liana Baker, Tim Kelly, Miyoung Kim and Noel Randewich; editing by Andre Grenon)