Before there were mobile apps or crowdfunding or BlueTooth, there was the Last Gadget Standing. Now in its 14th year, Last Gadget Standing knew the greatest wisdom was the wisdom of the crowds.
The idea is simple. People can sniff a winner. Each year the online crowds and the real-world crowds at CES are presented with dozens of new products launched at the show. Together with illustrious tech judges, the field is narrowed to 10 new products.
After watching the 10 finalists present their arguments using skits, props and any storytelling powers in their arsenal, the audience casts their votes. Online we keep a running tally; at the Las Vegas Convention Center we use old fashioned applause meters. And let me tell you, the noise fills the halls.
Best of all, we’ve had the inimitable Gary Bababooey Dell’Abate and Jon Hein at the helm, emceeing most of the events. Geeks in their soul, these guys make the Last Gadget Standing something that’s a cross between “America’s Got Talent” and “Survivor.”
Does the past teach us anything about the present? Sure does. The crowds predict products that have (almost) all gone on to be big commercial successes. Mobile phones, tablets, robots and digital photography gadgets – a look back at the past 14 years shows us the trends that made it and those that you can only find in Wikipedia.
For your viewing pleasure, take a walk down Last Gadget Memory Lane.
A little company named General Motors entered a revolutionary product called OnStar, a concierge service in your car that relied on satellite communications. It was voted Last Gadget Standing and has stood the test of time. The latest version has WiFi hot spot support.
Either the audience blew it or the manufacturer blew it, but the Tapwave Zodiac, a hybrid gaming device/handheld PC/media center was the chosen Last Gadget Standing. It seemed very promising in its early life, but now it’s gone, relegated to CES cobweb status.
One of the first consumer robots that did something more than make funny noises and bat its eyes, iRobot won for the Roomba this year. OK, so it didn’t live up to Grandma’s standard of cleanliness, but it sure made vacuuming fun, even for cats.
It seems like an eternity ago, but the Dell Axim (discontinued in 2007) won the day, one of the first PocketPC-like devices to have graphics acceleration and VGA resolution. The folks at Dell demonstrated the Axim running a PowerPoint presentation (Wow-wee!). This product sold strong until PDAs themselves were absorbed into cell phones. The online voters were a bit more prescient. They awarded Davis CarChip, a device that monitors driving habits. The chip logs both engine and driver performance, troubleshoots problems and keeps tabs on how and when your vehicles are being used. Employers, fleet managers and parents everywhere were overjoyed and raft of similar products were launched.
XM Radio was a big hit when launched, but if you liked a particular song, well, good luck. There was no way to purchase it. The 2006 winner went to new-fangled radio called the Pioneer Inno. a handheld device which merged XM Radio with content you could purchase and download with the click of the then somewhat novel “buy” button. At the live event, the audience looked skywards and gave the award to the Celestron SkyScout, which used GPS technology to help identify any visible object in the sky. They paved the way for personal planetariums.
Sometimes you need to seize the moment. As people were started to migrate from one PC to the next, Data Drive Tornado brought a trained monkey to use their cable and transfer PCs. The monkey beat a team of geeky engineers using more traditional migration tools. The audience went ape for the product, and Data Drive emerged as the 2007 winner at the event. HP’s TouchSmart PC ushered in a new PC type that would be the central headquarters for the family, and its touch interface and all-n-in-one design became hugely imitated.
What if you could turn any digicam into a wireless camera that could transmit images from camera to PC without a single cable? That describes the Eye-Fi, the winner of Last Gadget Standings 2008 edition. As a plus, the SD-format device also featured 2GB of storage for your photos. Only in Las Vegas would a Johnny Cash impersonator sing about Eye-Fi’s SD card.
Unbelievable, for the second year in a row, the crowds went for Eye-Fi. This time the Eye-Fi Share Video card. It allows you to remotely send video to your PC. The Web community, hip to the fact that surfing the web increased stress, crowned Heartmath’s emWave, a handheld biofeedback device that helps reduce stress. (A telling product for Information Age overload.)
It was the year of Internet TV with the winner, Boxee, wowing the crowds with its ability to play just about every media
you could throw at it. Boxee recently joined Samsung and it was the first time we picked a winner than didn’t ship a product until nearly one year later. The online vote went to MicroVisions ShowWX, a pocket-sized pico projector, which coincidentally just shipped as well. If you were there in person, you got to see Dr. Evil himself give an Oscar Award-winning demo.
Dr. Evil’s frightening tale of the MicroVision Showwx Pico Projector, 2010, shown above.
The Acer Iconia gave a live theatrical performance replete with a cast of StarTrek characters to demonstrate the power of the first laptop with two screens. The online vote went to Barnes and Noble (yes, they have a big fan base).
A digital camera that let you refocus after you took the picture blew our minds as the folks from Lytro won by popular demand. Online, the winner was Swvl a device that allowed you to make some of the first and best vlogs as your iPhone swiveled around on a robotic base locating the subject by a small button Today, Swvl’s product line includes video collaboration and more.
This is the year that the first Kickstarter product, the Luminae Translucense Keyboard, made as a Last Gadget winner and boy were we sorry. The company went out of business not long after the awards were etched. A cautionary tale of a crowd-funded future.
A more tried-and-true winner came from Lenovo with its Horizon Idea Center Table PC. The crowd roared as they saw one of the first table PCs be hefted on to victory. Tablets would come in all sizes from this day forth.
Who would have thought that a keyless lock would take home last year’s prize? Probably anyone who’s ever had to open their door at night while carrying a bag of groceries. The Kevo Kwikset lock was a harbinger of the Internet of Things.
The online voters looked at Skulpt, a handheld gadget that can actually detect what’s muscle and what’s fat on your body and transmit that data to your phone. Another harbinger of the quantified self still to come.
It’s been a 14-year blast and we’re determined to do it again. Don’t miss the 2015 Last Gadget Standing on January 8 at the LVCC. And remember to vote online or in person. It counts.