If you want to keep up to date on the latest developments in digital media, there's really no better place than the annual Digital Life trade show that takes place at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City each fall. This year's show featured more than 150 exhibitors with state-of-the-art technology for people who spend as much time in the digital world than they do in the real one.
Yes, all the video game people were there, and from the looks of the crowd, just about every 13-year-old boy in the metropolitan New York City area showed up. You could preview "Final Fantasy XII," the latest installment of the "Final Fantasy" game series (one wonders if, after 12 versions, this will truly be the final "Final Fantasy"), and check out tools for improving the appearance of your "avatar" on MySpace.com or creating more realistic looking aliens for the digital animated movies you're creating in your basement.
All kidding aside, there were some really cool new things being introduced at the show, especially from the smaller businesses who couldn't afford the prime booth space (which, since this is a small-business column, I focus on whenever I go to a trade show). Here are some of the new products you'll be reading more about in the coming months:
- Frustrated with Bluetooth wireless headsets that won't work with anything but equipment made by the same manufacturer? The Parrot people (http://www.parrot.biz) have come up with Bluetooth headsets that will work with just about any mobile cellphone or smartphone.
- Hey, all you Baby Boomer geezers out there: Remember Dick Tracy and his "wristphone"? It's now here--a Bluetooth wireless headset from Blue Voice http://www.bluetoothwatches.comwith a wristband you can wear as a digital watch and talk to your friends at the same time. They come in five designer colors.
- Want to listen to your iPod in your living room but don't want to wear the geeky-looking earphones? Soundcast, from Soundcast Systems (www.soundcastsystems.com), makes a cool-looking box that "syncs" wirelessly to your home stereo system. You stick your iPod into this thing and . . . voila! Your MP3 files play on your stereo.
- Got some old scratchy 32 or 78 r.p.m. records you want to convert to digital format so you can listen to them on your iPod? InstantMusic, from ADS Tech (www.adstech.com), makes a "magic box" that not only converts your beloved old LPs into digital files but edits out the scratches as well.
- Want to download some really cool artwork and use it to make your own customized greetings cards, T-shirts, coffee mugs and other merchandise for your customers without the hassle of having to negotiate the licensing fees, deal with the printers, etc.? Zazzle (www.zazzle.com) does it all for you. Choose from any of their thousands of licensed images, design your own one-of-a-kind product using their software, pay Zazzle to produce the stuff for you, and there you go! They'll even put your stuff up for sale on their online store and give you a percentage of whatever they make.
- Remember that lovable robotic dog from Japan that was a big hit a couple of holiday seasons ago? WowWee Products (www.wowwee.com) has come up with robotic dinosaurs, astronauts and pets-of-no-known-species that can be controlled remotely by a handheld device. It's the perfect thing to scare the wits out of your kid when he's hogging the bathroom.
- Looking for a favorite photo but can't remember whether it lives on your cellphone, your digital camera or your laptop? Gaviri Technologies (www.gaviri.com) has a local search engine that will wirelessly search all your mobile devices looking for that one elusive thing you really, really need right now.
- Want to self-publish your own book but don't want the hassle of dealing with printers, choosing paper stock, etc.? Blurb (www.blurb.com) has software that takes you through the process--editing, layout, cover design--from beginning to end, and then sends your book to one of their authorized printers.
- You've heard of internet radio. Now there's internet television at www.blip.tv, where you can create your own TV show. You come up with the show idea, shoot the videos, and send them to blip.tv from your computer or cellphone. They post the show, distribute it throughout the internet to blogs, iTunes, Flickr, del.icio.us and more. If anyone wants to advertise on your show, blip.tv splits the ad revenues with you.
One last thing. The day after the show, The Wall Street Journal had the following front-page story: "Electrical demand is growing faster in the U.S. than investment in supply, and that could shake the grid's reliability." Hmmm . . . I wonder why?
Cliff Ennico is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series MoneyHunt. His latest book is Small Business Survival Guide (Adams Media). This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. Copyright 2006 Clifford R. Ennico. Distributed by Creators Syndicate Inc.