If you wander through the small booths inside the Venetian Hotel conference center CES rooms, you find another door, way in the back. It leads to the CES International Pavilion, full of endless aisles of austere booths that all look alike.
But these little booths are full of hopes and dreams. In them are the people who make the source components for the gadgets we know and love, and components for the components. And, thankfully, they also come to CES with some mighty weird gadgets.
Let's start with the prosaic. All those tablets, smartphones and ultraportable PCs use sheet batteries. Someone has to make them. Several booths, including this one, had samples of sheet batteries.
Many, many booths showed off Android tablets. These typically had TI OMAP, Qualcomm or other mobile processors; I saw no Tegra 3 or Intel-based tablets. All ran some flavor of Android. Note the fingerprints on the front unit, which was also typical.
In a similar vein, a number of booths had various flavors of LED tactical flashlights, all meticulously machined, wonderfully hefty and with brightness levels up to 300 lumens using standard batteries.
Backlit keyboards are now a must-have feature for notebook PCs and even some desktop PC keyboards. But someone has to design and manufacture the actual backlighting hardware. This booth showed one design, with side-mounted LEDs that transmit light through channels to hotspots inside the keyboard to create the backlight.
Since we're on a roll with LEDs, check out these LED light bulbs. Multiple booths had various flavors of LED bulbs: dimmable, non-dimmable, can lights, light bulb replacements; the list goes on and on.
This is a DisplayPort 1.2 hub. A laptop connected to it was driving three 24-inch LCD panels with one cable. These have been promised for several years, and we still don't have one. Yet there it was, in the International Pavilion.
LCD digitizer tablet
We love the Wacom digitizer. You know, the ones with the LCD display built in that shows you Photoshop or 3DSMax on the pad, complete with digitizer pen supporting 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity. Here's a 16.5-inch LCD digitizer, which will sell for $499, if the manufacturer can find a US distributor.
No CES would be complete without weird USB flash drives. Here were drives encrusted with costume jewelry or gold plated. Just the thing for your significant other... or not.
While we're on the subject of USB drives, here are some more of them, made with wood or other natural products. You can see drives in the shape of the cross, wine casks and my personal favorite, the wine cork USB drive.
Of course, wood is getting passé if you want to consider yourself a true green user. Instead, consider a bamboo keyboard or wireless mouse.
Tiny DJ dual mixer
Now it's time to start delving into the really odd and wondrously weird. Here's a tiny, dedicated DJ mixer you operate with two fingers. It's about as small as any I've seen, and just the thing for street DJs looking to make their mark.
Tube digital player
While we're on the topic of music, one booth had this tube-based digital dock. That's right, you too can attach your smartphone or iDevice to this dock and hear 128kbps compressed music through the warm glow of a tube amplifier. The guy I talked to suggested that it would cost $500 if they can find someone to import them into the U.S.
Wall of robot vacuums
Many of the products that show up at the International Pavilion are knockoffs. Here's an entire wall of Roomba knockoffs, in all sorts of colors and patterns. And more than one booth had these on display.
3D phone camera
Want to shoot stereoscopic 3D videos, but don't want to spend $2500 for a dual lens camcorder? Just attach this creepy hockey mask looking device to your smartphone and shoot your 3D video on the cheap. Does it really work? I have no idea.
Smartphone skin analyzer
Your smartphone can be used for any number of things, including analyzing your skin. Use this to help pick just the right hand lotion or cosmetics.
Teddy bear fans
Here's a fan a five-year-old kid would love. It's even named Aaron. I don't think it talks, however, but it is blade free, so probably safer than normal fans.
If your home or work office air is particularly dry, just connect a humidifier to your USB port. I'm sure the moist air would be great for all your electronics! There were also humidifiers that would accept an inverted, disposable plastic water bottle as the reservoir.
While there are wonderfully wacky things there, it's worth noting that the real purpose of the International Pavilion is for people with great ideas to connect with the companies that can make their ideas become real. You'll find all manner of component, sheet metal, connector, wiring and even printed circuit board makers there.