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Smart Dice to Souped up Studebakers, Here’s More from 2014 CES

Matt Hickey
It’s been a couple of weeks since CES wrapped up in Las Vegas and while we’ve caught up on sleep, our memories remain. There’s been a lot of talk about some of the larger trends we saw – wearables, smart appliances, driverless cars – but CES is more than just tech trends. Indeed, there are often nuggets of awesome all over the show floor that journalists like me at CES get to see but that many who never set foot in the convention center’s grounds never get to see. Here I’ve collected a few of the more remarkable ones.
Scosche is a group out of California known for making fairly common but high-quality mobile accessories – chargers, headphones, tablet cases and the like. I’ve used a few of their products from time to time and was always impressed, so when I saw their booth in the North Hall, I had to stop by and pay my respects.
What I saw on its presentation counter was not what I expected: A pair of six-sided dice in a small case. “What’s this?” I asked.
“Smart Dice! We’re calling it smartROLL,” I was told. “They’re Bluetooth-enabled dice that use a variety of sensors like accelerometers to orientate itself and tell which side is up.” More than that, they work with tablets to re-create a gambling experience with a real-world feel.

The dice have a developers’ kit that game makers can use to make any variety of dice games come alive. Roll a 7 (3 and a 4) while the dice are connected to a tablet with a craps game, and the game knows it. Scosche had a couple of non-commercial proof-of-concept games loaded on an iPad Mini and the dice worked. I rolled a hard-8 and managed to hit it, with the results on the dice matching with the scores in the game exactly.

The dice are powered by a coin-like “watch battery” (though the Scosche representative was quick to point out they’re a standard size but not a battery you’d find in a watch) can power the dice for up to a year with normal use. With my degenerate friends, that may be about two weeks.

A prototype of the Socialmatic instant camera
Not long ago, Polaroid was a company that many in our industry were ready to count out. Lately it’s been relying on its well-known name to sell mass-market products like action photos and tripods, but CEO Scott Hardy told me that the company would rather make innovative products as it has in the past instead of relying on white-label manufacturing. “We don’t want to be a brand like that, we want to be iconic. Polaroid used to be another word for instant photos, we’re doing that again.”

And Hardy may be onto something. At CES, the company unveiled the new Socialmatic instant camera. Like a traditional Polaroid, the camera takes photos that are instantly printed on sheets of “film” that are also stickers that can be put anywhere.

Unlike the old-school cameras, the new Android-powered Socialmatic allows users to preview a photo before it’s printed, much like the excellent digital Polaroid Z2300 camera, thus saving film. Like the Z2300, the Socialmatic uses Polaroids now-standard ZINK color sheets.

But not all photos are fit to be print, thus the Socialmatic also allows for instant uploads to online photo services like Facebook or Flickr or, yes, Instagram. “Our new Polaroid doesn’t look like the Instagram logo," according to one rep at the booth, "the Instagram logo resembles a Polaroid camera.” I love that.

I don’t know much about Studebakers, but this restored 51 Champion was one of the best things I’d seen the entire week, and when I’m in Vegas, that’s saying something. It’s a showpiece for Kicker Audio, a beast that was custom-restored to show off their audio products. It’s not the loudest car I’ve ever heard (that would go to this kid Shamus I went to high school with), but it was the best-looking combo of good looks and perfect loudness (with apologies to this years’ Seahawks).
The car was put together for a smaller trade show last fall but was popular enough that Kicker brought it to Vegas. It’s a retro eye-catcher that, sadly, isn’t currently able to run, but a rep for Kicker told me the company plans to finish restoring it this spring and may even run it in a series of hot rod competitions later in the year.

A problem they’re facing is that Studebaker parts haven’t been made en masse in almost 60 years, so any parts needed would have to be custom made. I was told, though, that a team member from one of the 3D printer companies down the hall had promised that it could put together any parts Kicker needed in short order. That kind of networking is part of what makes CES so much fun.