Cool tools

Broadband adoption by home users fueled the most interesting product innovation at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. If you have a home network and broadband access, vendors are coming out with products that continue to move the technology focus away from the den/office and into your living room.

I saw at least three companies with devices that scan a home network or computer for digital audio files, and play them on a home stereo system. Some devices also scan for photos and movies, and play them back on a television. And then there’s D-Link Systems Inc. (, which launched a video phone that relies on a broadband connection.

Video phones are nothing new (AT&T Corp. demonstrated a picture phone system in 1956), but the technology has been a tough sell to consumers. D-Link’s i2eye product might change that. The US$300 i2eye appliance ($500 for two units) looks to bring videoconferencing quality to home users.

The i2eye device lets users conference locally or across the country over any broadband connection, and delivers the sound and images to a television screen. D-Link says i2eye includes an adjustable tilt/focus camera lens and integrated microphone. Video is streamed at up to 30 frames per second, D-Link says.

A PC is not required for setup, and the device connects via standard RCA audio/video cables. It also can be connected to a VCR to record video calls or to add to home movies. A standard telephone also can be attached to the device to help improve sound quality, D-Link says. The video phone supports the H.323 protocol for videostreaming over the Internet. The device is expected to be available in retailers by the end of this month.

Audio (and more) via networks

I loved Voyetra Turtle Beach Inc.’s Audiotron device, which took MP3s on our computers and streamed them to our stereo system. Other vendors must love it too because they’ve come out with devices of their own that perform similar tasks:

* Hewlett-Packard Co. ( launched its Digital Media Receiver 5000 series. The device connects to a television and includes wireless and wired versions to link to your home network. HP adds the ability to view photos (JPG, GIF, BMP and PNG files) stored on a user’s PC and watch them on TV. The device will play MP3 and WMA files, and supports M3U, PLS and RMP playlists from PC jukebox software. A remote-control device handles navigation. HP also says multiple digital media receivers can be connected, so music can be streamed throughout the house (the same song even can be played at different locations). The wired Ethernet version (en5000) costs $200, and the wireless version (ew5000, via 802.11b) will cost $300. Both devices are expected to be released in early spring, HP says.

* Cd3o Inc. ( announced a line of wired and wireless “stereo adapters” that stream digital audio to stereo systems. The c100 (Ethernet), c200 (wireless) and c300 (extended-range wireless with digital output) devices cost between $150 and $250. A remote-control device handles navigation, and an optional feature lets the adapters read back the name of the song or artist via electronic voice.

* Turtle Beach ( announced the AT200 and AT300 series of its Audiotron products. The AT200 adds wireless network connectivity, ability to connect to a TV, and expanded MP3 search and management functions. The AT300 is designed for professional custom installers, and includes features such as multizone playback, home automation and control integration. Both models are expected to ship late in the first quarter, Turtle Beach says.

Shaw can be reached at