Making our way towards the NEC for this year’s Gadget Show Live, the Redbrick Tech Team were hoping to be amazed. We wanted to be blown away by some inventive piece of hardware that would redefine our preconceptions, but perhaps our expectations were just little too high. Now in its fourth year, The Gadget Show Live has become the UK’s leading consumer technology event. Its mixture of future product demonstrations and showcases of the best tech currently on the market makes it a diverse show, with exhibitors from just about every offshoot of the industry showing their wares.
The emphasis here is on consumers and, while there were plenty of opportunities to get hands on with some intriguing new devices, most of the time the products are made to be sold to the people attending. Booths from LG, Acer and Kodak showed their products in the TV, Laptop and Camera markets respectively and fans of shiny new products could find a lot to love. Even the smaller companies were showing their best products. Robotic and fully maneuverable arms for industrial tasks were seen just two feet away from huge propeller fan backpacks to aid parachute control.
Gaming played a large part of course, with the sorts of games that are perfect for consumer shows taking up most of the space. Our team had a go on Star Wars Kinect, though the controversial dancing minigame was nowhere to be seen, and while the game was already available in shops, being able to use Kinect without shelling out for one was enjoyable. We got the chance to play a few upcoming titles too, with Spec Ops: The Line providing the shooting quota for the day, and driving with DiRT Showdown. Though neither was a huge exclusive debut for the show, last year’s GameFest at the same venue featured the UK’s first look at Mass Effect 3 and Modern Warfare 3 for instance, it was nice to see some games not on shelves yet that visitors could spend some time with.
Of course the effect of Apple on the show was evident in just about every booth. Product after product was using either an iPhone or an iPad to function. We saw stylus accessories for tablet devices, one in particular designed specifically for a Crayola game for kids. With arcade units to play Pong and board game pieces that work with iPad apps, it feels like this £400 machine is being used to replicate much cheaper products. It's a weird way to enjoy one of the most technologically advanced devices on the market when you could simply use an actual board game for a fraction of the cost.
Everywhere you looked there were expensive screens with PR reps clutching 3D glasses next to most of them. 3D has been the main attraction for the last few years at these sort of events, and while it’s obvious to notice that the technology is impressive, the best uses of it at the show weren’t for displaying 3D images. The best thing we saw was this technology used to play split-screen games where each player see only their screen on the display. Without a pair of glasses on, it looks like two images layered on top of each other, and seeing the transition from this into a single high definition image was impressive.
Overall the show was well worth attending, though the consumer days would have been much busier. There may not have been any revolutionary shocks at this year's show, but as a celebration of all things tech few events match the scale of The Gadget Show Live.