A Camera You Don't Need To Focus & 4 Other New, Parent-Friendly Gadgets

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is the biggest gadget show in the world, featuring miles and miles of some of the coolest gizmos you've ever seen. This year there were plenty of cool things for parents, and I wanted to highlight a few just for fun.


First up, there's Lytro, a new type of camera that will take great photos instantly and without fuss or focusing. The small camera uses a special lens that scans the scene in near 3D. You take a photo and then you can selectively focus in on various parts of the scene for a great shot. That's right: You don't need to focus because you do all the focusing AFTER you take the picture. Imagine grabbing a candid photo at a wedding and focusing only on the people you care about. Or taking a quick shot of the kids at play and getting junior and his dog instead of the light pole in front of them. It is, in short, pretty magical.

The camera costs $499 for a 16GB version, and although it's mostly for tinkerers right now, expect to see this technology in future point-and-shoots. 

Second, is the Galaxy Note. If you've been searching for a smaller tablet that won't weigh down your purse or briefcase, this new mid-sized tablet from Samsung may do the trick. This tablet looks a little bigger than your average cellphone, but it's designed for note-taking and drawing, as well as basic email functionality. Some versions let you make calls, but the 5-inch HD screen is more suited to game playing and movie watching than holding up to your head for a chat. The device will be available later this year as carriers and stores start stocking it in the United States.

Next we have the LG Styler, one of the wildest products at the show. It's a closet ... with built-in steamer. This odd concept design isn't for sale -- yet -- but it will replace one of your current closets and can clean and refresh clothing during one 39-minute cycle, proving that they have, in fact, thought of everything.


Another cool product was the Zomm Lifestyle Connect. Designed for older folks, it's like one of those medical alert systems ("I've fallen, and I can't get up") with a bit of a twist. The device will automatically transfer health data from monitoring devices to the doctor and, more important, if you fall a special concierge service will contact close friends and relatives and, in the case of an emergency, notify the authorities. It's a great way to keep your parents safe while they putter around the old homestead and it costs $200.

Finally, there's Muno (shown at the top of the post) is an all-singing, all-dancing iPod/game device dock from W!ldbrain Entertainment, the creators of Yo Gabba Gabba (the popular children's series on Nickolodeon), and Nyko. The dock has a full album's worth of Yo Gabba Gabb tunes built-in, as well as a special alarm mode that allows you to wake up to iPod music or something by the Yo Gabba Crew.

Need something a little less high-tech? How about a Hip Pack featuring Brobee. Brobee can hold almost any small gaming device or phone and two compartments separate the device from a pair of headphones. The belt fits around a child's waist or over the shoulder and the smile can turn into a frown -- it's attached to the bag with Velcro.

I'll leave you with Muno's dance, live, from Las Vegas.


Which of these products could you see using?

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