LAS VEGAS - Many people who have tried Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system without a touch screen have hated it because of the inability to use touch and swipe commands to get things going.
Now, a company has made a digital pen to allow people to use Windows 8 on their old monitors for less than the cost of a touch-enabled computer.
The device was unveiled this week at the International CES, an annual showcase in Las Vegas for the latest smartphones, tablet computers and other consumer-electronic devices.
• What it is: E Fun, a West Covina, Calif.-based company, has come out with the Apen Touch8, a cordless pen that works in tandem with an attachment that plugs into the Windows computer's USB port.
• How it works: The attachment, which is really an infrared and ultrasonic receiver, clips magnetically to the side of the screen, which can be as large as 17 inches diagonally. The pen emits an infrared beam out of its tip. The receiver attachment sends the pen's signals to the computer, which interprets its precise location.
Pushing down on the pen results in a separate ultrasonic signal, which is equivalent to a touch screen sensing when you are touching it. Just like that, you can swipe and tap your way through Windows 8. The pen runs on a watch battery, which should last about 500 hours and is replaceable.
• Why it's hot: Windows 8, Microsoft Corp.'s effort to make desktop and laptop computers work more like tablet computers, was released in October to mixed reviews. A major problem is the fact that many of the features require a touch-screen monitor to work, making the experience unpleasant for those with older machines. Apen Touch8 offers a way for those with older computers to experience touch-based functions.
• Availability: The pen is to go on sale in North America by the end of March for $80.
Sony uses studio to press ultra-HD advantage
Sony Corp. is finally pressing its advantage as a conglomerate that owns both high-tech gadgets and the content that plays on them by being the only electronics maker to offer ultra-HD TVs - and a way to get movies to the new super clear screens.
Ultra-high definition TVs, which quadruple the number of pixels of current high definition technology, have been the talk of the International CES gadget show so far. But only Sony has offered a content solution to go with them.
With 84-inch ultra-HD set it launched in November, Sony threw in a tablet and computer server that has 10 movies preloaded on the device - for $25,000. The movies came from the library of Sony Pictures or its subsidiary Columbia Pictures, like "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Karate Kid."
On Monday, Sony unveiled 55-inch and 65-inch ultra-HD sets that will sell this spring for an undisclosed price believed to be below $10,000. The Japanese electronics maker said it would launch a download service this summer in the U.S. so buyers of the smaller sets would have access to movies in the clearer format.
For now, it will offer the same 10 movies from its library for download.
New Lego robotics kit talks to iPhones
Lego bricks are getting cozy with the iPhone and other Apple devices in the latest incarnation of the Mindstorms robotics kit.
Lego announced Monday that a new, $350 Mindstorms EV3 kit will have the ability to talk to iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches through Bluetooth wireless connections. That means Lego builders can use the devices as remote controls for their robots, or create simple programs that are then sent to the robots to control their actions.
Lego said the kit will go on sale in the second half of the year. It was announced as the International CES gadget show begins in Las Vegas this week.
Remote control already was possible with Android smartphones and the most recent Mindstorms kit, the NXT. Apple devices didn't work because the "brain" of the kit - a juice-box-sized electronic brick - lacked a chip that would identify the Lego gadget to Apple devices.
Also new in the Mindstorms EV3 kit is a "two-eyed" infrared sensor that can pick up signals from a small infrared remote and locate it. In the kit, Lego includes the blueprints for a snake robot that uses its eyes to sense if someone is close to its head, in which case it strikes.
The EV3 will also be the first Mindstorms kit to be available in Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Russian. Previous kits have been in English, Japanese and a few other European languages.