LAS VEGAS -- Fuel cells are objects designed to create electricity by using combinations of chemicals rather than plugging into a wall outlet or the national grid. Fuel cells are efficient and relatively long lasting. Which brings us to the Medis ( MDTL) 24/7 Power Pack fuel cell being introduced at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. The company claims it has created the world's first eco-friendly, personal fuel cell power system that can deliver emergency lighting and mobile phone power. A user activates the device by squeezing it. He is rewarded with up to 20 watt-hours of energy that can charge a standard phone as many as six times, or charge an included 14-LED flashlight for as much as 90 hours. The patent-pending technology from Medis uses an alternative energy source that generates its own energy without the limitations of outlets or traditional batteries. The packs are approved for air travel in the U.S. and Canada and are completely recyclable. Prices range from $30 for the fuel cell to $50 for an emergency pack with flashlight. By the end of 2009 expect rechargeable and more efficient models. One of the biggest announcements at the CES show came from the association in charge of creating secure digital memory cards. In addition to the original SD cards and the current second-generation SD-HC (high capacity) cards is the brand new SD-XC (extended capacity) device. The new cards will provide the possibility of massive storage and very high speeds. For instance, current SD cards top out at 16 gigabytes. New SD-XC cards will be able to hold from 32 gigabytes to two terabytes. That's two terabytes on an SD card at theoretic transfer speeds up to 300 megabytes per second.
Expect to see these new cards hit the marketplace this year. And, at the same time, expect newer, better devices that will be able to utilize them. SanDisk ( SNDK) thinks it has a way to compete with Apple's ( AAPL) iPod: sell devices with music included. The company's new Sansa slotRadio Player is a small, portable music device that comes bundled with 1,000 songs. Inside this tiny device is a proprietary memory card that comes with a slew of songs handpicked by SanDisk from Billboard charts that are professionally arranged into a variety of genre-themed playlists. It's actually very cool -- especially a player with 1,000 hit songs for only $99.99. Additional 1,000 plug-in memory cards will be available in the future and will sell for $39.99 (or just under 4 cents a song). And a company named Gunnar Optiks claims it's the leading provider of digital performance eyewear designed to enhance computer use. The company does this by relieving the effects that derive from prolonged viewing of computer screens, personal digital assistants, cell phones and smart phones. Gunnar says it knows how to combat digital eye fatigue, as well as computer vision syndrome. Personally, I've never heard of these problems before, but I'm glad someone is working to solve them. A portion of Gunnar's line of digital eyewear was on display at the conference for journalists to try. In my very short trial, I can tell you that the frames and lenses curve around your head (to solve what was described as eye ventilation problems) and have a very slight yellowish tint (among other things, it's supposed to help relax your eye muscles). The glasses actually made it slightly easier to see the computer display that was being used. Overall, the technology seemed very promising.
Gunnar's eyewear line retails for $99 to $189 and is available at specialty retailers, consumer electronic stores, online, from catalogs and through eye care professionals who can have your prescription added into Gunnar lenses. ( Photo gallery: 2009 Consumer Electronics Show)