Linux kills, 3D blooms: Last look from Vegas

In the aftermath of CES 2015, one exciting new possibility arises from the desert floor

Las Vegas sign

You’ll forgive the slight tardiness of this post, but it’s difficult to type when your spine and extremities have turned to oatmeal. To catch up: In a landmark event never before witnessed since the fateful Comdex of ’93, I got lucky in Vegas, though not with a cocktail waitress. Instead, I scored at the big clown-sized roulette wheel: $18,000, to be exact, or about half a bitcoin.

My windfall couldn't have come at a better time. By Thursday, my body was in its usual post-CES state, a fusion of human blood cells, alcohol, prescription-strength stimulants, illegal hallucinogens, and $3 all-you-can-snarf buffet meals. When the barkeep slinging watered-down scotch complained that I smelled like a urinal cake, I decided enough was enough. I drove to Palm Springs and blew most of my winnings at the Two Bunch Palms wellness spa, though I’m still not sure where I stole the car.

Two Bunch is a swanky spot frequented by the Hollywood elite and offering essential health services like Energy Modality and Advanced Green Aesthetics. But it’s also ridiculously quiet and comfortable, serving wholesome food and staffed by friendly masseuses who've reduced me to an amoebic state for the third time this weekend. Bottom line: I now feel well enough to recount the rest of CES Compartmentalization 2015, starting with several stand-out items that made this year’s Curious category.

Death by Linux

First up, the Linux-powered sniper rifle: This Linux long gun is dubbed the Precision Guided Firearm, and it’s a (cough, cough) hunting rifle. Sure, it looks exactly like a military-grade sniper rifle complete with flip-down bipod and a near-$20,000 price tag squarely in the recreation budget of every orange-and-camo-bedecked, Bud-swilling sportsman, but it’s definitely solely for hunting – nope, no other uses here. Also befitting a sport-only toy, it appears to have been reverse-engineered from Iron Man's helmet. Point it at some unlucky creature and it displays an image of the target marked with a laser, after which it performs a series of malevolent calculations that removes most of the skill previously necessary for exploding a deer’s head at 1,000 yards. Yay!

Then there’s the Baby GiGL, a smart baby bottle. This gizmo performs exceedingly necessary functions such as keeping track of how much your infant has imbibed and whether or not you’re holding the bottle at the optimal angle during feeding. These two acts absolutely impossible for parents to do themselves have now been smartified for the bargain price of $100 worth of credit card debt.

You may have already seen the self-tightening belt buckle that most everyone ridiculed and a “communications robot,” a frighteningly lifelike Asian woman who sang to – and, in the process, terrorized – passersby. Just another day at CES, really.

The thrill of 3D

The stuff I found most fascinating and curious was in the 3D printing category. From printed bras to 3D hats and a band that generated all its instruments, then proceeded to give a concert, the 3D print booths were by far the most interesting places to drink. Forget Zuck’s grandiose claims about our future being deeply influenced by Faceless – 3D printing is the weirdest technology today that’s truly going to change the way we live tomorrow. Hopefully it's for the better unless someone figures out how to print a cheaper Linux-powered sniper rifle.

So much for the Curious. The last compartment of Cringely’s CEScapade is, as always, the Hidden Hotness: the best of the best, the cream of the creamy, the electronic elite – at least seen through the scotch goggles of a hermit nerd. For me, it wasn’t about screens, software, or silicon this year. It was about wood ... and iron, limestone, and bronze, each with a little plastic mixed in.

I’m talking about another advancement in 3D printing that’s so cool it momentarily sobered me up. It’s a composite filament technology from MakerBot that lets 3D printers generate objects in near-pure natural substances. The wood feels and even smells like wood, and the booth rep showed off a magnetized iron doodad. This stuff is truly amazing because it means we’re moving up on printing objects that require zero compromises in terms of texture, stability, or function. I love it, I want it, and you should, too.

There, that’s it for another year. Now it’s time to heave my massaged carcass back into the real world ... right after I wipe my fingerprints off that damn car.