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CNN Today

Gadgets for Everyone at the National Hardware Show in Chicago

Aired August 16, 2000 - 2:41 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The National Hardware Show wraps up today in Chicago. The trade show features thousands of products for everyone, from big-time contractors to weekend do-it-yourselfers.

CNN's gadget guru Ed Curran has seen it all and he's chosen some of his favorites to show us. And Ed's in our Chicago bureau.

How are you doing, Ed?

ED CURRAN, CNN GADGET GUY: I'm doing great. How are you, Natalie?

ALLEN: I'm fine, thank you. I'm so sorry I missed the big event because I need some help at home.

CURRAN: Well, you know what? There are all kinds of products, both high-tech products and adaptations of commercial products, in some cases, that are available at this hardware show that you'll see on store shelves soon.

First of all, a lot of people go to restaurants and enjoy dining outdoors. And at night, many restaurants will have something like this thing out there to keep you warm. This is an outdoor propane heater; keeps you warm when you're outdoors at a restaurant. And now these are really getting hot -- no pun intended -- for people to have on their own patios.

This particular one that you're looking at will come out at Wal- Mart stores next month and will sell for about $200. Very, very nice system, runs on a propane tank for about eight to 12 hours, depending on how high you're running it, and keep you nice and warm outside in the evening, chilly air and really extend the outdoor season for a lot of people, especially in northern climates.

So it's a trend we see at the show with a bunch of manufacturers showing this kind of device at a lower price than ever before.

Now, here's a neat wireless device that we found that's just amazing. This is from the X-10 company and this is a little wireless video camera. You can locate this anywhere in your home and it will send a wireless signal from the video camera to a little receiver and pick it up on your television set.

The amazing thing is that this color transmitter, with the video camera and the receiver together, sell for under $100. You can have as many as four of these around your house to look at different areas of the house or the backyard or whatever. Really amazing technology -- 2.4 gigahertz technology at a price of under $100, which is really a breakthrough price, and a tiny, tiny little colored camera that you can mount anywhere. So we were impressed by that.

Speaking of wireless and security: A lot of people have motion detectors outside their house that will kick on outside lights for security reasons. We like this system because it's wireless. You put four batteries in here -- this is from the Lamson Corporation -- and you mount the unit anywhere in your back yard, on a fence post or whatever, and point it into the yards. Somebody comes in, violates the area, it sends a wireless signal to this box that you'll have a lamp plugged into inside the house and turns on the lights inside the house.

So a little security device you can mount anywhere, motion control that turns on the lights inside the house, about $35 and now available in stores.

Here's a brand-new device that somebody thought of. It's very clever. It's the Laserlight Corporation has this. And you mount this above the door to your house that you would escape out of if you had a fire in your home -- mounted above a front door, let's say. When it hears your smoke alarm go off, it automatically turns on and projects a laser light of several different arrows on the ground to direct you to the exit.

Now, firefighters will tell you people become confused in fires, carbon monoxide overcomes them in fires and they become confused and might go into a closet or whatever thinking they're leaving the house. This projects very large arrows. When it's located up above a door, they're much larger than this, and will track down a hallway and show you the way out. It sells for about $70, just becoming available. And that's Laserlight.

Now, speaking of lasers, we have another laser item here. This is from Zircon and this laservision item can actually measure distance by using a beam of light. You just point it at a wall, press the button -- you see the little laser go off in the front there when I press the button -- and it measures the distance and then reads it out to me. So from here to the wall across the room is about 12 feet, six inches. It goes up to 200 feet, costs about $600 -- this is definitely for the pro -- and on a beam of laser light, measures to within a one-eighth-inch accuracy. And a very exciting technology that's really coming down in price. These used to cost thousands of dollars. And that's at the hardware show.

Now, here's something from GE that we thought was pretty clever. Who hasn't dropped a light bulb when you're putting in a light bulb? This is a light bulb with a special safety coating. If you drop it, no shattered particles. It's all self-contained. And if you want to see the commercial version, wait until you see this: Who hasn't dropped one of these? It's like an explosion going off. But if you happen to drop one of these from GE, safety-coated.

ALLEN: How about that?

CURRAN: It's all inside here.

ALLEN: Don't try that at home.

CURRAN: No, no, kids, don't do that at home. Keep it in the hands of professionals.

ALLEN: Ed, thanks. I remember those patio heaters. Saw one in a catalog last year for $600, so...

CURRAN: Absolutely right. Coleman also has one coming out that will be about $500. We were impressed by this because it brings it all the way down to around $200.

ALLEN: Not bad at all. Ed, thank you. It's always a pleasure.

CURRAN: Thank you.



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