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CES 2011: ION Audio

Posted by: Dan at 1/15/2011 12:38 PM
The days before CES even started, I posted about ION Audio’s new iCADE device that turns any iPad into a classic table-top arcade machine. Now that I have spent some time with the device at CES, I have some more details to share. When you finally get your hands on the iCADE, you realize how cool, yet simple the product is. It essentially is a pedestal (not a dock) that allows you to display your iPad in a position that is both comfortable to see, yet emulates classic table-top arcade play. In order to “install” an iPad, the iCADE top lid opens up and you set the iPad down on the small pedestal and close the lid. Power up the app that is iCADE supported, turn on the iCADE, and away you go. If you do need to power your iPad, you can simply plug it into a power source and pull the power cord out the back.

One thing I found interesting is that it is not a dock, with the only power source used to run the joystick controls panel. In order for the iCADE to work with an app, it uses Bluetooth keyboard commands within the app to map to the joystick and buttons. So technically, an app that has Bluetooth keyboard support can be made to work with the iCADE. Ion folks said their SDK info is free and they are hoping to work with companies such as Namco-Bandai, Capcom and other classic arcade app developers to form a partnership and have their games also iCADE compatible. Currently, ION has a relationship with Atari and Asteroids was the “launch” app for the iCADE. However, Atari will be bringing the entire Atari iPad lineup to the iCADE over time.

The biggest benefit I see with a device like this is that your hands or thumbs are no longer covering the areas of the touch screen in order to work the virtual controls. This has always been the one thing about the iPod Touch/iPad/iPhone that has annoyed me. Obviously some of this falls on the developer to make sure that nothing pertinent on screen is covered up while working the controls, but every person’s hands are different and they likely will hold the device differently. So something like the iCADE not only brings us back to the golden age of arcade gameplay, but also makes it more comfortable and easy and see what is going on the screen during gameplay.

The iCADE is scheduled to hit retail around mid-year (June-July) with a price point of $99 and will come flat-packed with some basic assembly required.

The iCADE wasn’t the only gaming goodie that ION had on display. Another slick little device was something they call the GOpad, which is a portable (and foldable) MAC and PC gamepad that works with 1,000s of titles. The GOpad comes with a retractable USB connecter that lets you hook into your laptop, netbook or any other PC and have full gamepad control. It ships with Asteroids and will be at retail sometime in February for around $19.99.

A couple of accessories for the iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch also caught my eye. The first was the diminutive iType, which is a keyboard accessory for the iPod Touch and iPhone. It basically is a full mini-Qwerty keyboard and stand that allow you to enter text faster than you can with the virtual keyboard. I see it as perfect for those that have a 4th generation iPhone or iPod Touch and want to do video chat, or Facebook or Twitter on the go while relaxing.

The other two products that I saw were a couple of audio solutions for the iPad and iOS products. The Sound Station HD will retail for around $129.99 and allows you to dock your iPad horizontally within it. The dock also has a volume control knob, is ac powered and has a 1/8” mini jack to also connect an iPhone, iPod Touch or CD player. The other audio solution is the Anyroom, which will retail around $249 and should be available in late 2011. This is actually a wireless speaker solution that allows you to transmit audio from your iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad to virtually any room in your house by using a small remote transmitter that fits in the Apple connector. It is expandable with additional Anyroom speakers, with each one generating 32w of power.

ION had a nice mix of gaming and audio gear on display this year and we hope to get our hands on a few of these as the year goes on.