It's still early going, but Parrot's Quadcopter is probably the coolest thing I've seen here yet. Pretty useless, but very cool.
Parrot normally makes Bluetooth car kits and that sort of boring stuff. But they were on hand at the media pre-briefing at the Venetian Tuesday night a remote-controlled wonder, a Quadcopter they call the AR.Drone. It's basically a hovering helicopter that is controlled via WiFi, meaning just about any device that runs the wireless standard can be used to control it, in theory.
A whole bunch of people constantly circled the device Tuesday night as its makers showed it off. But perhaps the coolest thing about the Drone is its iPhone app. The open-source app lets you control the Drone just by tilting your phone, but it also comes with augmented reality. Throw a brightly coloured mini-poster up on the wall, and when you point our iPhone at it and look at the screen, there's a virtual robot there for you to fight against with your Drone, complete with nonexistent rockets and lasers and what not. You may look like a maniac to anyone watching you fight off the virtual advance, but on the iPhone screen there's a whole bunch of warring going on.
You can also throw those bright markers on two Drones - so they can recognize one another - and turn the battle into a multiplayer event. Again, the Drones will look like they're just floating around to the casual observers, but your iPhone screens will have them blasting the hell out of each other.
Also neat: the code for the iPhone app is open source, so folks can modify the games to their liking.
For some reason, the folks at Parrot are being really tight-lipped about availability. So I may just steal one.