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These geeks carry sanitizer

Times Staff Writer

The Consumer Electronics Show is packed with gadget freaks, but also with hypochondriacs.

Take 140,000 sleep-deprived, overworked people, cram them into planes, buses and meeting rooms, and the trade show becomes a 24-hour party for germs.

CES attendees go to great lengths to avoid getting sick.

At an event Saturday, German clock radio maker Sonoro Audio gave away white gloves, which were far more popular than its press kits.

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One marketing executive, who asked that her name not be used, says she lines the inside of her nose with the antibiotic cream Neosporin before she boards the plane to Las Vegas.

Jay Stevens, who builds convention booths and has survived five CES shows, has germ avoidance down to a science.

The 35-year-old from Salt Lake City gradually pumps his body with vitamin C leading up to the show, reaching a daily peak of 2,000 milligrams. Before boarding the plane, he sips Airborne, an herbal product said to boost the immune system.

Once here, Stevens obsessively washes his hands and tries to avoid touching escalator handrails, doorknobs, keyboards, mice and controllers. But that’s not always practical, especially at a trade show for gadgets. So every hour or so, he coats his hands with hand sanitizer, which he carries in a front pocket.

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“People touch an escalator, pick up the germs,” Stevens said. “The cellphone rings and they bring that to their face. That’s all it takes -- you’re done!”

This being CES, Stevens’ solution is a high-tech one -- a Bluetooth wireless headset, so that the germs don’t get a chance.

One remote for all the home gadgets

The problem: a houseful of gadgets and devices that all stake claim to your music, movies, pictures and video, like toddlers who amass toys and don’t like to share.

OpenPeak Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., thinks it has the answer: a universal remote control on steroids that acts like a Swiss governess -- it can make all those unruly gadgets play nice.

Its device is designed to be a gateway to a multitude of digital services, including the family calendar, music subscriptions, YouTube videos, movies, digital pictures, weather information, news and traffic. It’s also a phone, so maybe instead of a Swiss governess it’s better to think of it as a digital Swiss Army knife.

It comes in several types and colors, but the basic components are a 7-inch touch screen and a wireless telephone handset that looks like a sleek remote control.

OpenPeak board member John Sculley, former chief executive of Apple Inc., said the product would be sold through cable companies and phone carriers that intend to use it to entice consumers to sign up for services piped through OpenPeak’s device, starting in the spring. Verizon Communications Inc. has signed up.

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Like cellphones, the devices will be subsidized and are expected to sell for less than $200 to customers who sign contracts for bundled services.

-- Alex Pham

Penn Jillette’s ‘reality’ series

Crackle, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s online video site, announced the premiere of “Penn Says,” an unscripted Web series by the outspoken comic magician Penn Jillette. The news release describes the short, four-times-a-week videos as a “raw look inside Penn’s life,” but few were prepared for his act at the show’s unveiling here.

Penn placed a bean on his tongue, and, through a series of snorts, grunts and facial contortions, appeared to expel it from the corner of an eye. Penn said he chose the gross-out feat because he was barred from eating fire.

“Remember, this is what I do when they don’t let me do what I want to do,” Penn said. “All the Sony people should keep that in mind.”

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

Arrrr! You too can be a Disney pirate

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After three blockbuster films, Jack Sparrow has taken his high-seas high jinks online.

Walt Disney Co. quietly launched its “Pirates of the Caribbean Online” game on Halloween. Now it’s planning an ad campaign to woo fans of the movie to the game, where they can live out their pirate fantasies (think swashbuckling, cannon battles and searching for treasure).

It’s initially free. Disney hopes to get people to pay $9.95 a month to access all levels of weapons and skills or lead their own motley crews as head of a Pirate Guild.

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski


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