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High fashion, high tech intersect at CES confab

The folks who brought you laptop trackpads, voice-activated smartphones and touch-screen tablets are dreaming up new ways for users to interact with technology through wearable, fashionable gadgets.

The high-tech industry used the International Consumer Electronics Show to display things like high-tech fingernails, handbags, clothing and accessories for the iPhone generation.

The "nanonail," for example, from a startup called Tech Tips, looks like a fingernail extension but is designed to work on smartphones and help avoid "fat finger" mistakes.

"The nail had to look nice, I didn't want women to have to compromise," said dermatologist Sri Vellanki, founder of the Montana-based company and inventor of the concept, who said she hopes to sell the product in a few months.

SunnyBag, a firm based in Austria, was showing its handbag equipped with flexible solar panels. The leather bag uses solar energy to charge a battery inside which can be used with a USB cord to recharge a smartphone.

"Our aim was to combine fashion with function," said product manager Kerstin Kurre. "Every woman and a lot of men carry a bag, and everyone has battery problems."

The surge in the use of smartphones which can be used as music players has stimulated the creation of headphones which double as fashion accessories. Some on display at CES are integrated into caps or scarves.

Some headphones were being marketed as fashion items including one from iHip promoted by permatanned reality show star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi with splashes of glittery faux-diamond plastic and leopard print.

Italian-based hi-Fun appeared to want to take a page from James Bond with high-tech gloves which can be used to speak on a smartphone.

The user can answer a call by activation a button inside the gloves and placing the thumb in the ear and index finger in front of the mouth to speak.

The "hi-Call" devices look like ordinary knit gloves, but are equipped with wireless connectivity. "Bluetooth is an easy technology, and works with most devices," said Rick Sadofsky, a US distributor for the product.

CES also saw a spate of new wristwatch products, some powered by Android, which can access apps from a smartphone, some with emergency calling capacity.

The crowdfunded Pebble Technology watch can tell users when their bus is arriving, monitor one's sleep and send data back through their smartphones to the Internet.

Italian-based i'm SpA, which last year debuted what it called the world's first smart watch, unveiled a new version along with i'm Here, a GPS tracker that help mark out missing children, adventurers or adults with dementia.

Another wearable device came from US-based Vuzix, which offered a rival to Google Glasses with a device fitting around the forehead with a screen which connects to a smartphone.

But Vuzix's David Lock said another device in the works is a real pair of glasses which also allows users to visualize what is on a smartphone or other mobile device.

"We see that as the holy grail," Lock said.

CES also featured its own high-tech fashion show, with LED and illuminated dresses and corsets and accessories.

"We're about to see an entire new industry take off based on high tech fashion," said Robin Raskin, organizer of the show featured in the CES Living in Digital Times program.

"Fashion is soon to become personalized, elegant and useful and will remain a constant couture."

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