Best New Gadgets
By small companies at the Consumer Electronics Show Jan. 6-9
By Daisy Chan

(FORTUNE Small Business) – 8x8 VideoPhone, $299 for one; $499 for two Once a Jetsons fantasy, high-quality affordable videophones are becoming a reality. The 8x8 Packet8 VideoPhone delivers live shots of the person you're talking to in near-television quality. All you need is high-speed Internet access. 8x8, based in Santa Clara, Calif., was founded in 1987 by Chi-Shin Wang and Y.W. Sing to develop videoconference technology. To use Packet8, you need a monthly service plan ($29.95 for unlimited calls throughout the U.S. and Canada, and unlimited calls and video calls to other Packet8 members around the world). The Veterans of Foreign Wars bought 50 Packet8 phones so that U.S. soldiers in Iraq can stay in touch with their loved ones back home.

Mobi Digital Picture Frame, $199 Digital photography is easy, but printing and framing the images can be hard. Beverly Hills--based Mobi Technologies has one solution: Skip printing the picture altogether. Its new digital frame can upload images from memory cards instantly (so you don't have to load them onto your computer first). The Mobi frame runs on batteries or a cord and, unlike those of many competitors, has a 3.5-inch LCD screen that offers a crisp, vibrant picture. David Naghi, 38, launched Mobi in 2003 after founding two other consumer electronics companies.

Shure Earphones, $179 Shure, based in Niles, Ill., has been making professional audio equipment for nearly 80 years. The microphone Martin Luther King Jr. used in his "I Have a Dream" speech? A Shure model. The company's new E3c earphones were inspired by rock stars who liked using its onstage monitor system with their CD players back on the tour bus. The E3c blocks outside noise to isolate what you hear through the headphones. Sidney Shure, a radio-parts wholesaler who started the company, died in 1995, but his wife, Rose, is still chairman of the board.

Orb Audio Home Theater System, $1,039 New York City-based Orb Audio packs a high-end surround-sound system into spheres the size of softballs. The People's Choice package is a good starter set, with five speakers and a subwoofer (you can upgrade each component separately later on). Ex-lawyer Ethan Siegel, 34, and friend Gary Pelled, 39, who had worked in the speaker business, founded the company in 2003, and it is already profitable thanks to its web-only business model.

Leadsinger Karaoke Machine, $130 Founder Jerry Choe, 38, loved karaoke but hated the big, ugly machines it required. So he decided to make his own streamlined version—just a microphone. His New York City--based company's new LS2100 model is even slimmer than the original, with 200 songs built in. You simply plug the mike into your TV, choose a song using the buttons on the mike, and belt it out. Leadsinger also sells chips with additional songs ($49 for 50 songs; $199 for 3,000).

Meade Instruments Telescope, $695 to $1,095 Meade's new ETX telescopes are so smart they can find objects in the sky for you. Just plop the telescope on the ground and enter your zip code (or city and state) and the star you'd like to see. The telescope will automatically rotate to put the star into view. Software includes a "Tonight's Best" tour, which shows you the brightest objects in your region on a given night. The ETX comes in models with apertures of 90, 105, and 125 millimeters (higher numbers allow you to see more). Meade is based in Irvine, Calif.