What 21st Century Wonders Will This Year's CES Offer? One Writer's Perspective

4 minute read
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As surely as January follows December, the big Consumer Electronics Show (CES) follows the fresh-in-memory holiday shopping season with an overwhelming display of candidates for next year’s presents. What new things are expected at this year’s Extravaganza in Vegas, opening next week?

TV – The Next, Next Generation

Once again, TV makers will try to convince attendees that the high-definition sets they own and sell are so last year. Having pushed 3D TV in the last several shows, with no great wave of consumer interest to show for the effort, this year the Brand New Thing is super high-resolution TV which, as every great new technology generation does, comes in two competing versions.

First, Ultra High Def, or 4K, has four times the resolution of your current and obviously meager HD set. You don’t see pixels, so you can sit closer or get a bigger TV, but they’re edge-lit LED LCDs and, according to some observers, can be prone to the kinds of issues that LCDs have, like off-axis viewing.

The second type is OLED, a new type of TV technology with, reportedly, deeper blacks and a dynamic range greater than anything existing, plus lower power consumption than LCDs. The resolution is technically the same as existing HDTVs, so there’s lots of content -- unlike 4K sets -- and the image quality has led to a shortage of synonyms for the term “jaw-dropping.”

This year’s show is expected to demonstrate new sizes and features for these technologies, but, with prices starting at about US$ 10,000, the push is obviously more towards the press than the near-term sales.

All of which suggests that, while 4K and OLED will attract a lot of attention, practical TV products that lots of people may actually buy this year will include new versions of 3D and Internet-connected TVs, and such variations as an LG TV that syncs with your smartphone, a gesture-controlled TV from Samsung, a Google partnership with TV makers that turns an Android device into a remote control and new Google TVs from LG.

Bendable Displays

At least one manufacturer, Samsung, is expected to show the newest generation of TV's smaller and highly agile cousin, flexible displays. The technology has popped up in peeks here and there in previous years as indications of what’s coming, and now it looks like it may be here as small, plastic OLED HD displays in actual product lines. There are reports that Samsung will use flexible screens on the next major incarnation of its popular Galaxy S smartphone line, the IV. Reportedly, such screens are foldable and, in common use, unbreakable.

Learning Opportunities

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Samsung is expected to show new incarnations of its flexible displays.

For Your Consideration: “Tabphones”

In addition to a larger living room for your next gen TV, you may also need much bigger pockets for the big smartphones expected to make their appearance at CES, and follow in the footsteps of Samsung's Galaxy note, released last year. With so many other bells and whistles clamoring for attention, smartphones tend to get short shrift at CES, but with screens of about five inches diagonally, these new incarnations will probably find some admirers. Some industry observers have started calling these tablet/smartphone crossbreeds “phablets,” although we would offer the much more easily pronounced “tabphones.”

The Post-Touch Era

This year’s Device Deluge in the Desert is also expected to place several new markers in the march toward the post-touch PC. Sweden-based Tobii Technology, which recently announced the availability of its eye-tracking peripheral for computers and other devices, will demo its technology. Several makers of gestural technology, including PointGrab and Leap Motion, are expected to do the same. This week, Leap Motion announced its entry into the general market, with Asus releasing the precise gestural technology bundled with selected all-in-ones and desktops.

It Also Drives

The 2013 CES may also see a bigger shift in how you think about cars. You may have thought they were vehicles for traveling in which you could listen to music while driving or, if you got fancy, have the kids watch a small screen in the backseat. In reality, they are entertainment and communications rooms with wheels, and this year’s show will feature new kinds of integrated gadgets, apps, intelligence and services in models from Ford, Kia, Audi, Lexus and Subaru, among others.

And In This Corner…

Then, there are those devices so unusual that they will either burst into their own category, or sparkle for a moment before their actual use encounters the real world. This year’s crop will include yet more kinds of wearable technology for health and fitness, more smartphone apps and intelligent appliances for making your home systems smarter, new kinds of intelligent vacuum cleaner robots that find dirt in places you forgot you had and countless surprises that we can’t even imagine.