Since its first, considerably more modest show in 1967, the International Consumer Electronics Show has become the annual go-to event for all things techy. For almost 50 years, CES — now a Las Vegas trade show staple — has been the launch pad for some of our most enduring electronics. The VCR, the CD, Blu-ray, HDTV and the Xbox are among the products that went on to become home fixtures. And sometimes not: we’re looking at you 3DTV. So after 150,000 visitors from over 160 countries browsed 20,000 new gadgets, here’s a peek at what could be the future of home tech. Hint: you’ll need an Internet connection.
In the keynote address, Samsung UK vice president Robert King said, “We’re entering the third age of technology. It’s no longer about standalone devices but interconnecting them so they can do more together.” Internet connectivity — the Internet of Things as it’s called — was all over CES this year, with devices that were controllable from phones and tablets, everything from everyday appliances to kitchen hardware to, obviously, home media.
High on the list of gadgets for this year was the smartwatch. It may look kind of silly, but with smartphones and tablets becoming increasingly outsized for maximum mobility, the smartwatch is looking to make inroads. Apple debuted its version at its annual product launch last September (expect to see it on the market early this year), but hundreds of companies were hawking what have been dubbed “wearables” that streamline key functions — text messages, emails, oddly phone calls — into a small device for the wrist. Dutch manufacturer Burg unveiled a device with a SIM card for those phone calls. Before you know it we’ll all be talking to our wrists like something from a comic book. Other smartwatches showcased at this year’s show included models by Alcatel, Sony, Lenovo and Garmin, whose Vivoactive is pitched at the athletes among us with its workout data apps.
As usual, home entertainment was front and centre, and cinema-sized televisions were back, often with curved design and almost all with 4K resolution. Samsung led the way again with its 88-inch ultra HD model (the JS 9500 SUHD) but Panasonic (with the CX850 series) and Sony (12 new UHD Bravias). On a related note, Google’s smart TV software got a major seal of approval with announcements that Sony, Philips and Sharp were all committed to including Android TV in their new units (that Internet of things again). The Android software allows viewers to stream content to their massive televisions via computer, smartphone or tablet. And like televisions, high resolution audio made its presence felt, with Sony showing off its new luxury version of the (then) game-changing Walkman. The US$1,200 NW-ZX2 music device is the latest iteration of a re-release of the iconic personal music toy from 2013. Bonus for those pining for the now defunct iPod Classic: it holds 128GB of music.
Lastly, it’s not a sign of the robot apocalypse, but consumer drone technology is definitely on the rise. The Nixie is a bracelet that turns into a camera when tossed in the air, and it’s one of many flying robots designed to carry loads, provide portable light or simply take photos. In a similar vein, Mercedes revealed its driverless concept car, the F015 Luxury in Motion, which has four rotating seats for socialising instead of wasting time with that pesky business of freeway exits and stop signs. Look for it at a Mercedes dealer near you … sometime around 2030.