Trends We Saw At CES That Could Make Some Gadgets Obsolete
Every time we go to CES we wonder how soon the products we buy today are going to be made obsolete by all the amazing products we saw. This year was no exception with everything from new TV technology to connected appliances. Here’s a sample of some of the products we discovered that could make you think twice about buying that new gadget.
You May Want to Trade Your Car In For One With This Tech
One of the most impressive car technologies we saw at CES will be available in the 2014 Audi A3 due out later this year. The console has a jog wheel with a touch pad surface that you can use to spell out words like “pizza” and then find the closest pizza parlor on a map and get directed to it after you call in an order. Audi showed a Google street view on the display panel that you could manipulate with the console controls. Audi also showed how their smartphone app works with the console allowing you to do things like check traffic or search for something on the app outside of the car and then have that search result perform some action on the in-car system. Other car manufacturers and even car audio manufacturers like Pioneer all showed off connected car features with smartphone integration.
UHDTV Will Be Here Sooner Than You Think
This year we saw a lot more 4K, UHDTV sets than at last year’s CES in fact some manufacturers like Sony are so aggressive about UHD that they made their entire line of 2013 BRAVIA XBR sets UHD. Although some experts say it’s hard to see the difference on smaller sets and even larger sets at a normal viewing distance, we think the difference is quite noticeable especially on larger sets and we think most viewers will agree. Other skeptics wonder about the lack of 4K content. We saw lots of content upscaled from 2K and Sony was showing upscaled content from Blu-ray movies mastered with 4K content that looked very impressive. Also, if you think about it, 8MP pictures from your digital camera would qualify as 4K content and will look amazing on a big UHDTV set.
4K TVs Could Give 3DTV a Big BoostOne of the problems with large screen passive 3DTVs is a noticeable raster (at least to our eyes) due to the need to interlace different views to each eye within a single frame. LG’s 4K display solves that problem by adding another set of scan lines effectively delivering 1080 lines to each eye. Viewing 3D on their AH-IPS LCD 4K set was the closest it comes to looking out a window; it was that smooth and realistic looking. As good as passive 3D looked on 4K sets, we have to say, active 3D looked even better delivering 2160 lines to each eye. The biggest boost for 3D from 4K sets may come from autostereoscopic or glasses-free 3D which at lower resolutions didn’t look that great but at 4K appears to be quite acceptable.
Extra Wide 21:9 Aspect Ratio Monitors and TVs
LG was showing their line of 21:9 aspect ratio monitors which provide a lot more display real estate than current 16:9 screens. This aspect ratio is also referred to as Cinemawide and we suspect this could start becoming more common in TV sets. Speaking of panorama displays we also saw curved OLED TVs which create an interesting watching experience.
Live Stream Video or Post Photos With Connected Cameras and Camcorders
Although Eye-Fi SD cards have been connecting cameras to the Internet for a while, we saw more cameras and camcorders that offered built-in Wi-Fi connectivity this year. For example the new line of Panasonic camcorders including the HC-V520 has an amazing 50X optical zoom that looked sharp and clear and is expected to cost in the $400 range offers the ability to connect your camcorder to the web through Ustream so you can stream video wherever you have a Wi-Fi connection or even through your cell phone using 3G or 4G connectivity. The Panasonic Lumix TS5 is a waterproof compact camera that has Wi-Fi and even NFC built in. Samsung showed off several Wi-Fi equipped cameras like the DV150F and Sony announced a new Bloggie with Wi-Fi connectivity.
Super Smart Appliances Become Even Smarter With Smartphone Apps
At the LG booth we were treated to a rundown of some upcoming appliances including a smart, connected refrigerator, stove and washer/dryer. What we saw was state-of-the-art appliances with touchscreen displays that not only had the latest mechanical features like direct drive motors, vibration reduction and sanitizing steam but new “smart” appliances connected to smartphones that work with apps to manage shopping lists, cooking times and lots more. These new smart appliances also work with the smart grid to help you save money by managing how and when your appliances use energy.
Laptops With Touchscreens or Tablets With Keyboards Make Windows 8 More Fun
Although Microsoft decided not to have a presence at this year’s CES we did see plenty of Ultrabooks and many of them with touchscreens. In our opinion, if you are going to give Windows 8 a try, we think the experience can be greatly improved with the addition of a touchscreen either in an AIO (all-in-one) PC or laptop. Lenovo was showing a new version of their IdeaPad Yoga which as the name suggests contorts from a laptop into a tablet. Lenovo, also announced, among other touch-enabled laptops, their ThinkPad Helix which is an 11.6-inch 1080p tablet with a detachable, ThinkPad-caliber, keyboard. Other touchscreen Ultrabooks came from manufacturers like Sony with their VAIO T15 and Toshiba with a new Satellite U845t.
Near Field Communication (NFC) Is Not Just for Mobile Wallets
Despite consumers’ indifference towards mobile wallets and NFC and despite NFC being absent in Apple’s iPhone 5, we saw plenty of evidence of NFC at CES. At the Hyundai booth we saw a demonstration of how an NFC tag could be used to select a feature like Pandora when a card or smartphone taps the console. At LG’s booth we saw NFC equipped appliances that connect to smartphones and transfer data using NFC. Of course lots of smartphones like those from Samsung and others are all incorporating NFC that can be used for phone-to-phone communication or tapping a tag a Bluetooth-enabled device to pair with it. Samsung even gave out NFC equipped bracelets at their press conference. There were plenty of other NFC-equipped gadgets at the show including Panasonic camcorders and cameras that have NFC built-in along with Wi-Fi.
There was also this fun pocket photo demo that used NFC.
Tech We Saw That Won’t Make Your Gadgets Obsolete (Anytime Soon)
As much as we’re convinced that some of the technology we saw will affect your buying decision soon, we also feel there were some products that we don’t think will be a big factor for at least the next couple of years.
Big Screen OLED TVs
OLED TVs were on display at a few booths this year. If you like those very warm OLED colors and that super thin screen than you might be one of those consumers who would be willing to plunk down big bucks to be the first one on the block to own one. On the other hand, from what we hear from industry insiders, don’t expect to see the price come down to an affordable range for a few years.
We saw Google Glasses-type devices in a couple of places at CES including the Vuzix and Verizon booths. As cool as we think this cyber-eyewear is going to be, we still think it’s a little ways down the road before you’re going to consider buying one.
We can’t wait for the day when our car will take over the driving for us especially in stop-and-go traffic. We do think driverless cars are the way of the future and we saw more evidence of that from car makers like Lexus and Audi but we don’t think they’re going to influence your next car purchase for quite some time.