While no one knows exactly what new technology is making the jaws drop this year, as the iPhone did last year, was a place to get a good idea at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
Sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association, the 41st annual CES was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center and Sands Expo and Convention Center. The show has become something of a juggernaut in the electronics industry – it is the largest technical fair in the United States with over 2,700 exhibitors and the participation of about 140,000 people. Many companies (large and small) use CES to preview new products, advertise and create buzz. For the past 40 years, the show has seen the debut of VCR (1970), CD player (1981), HDTV (1998), Xbox (2001) and Blu-Ray (2003).
Along with more electronic inventions, gadgets and gizmos than you could fit into ten best buys (the exhibition area is 1.8 million net square feet), the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show also featured performances by celebrities like Michael Douglas, David Ortiz and XENA: Warrior Princess . Technology guru Bill Gates started the electronic extravaganza and gave his final keynote speech as president of Microsoft, shooting fun over his pending retirement in a video featuring guest appearances by Al Gore, Jay-Z and Bono. In his speech, he painted a picture of the dawning “second digital decade” as a time when high-definition screens will surround us, touch screens and speech recognition will replace traditional keyboard / mouse interfaces, and every device we own will be connected to the Internet.
Judging by many of the new products and technologies on display at CES, Gates’ predictions seem pretty accurate. Certainly the HDTVs were more prevalent than ever before. Panasonic surprised viewers with its 150-inch Lifescreen Plasma TV, the largest in the world, while LG introduced super-thin TVs only 1.7 inches thick. Meanwhile, Logitech worked to bridge the media gap with its diNovo MiniTM, a palm-sized wireless keyboard that connects TVs to PCs, and Eye-Fi won Yahoo’s “Last Gadget Standing” competition for its wireless memory card sending card from a digital camera to a computer. In addition to Gate’s digital prophecy, other trends at CES in 2008 point to a future filled with GPS (GPS) and, of course, more automated everyday products.
SPOT Satellite Messenger is ideal for hunters and hikers and takes GPS to the next level by allowing people to call for help from anywhere in the world (even places where mobile phones do not work – ie deserts, mountains, the Arctic Circle). Tracking progress with Google Maps and sending basic messages are also available at the touch of a button. For the wandering pet, there is the Zoombak Advanced GPS Dog Locator. The lightweight device attaches to a pet’s collar and indicates the animal’s location on a full – size web card. Zoombak also has a voice-based service that provides directions to the location of the GPS receiver. In addition to these gadgets, Nav N Go has invented new 3D navigation software that brings GPS maps to a three-dimensional life.
While GPS systems help people find their way, automatic cars may be able to take them there. GM announced at CES that the company plans to test driverless car technology by 2015 and have cars on the road around 2018. Of course, the company still faces the difficult hurdle of convincing drivers to abandon the steering wheel. Some other automated devices at CES designed to make everyday life easier include iRobot’s LoojTM, a cleaning robot that can clean a 60-foot section of gutters in just 10 minutes, and Interactive Toy Concepts’ RC Cooler, a radio-controlled, cooler wheel that has a 30- foot range and can hold a six pack on ice.
Also aware of this year’s CES was the increased presence of “green” products. Chargers for mobile phones, TVs and laptops designed to reduce energy consumption illustrated the industry’s modern focus on making electronic products more resource efficient. Even CES itself invested in new initiatives this year to compensate for the big footprint of the big event.
Next year’s Consumer Electronics Show is scheduled for 8-11. January 2009