While most of us are celebrating the end of a turkey-based diet and bemoaning the long haul to our next payday, the consumer technology world gathers in Las Vegas for International CES* 2013.
The purpose of CES is to show off new products launching in 2013, and to tease consumers with demos of new technology which is still in the pipeline. In these straitened times, though, manufacturers are more interested in selling this year’s products than suggesting you wait for better.
The scale of CES is hard to accommodate: it takes place in several giant casino hotels along the Las Vegas strip, and has forced other events out to make space (CES visitors often used to ‘accidentally’ wander into the AVN porn industry show next door).
This year’s show promises plenty of excitement for Recombu Digital readers, with Ultra High Definition TV displays, smarter smart TVs, faster WiFi devices, and a host of smart home tech, with health and fitness a special focus.
Smart TV: it’s still a TV
The Consumer Electronics Association of America agreed a basic standard for Ultra High Definition TV in 2012, settling on the 4K standard, which is essentially eight times the detail of today’s Full HD.
Since there’s almost nothing available to watch in 4K, this means that for the first time in a decade, display technology is ahead of broadcast. The film industry could make 4K movies available, but as yet there’s no standard for 4K Blu-ray disc players, and very few people have the bandwidth to make downloading 100GB UHD movies a regular thing.
Still, those who can afford that sort of bandwidth are also exactly the kind of people who’ll be able to afford the £15,000 UHD TVs we expect to see from Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba and LG.
And can the screens get bigger? Of course they can, this is an American show, but we’re also keen to see LG’s 55in Organic LED (OLED) TV, claimed to weigh just 3.5kg.
All this means there will be a lot more emphasis on the Smart TV tech we’ve seen manufacturers push through to everything but the budget end of their ranges.
Samsung is hotly tipped to relaunch its smart TV interface, as the teaser video below suggests, making it easier for users to access live TV broadcasts, VOD, apps, and the internet.
We like the look of the Smart Hub (pic above), and there’s a hint it will also work with the gesture and voice interfaces introduced at CES 2012.
Games – in fact everything except video – have proven non-starters so far for smart TV, but LG promises to unveil a dual-play motor racing game, and versions of both the popular Disney children’s smartphone game Where’s My Water, and a TV version of worldwide hit The Sims.
The games all use LG’s Wii-style Magic Remote, while Mini Motor Racing takes advantage of LG’s ‘dual play’ mode that uses 3D glasses to show different images to two players.
The Magic Remote itself is being upgraded with improved ‘natural language’ voice control for multiple devices such as your set-top box.
LG will also show off an expanded range of Google TV sets based on the new Google TV 3.0 (pic below), with voice control and search, magic remote and console-style cloud-based games from On Live.
Screen sizes will be 42/47/50/55/60in, and though the models will be US-only, it’s hoped that they’ll be launched worldwide. Otherwise, 2013 could be the last chance for Google TV.
The Japanese TV brands have been typically quiet ahead of CES, and it might be that in smart TV the battle is now about getting other people’s content on your screens, with all of the hardware now on the market.
That said, a Google TV 3.0 device from Sony wouldn’t be a huge surprise, and if there are content announcements they’re best taken lightly since they’re usually restricted to the US market. CES isn’t as ‘International’ as it claims, not yet anyway.
Broadband: faster networks work together
As providers of the gateways and storage devices on your home network, the likes of Netgear, Buffalo and Cisco will be unveiling routers with cloud-based functions and apps that let users access their domestic storage anywhere.
As we’ve already seen with Cisco in 2012, this could mean accepting some uncomfortable terms and conditions for such basic equipment, that makes you wonder whether it can still be treated as a neutral conduit for your data.
On a more useful note, 2012 also saw 802.11ac, or 5G WiFi, reach a set standard that will deliver blistering Gigabit-range speeds in multi-device homes, that were previously the domain of wired connections.
Far from kicking off a connections war, CES 2013 will host a joint home networks area from the WiFi Alliance, HomePlug Alliance (behind the HomePlug powerline network standard), the MoCA Alliance (networking over TV-style coaxial cables) and DLNA (the half-baked standard for sharing media files over home networks).
Aside from having enough alliances for the new Star Wars saga, it could produce some surprises, with one Cisco event including a panellist from Sky in the UK. Shown here is WiPNET’s Ethernet-to-coax adapter and WiFi hotspot.
Smart home: the self-surveillance society
We’re always hoping for big ticket hardware, but it looks like myriad small manufacturers will be showing off devices, software and apps designed to monitor our lives.
As well as cameras sold around the evergreen fear-sells of home invasion and child safety, real-time power monitoring and control is being sold, as much to utility providers as to homeowners.
Cynicism aside, many of the wireless sensors now require almost negligible power, so you can wire up a home without needing to rewire your fusebox.
US home improvement chain Lowes has already been named an International CES Innovations 2013 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree for its all-in-one Smart Kit.
Remote health monitoring is also likely to be a huge topic, particularly for the US, where doctors and insurers both want to keep an unblinking eye on the vital signs of their increasingly aged cattle, er, clients, er – patients.
* The techno-orgy which used to be called the Consumer Electronics Show has now been reduced in name to CES, three letters which signify nothing on their own, an antacronym indicative of the sub-Orwellian Newspeak pervading modern corporate thinking. Official CES literature even includes specific instructions not to call it the Consumer Electronics Show.