Self-driving cars, 'Ultra HD' TVs make waves at CES
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Shades of Knight Rider, Minority Report and Star Trek (as always) look to be the science fiction that gets a little closer to science fact at this week’s International Consumer Electronics Show.
While the show floor officially opens Tuesday, many of the big companies will spend Monday showcasing their new products and innovations for the coming year.
So far, the rumoured buzz — or calculated leaks — centre on Toyota showing off a self-driving car and Samsung debuting a portrait-oriented translucent screen.
On Sunday evening, at a CES Unveiled preview event, press and industry got a first look at some of the products from a small group of the 3,000 companies taking part in the show. While there was very little that was revolutionary, it gave a good impression of what real tech might be coming to homes this year.
Touchscreens, tablets and hybrid or convertible computing devices are definitely going to be big. In some cases, quite literally — with 3M displaying an 84-inch concept touchscreen tablet that allowed people to slide around images and documents.
“This is set in a table format, but we’re selling the display. Customers can put them in a table or set them on a wall,” said Scott Hagermoser, 3M’s Global marketing and business development manager for touch systems. “We see the opportunities here are in education, like say in a museum installations, or in collaborative work environments, really, the design community is very interested in utilizing this capability for doing interactive story boarding.”
Lenovo also had a 27-inch tablet model, which looked impressive. The company is building on the success of its Yoga hybrid tablet, which is one of the few in this nascent product category that has been well received by critics. Lenovo is building on that good will with new models, including a touchscreen wireless monitor that could double as a tablet or as a monitor extender. Unfortunately, like many of the really neat innovations at this week’s show, it’s unknown when or if any of these products will be available in Canada.
In home entertainment, Ultra HD TVs are coming, with LG showcasing one model. They will likely have competition after Sony, Samsung and Panasonic hold their press conferences on Monday.
It also felt like you couldn’t turn a corner at the preview event without seeing some kind of audio dock speaker system. Companies such as the House of Marley, Pure Audio and Soul were showing off their wares. With Apple changing to a new connector in the iPhone 5, it makes sense for these companies to refresh their lines. There are also rumours that some of the big players will be creating some sort of wireless control system that is similar to, and able to compete with, Apple’s Airplay.
Another area that looks to have a fair number of players is the health and fitness sector, with many companies looking to track activity and habits to help people be healthier.
French company Withings, who have created smart scales, are introducing an activity monitor that can track all movement, and then ties the data into the scale to present a more complete solution.
“Combining health and technology is really booming. We have always been on this idea of helping people to be healthier, first with the scales and with the blood pressure monitor,” said Thomas Vuchot, product manager, Withings. “Now with the activity monitor, this is really the first device from Withings you can wear all day in your pocket, in order to have very good insights of your activity and overall health.”
In a similar, although perhaps slightly more questionable vein, is HapiLabs Hapifork, a sensor-based fork that times how long it takes you eat, with the company claiming that this information can be used to help you lose weight. It vibrates if you are eating too fast, letting you know to slow down and enjoy your meal. The company plans to put the product up on Kickstarter later this year.
While Node and Scanadu were not at the sneak peek event, these companies have app-based sensors, similar to Star Trek’s Tricorders, which use your cellphone to scan bodies and help self diagnose issues.
Some of the other offerings were just plain cool. The best P.T. Barnum-esque display came from HZO, which uses nanotechnology to seal phones and devices from the inside. They showed several working phones submerged in various liquids, including water and orange juice. The company is targeting manufacturers, so it’s not something a consumer can just go to the store to purchase, but the company touts it as way to revamp technology, making damage from water and other liquids a thing of the past.
As well, for winter extreme sports fans, Liquid Image has created their Apex Series Wi-Fi HD snow goggles, which have an adjustable camera on the front and can capture full 1080p footage of you shredding downhill.