Today, we want to take a bit more of a step back and get a wider view of the scope of technological innovations being introduced at this industry show. Whereas appliances and gadgets in the Internet of Things are becoming more connected, other areas of the consumer electronic world are focused on more realistic forms of entertainment through new visual systems. Futuristic exhibitions on driverless automobiles, 3D printing technologies and full-body harness controls for video gaming also piqued the interests of many CES attendees.
TV’s Next Generation
Television systems often grab a lot of attention at CES, and the 2014 edition was no different. The TV industry is preparing for a new shift in video display and several manufacturers came to the convention with television sets featuring 4K resolution. 4K resolution displays utilize just over 4,000 pixels, roughly about four times the pixels included in a tradition 1080p HDTV display.
Sony looks like it’s jumping wholeheartedly into the 4K world, featuring high-resolution sets that feature curved screens for better quality in picture depth. Sony Pictures, a subsidiary, is working on developing plenty of 4K content, which the company recently announced will include its filming of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Of course, that may be far too soon for the technology to proliferate, but it is a sign of things to come.
Another television innovator receiving a lot of buzz at the 2014 CES was Roku, a company that streams television and video services over the Internet. At the electronics show, Roku announced that it will partner with two major Chinese TV manufacturers to create affordably priced television sets that can provide the streaming service without a set-top box or other console. Roku TVs will likely be available through American retail stores by late 2014.
The CES certainly isn’t the most important annual event in the auto industry; car shows in New York, Detroit and elsewhere feature more car manufacturers and focus more on automobiles. However, vehicles are consumer electronics, if highly complex ones, and a few auto companies stopped by Las Vegas to show off the newest technological developments available in their upcoming models.
Methods of controlling a car without a steering wheel were exhibited by a number of technology firms attending CES. German engineering firm Bosch unveiled a smartphone app that was capable of parking a car while the driver stands outside, helping guide the car into a better parallel parking position. Driverless technologies were also brought by BMW and Audi, which have both been creating computer systems allowing humans to travel in cars without operating the controls manually. Audi’s zFAS computer, powered with components created by Nvidia, may be further developed to recognize traffic signs, lane warnings and even pedestrians.
Although Ford, General Motors, Mercedes and others brought innovations to share with the crowds at CES, Audi seemed to be a big winner of popular appeal, to judge by news reports about vehicular developments at the convention. Audi’s Sport Quattro Laserlight concept car features the manufacturer’s driverless technology as well as a hybrid V8 engine that helps the car reach 90 miles per gallon of gas. True to the ‘Laserlight’ name, this Audi model uses laser headlights that can illuminate the road for one-third of a mile in front of the car.
Virtual Reality in Gaming
Gaming innovations always receive a lot of attention at CES, and a few companies made some significant waves in these waters as well. Wearable technology was another major trend this year, and PrioVR turned heads with its full-body video gaming harness. Although it will initially only be available for PC gaming, the PrioVR system might compete with Microsoft’s Kinect and other next-generation video game console interfaces.
Head-mounted virtual reality displays were another big step forward in the video gaming industry at this year’s CES. Online technology publication Engadget was especially optimistic about the Crystal Cove by Oculus Rift, a virtual reality firm located in Irvine, CA. Not only does this device do a great job of mitigating nausea-inducing motion blur, but it includes a series of sensors designed to respond to user movement much more accurately. An external camera can even help detect if a user is leaning forward or backward, even if the head hasn’t tilted.
A couple of other technologies premiered at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show show an interesting sense of novelty that, in some very notable cases, aim for a high degree of practicality. Nine companies set up exhibitions in an area of the convention devoted to the near future of 3D printing. These technologies have the potential to enable consumers to make many items they typically need manufactured, like doorknobs, right in the home. The cost of 3D printing units has made it difficult for this technology to grab a wide share of the consumer market, but multiple manufacturers will be offering printers for under $1,000; the above article cites the Printrbot Simple 3D printer as the cheapest available option at $299.
Some inventions may not see widespread sales, but still do a good job of firing up the imagination. ClearView Audio of Massachusetts debuted their Clio Bluetooth wireless speaker at this year’s CES. Instead of a typical amplifier, this speaker is composed of a piece of glass which is one-millimeter in thickness which sits on top of an electronic dock. The dock can play sound and music by through vibration of the curved glass sheet. The Enerplex Surfr from Ascent Solar Technologies is an iPhone 5 and 5S case that incorporates solar energy collection for battery charging. The impact of this particular product may not be widely felt, but the company’s goal to create flexible, portable solar energy solutions may make Ascent a much more recognizable name in the future.
This year’s CES certainly gave American consumers plenty to look forward to in 2014. From wearable tech to driverless cars to Internet-connected everything, the world of technology has some very interesting things that it’ll soon be sharing with consumers from around the globe.