Every year, the tech industry goes gaga over CES, the annual Las Vegas trade show that represents the world’s largest gathering of new consumer-electronic wizardry.
We media types get to peruse the newest, coolest technology before it hits stores. And then we get to tell you what you’ll be buying over the next 12 months. It’s really a win-win all around.
Here’s what we saw:
It was no surprise to see 3-D TVs all over CES. But this year, 3-D’s reach was much broader than that. Take the three stunning pieces of kit presented by Sony.
First up, the Sony Headman:
A Tron-like visor that runs 3-D movies directly into your eyes at 720p high definition -- which, among other things, dispenses with the problem of having a giant 3-D TV dominating your living room.
The Japanese company also announced the Flip-obliterating MHS-FS3/B Sony Bloggie 3-D HD Camera, the world’s first high-def, 3-D pocket camcorder. Sony’s final offering was, admittedly, a gogglebox -- but it’s one that you don’t need to wear dumb glasses for. The company showed a prototype with a 23-inch, OLED, autostereoscopic and glasses-free 3-D display from an overlaid lens on top of the screen.
The other CES 2011 3-D hit was the JVC GS-TD1, the world’s first consumer camcorder with Full HD 1080p 3-D recording. It also comes with 5x optical zoom in 3-D, optical image stabilization, and a glasses-free 3-D LCD screen to check shots on. A finger poking out of the screen at us would not have impressed us more.
Sorry to break it to you, but your TV will soon have a higher IQ than you. Every TV manufacturer, plus Internet giants like Google, were lining up to sell “smart TVs”: boobtubes with apps that let you surf the Internet, watch YouTube, display photos and keep up with your social networks -- all while reclining on your sofa. The smartest at CES 2011 was the LG ST600 Smart TV Upgrader -- it turns a dumb box into a smart TV with one cable and a Wi-Fi connection. It’s set to be fairly cheap too.
While you’re staring at your smarter TV, why not talk to it (or maybe even wink at it) as well? Microsoft used CES to announce Avatar Kinect, an upcoming upgrade to its full-body motion-sensing Xbox 360 peripheral. The spring upgrade will see the Kinect camera able to track not only waving limbs, but also facial expressions by mapping your face onto your virtual avatar’s. Raise an eyebrow at your virtual friends over that one.
Undoubtedly the biggest news of CES 2011 was what was missing: the Apple iPad 2. A shell of one was supposedly spotted, but Steve Jobs’ about-to-be-announced product was not officially in the hizzouse. What was? Samsung’s Sliding PC 7 Series, featuring a tilt-and-slide-away keyboard that allows the PC to transform from netbook to tablet in seconds. So was the MOTOROLA XOOM: the world’s first tablet with a dual-core processor and Android 3.0 software. Super-powerful -- and probably super-pricey too.
No More PC Upgrades
Intel used CES to announce the next generation of its core processor, dubbed “Sandy Bridge.” Awful nickname, but legendary game designer Gabe Newell of Valve Software (“Half-Life,” “Left 4 Dead,” “Team Fortress,” etc.) described the chipset as allowing a “console-like experience on the PC.” Commentators have taken that to mean that the combination of graphics and a central processor is so powerful it’ll put a stop to the endless cycle of graphics/processor upgrades required for cutting-edge hardcore games.
Hyperspeed-data-browsing 4G phones were all over CES 2011 (Verizon’s LTE network press conference was a big ticket), but there’s another reason souped-up handsets are big news this year: dual-core processors. It’s not just PCs getting a chip-boost; the LG Optimus 2X is the world’s first dual-core smartphone (hotly followed by the Motorola Atrix).
Also on the cell phone tip: the Casio Bluetooth Low Energy Watch. Sure, watches that wirelessly link to your phone, display emails, etc., are old news -- but not ones with battery lives that are measured in years rather than days.
Weird Music Kit
Rock ’n’ roll enthusiasts must have felt like they had died and gone to heaven at CES 2011. Among the cornucopia of high-tech offerings was the Gibson Firebird X, featuring “robot” auto-tuning, Bluetooth wireless pedals, and a host of other tech innovations pretty much incomprehensible to anyone but a guitar fiend.
Other crazy music kit included the MISA Kitara, a stringless guitar with a touchscreen at its heart, and the Ion Audio Vertical Vinyl -- a wall-mounted turntable, natch. More serious kit came in from respected Brit speaker-makers Bowers & Wilkins in the form of the new Zeppelin Air: the most stylish iPod dock ever, now to come with Apple AirPlay wireless streaming capabilities.
Lady Gaga appeared at CES 2011 to launch not music kit, but a pair of sunglasses as out-there as the “Fame Monster” herself. The first result of her collaboration with Polaroid’s Grey Label line, the GL20 shades incorporate a camera and LCD screens that face outward, allowing the wearer to shoot what he sees -- and instantly display the results to the world.
All CES Event Images: Getty Images MHS-FS3/B Sony Bloggie 3-D HD Camera: Sony.com
All CES Event Images: Getty Images
MHS-FS3/B Sony Bloggie 3-D HD Camera: Sony.com
Simon Munk is an award-winning journalist that specializes in consumer technology, video games and outdoor-product coverage for men. He's written for Stuff and Blender magazines and was launch editor in chief of Stuff Gamer.
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