Here are the big takeaways from last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In all, it was a nerd’s paradise.
For the first time, drones got their own section of the floor at the Consumer Electronics Show. The Consumer Electronics Association projects that the category will post 50 percent growth in sales this year, to about $103 million. Most drone makers showed small- and medium-size machines for consumers and hobbyists. But China-based Harwar displayed imposing, large commercial-grade drones that cost $15,000, can fly to 15,000 feet, weigh 5 pounds and can carry up to 25 pounds.
2. Gesture control
Electronics companies are working hard to alter how we interact with technology: Forget keyboards and mice, think hand gestures. Laptops with gesture control, powered by Intel’s new 3-D technology, will hit stores within weeks. Farther into the future, look for gesture control in cars. VW was showing some of that off. And Razer OSVR exhibited virtual-reality goggles that let gamers interact with screens using just their hands — no gloves required.
3. No control
We all know automakers are more deeply integrating smartphones, apps and tablets into their cars. Next up, smarter cars. BMW showed a video demonstration in which a car, communicating via a Samsung smartwatch, turns itself on, drives through a parking garage and locates its owner. Nvidia is working on a cloud-based smart learning system for cars so they can warn each other about road signs, people and other objects.
4. Talk to me
The “Internet of things” was a very buzzy CES term. These are products that connect everyday objects in the home via processors, sensors, and Bluetooth or other Internet connections. All that’s needed is standardized technologies and coding languages so that products can be made to work with any ecosystem in the future.
5. Super televisions
Samsung rolled out a new digital platform, Tizen, which supposedly allows for better connectivity between the TV, Internet, streaming services and, eventually, connected home devices. Meanwhile, Sony hitched its wagon to the Android TV platform with the same goals in mind. The two companies also announced new 4K televisions, known interchangeably – if not completely accurately – as Ultra High Definition TV. The technology for 4k, which upgrades a typical 2 million-pixel HD TV screen into an 8 million-pixel TV screen, has been around for a couple of years. But the price has begun to come down, and more players are entering the market. The sector is expected to double its business in 2015 to $4.9 billion in revenue, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.
6. Streaming TV
Buried in all the new technology and gadgets was fairly big news from the pay-TV world. Dish Network announced its Internet-only, streaming-only TV offering, which will include many cable channels – even ESPN, which hadn’t previously signed on with other streaming services. All for just $20 a month.
7. Just wear it
Sales of wearable technology will grow 474 percent, this year, to $3.1 billion, says the Consumer Electronics Association. Much of that is being fueled by the expected debut of Apple’s smartwatch later this year. The show, though, had no shortage of smartwatches, digital bracelets and other fitness and health gadgets. There was even a baby thermometer in the form of a patch that can provide constant monitoring and app-based reporting on a baby’s temperature. One of the challenges facing wearables, though, is the availability of censors, which are mostly designed to work in mobile devices. Wearables need more durable, less power consuming sensors. And there aren’t enough of those right now.
8. Charge it
Looking for better cellphone charging technology? It’s coming. How about bolting a device to the bottom of your desk that turns part of the surface into a charging station? “The vision here is that we will eventually have the ability to charge your device everywhere,” says Kamil Grajski, president and board chairman of A4WP, the Alliance for Wireless Power.
We can’t wait.