CES: Top Five Tech Innovations 2010

Charlie Brown visited the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2010, and comes away with his thoughts on the latest technologies and trends and what to look out for in 2010.

Charlie Brown visited the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2010, and comes away with his thoughts on the latest technologies and trends and what to look out for in 2010.

3D TV
It was back in the 1950s when the 3D technology first hit the big screen and caused theatre patrons to have heart palpitations, or sway from side-to-side in the cinema to avoid some imagined monster, and in some cases, get headaches. While popular for a few years, the need for films that required red and blue glasses with cardboard frames finally waned. Although several aspiring movie makers tried to reintroduce the genre over the years, it never really regained the momentum it once had. Until now. And television vendors have taken it one step further.

2010 is the year most of the big players in the television CE market are releasing televisions that have 3D capabilities. So what is different? For a start, they have got rid of those pesky glasses, and now you will be able to get a properly framed set that are robust and can handle knocks. Also, some vendors have said you won’t even needs glasses, but will have to sit at a particular angle to the television experience 3D. Finally, in the case of Sony, it has made a deal with both ESPN and the Discovery channel that will see the latter two entities supplying 3D content – anybody for being courtside at the tennis, or seeing a lioness in her natural environment getting a little testy?

It will be some time before this technology becomes the norm in households throughout Australia, but I’d say within the next five years, the take-up rate will be very high. What will they come up with next? Viewers being part of the set? Who knows, but this will be a big one to beat.


Hybrid Devices

2010 seems to be the year of the hybrid device. Gone are the days when a television was just a television and a mobile phone just a mobile phone. These days a television can also be a computer screen, and if Skype has its way, a video phone.

The writing was on the wall last year when smartphones became smart devices. Nokia, Apple, LG, Samsung, HTC and Blackberry have all tried so hard to outdo each other with the functionality of their handsets, that we’ve all benefited immensely. The feature they were originally developed for – phone calls on the run – is now but one of several aspects to a mobile phone.

With operating systems, such as Microsoft’s Windows and Google’s Android, now enabling a tonne of applications to be downloaded, you can now surf the web, watch videos, take high-resolution pictures, email and use it as a sat nav.

Another device that has added new functionality is that old-fashioned cultural icon of yesteryear, the radio, which made a comeback late last year and is set to go mainstream. The digital radio is an alarm clock, a dock for a musical device, and, in some cases, doubles as a social networking portal.

Win a limited edition Modern Warfare 2 Xbox 360 Console here.
Read about other cool gear at CES here.

E-Readers
E-Readers have been on the periphery of the Australian tech industry for some time, with the Daddy of them all, the Kindle, finally making an appearance last year. Now a plethora of vendors have spent a huge chunk of their R&D money trying to replicate Amazon’s success, with varying results.

Some of the big vendors in the tech industry – Samsung and Fujitsu to name two – have brought out readers, as have some of the smaller players such as Skiff and Logie Que.
Of all the units on sale, the one that piqued my interest was the The Entourage Edge, which doubles as an e-Book reader and netbook. About the size of a large exercise book and weighing just under 1.5kg, this little beauty fulfils several functions as once.

You open it like a book, and on the left-hand side is the e-book reader, while on the other is the netbook. I think this will be a hot little item that will be popular amongst school kids as you can download your text books on one side and then use the netbook for assignments and surfing the net on the other.

I bet there are more than a few vendors kicking themselves for not thinking of something similar. I do have a couple of queries though – how much is the device, and how long does the battery last. E-readers usually have a long battery life, while netbooks are known for chewing through the power.


Portability

Another innovation that has been around for a while, but was really noticeable this year, is portable gear. Not talking handsets here, but televisions, projectors, PCs and a myriad of other devices that have gone miniature.

In days gone by, the word portable sent out warning signals to techno buffs because more often than not quality would suffer. However, with processors getting smaller, and Moores’ Law coming into affect (whereby the capacity of a device is doubled every two years – 8GB, 16GB, 32GB etc), portability is no longer a red flag as to whether a gadget is of value or not.

You can now buy a portable digital television with a 3.5-inch screen, a small projector with a great aspect ratio and picture, a handheld video recorder that is about the size of a smallish smartphone, and a fold away computer that can almost fit into your back pocket.
Some might argue that a good smartphone will do a lot of those things, and they will. However, for true quality, you can’t beat a dedicated device, and vendors seem to agree with the amount of product they are putting out.

Read about other cool CES gear here.

In-Car Technologies

For an industry that has been suffering financially over the past few years, US car manufacturers still have the nous to know that customers like functionality on the dashboard. We all like nice sound systems, satnavs, and in some cases, built-in screens to watch DVDs.

Back in 2008, Ford introduced Sync and Sirius Travel Link, and some pundits are pleasantly surprised at its new iteration of dashboard innovations.

This year, they’ve upped the ante with MyFord, whereby certain lines of Ford vehicles come custom with 4.2-inch colour LCDs, one of which is set in the dashboard and shows audio, phone, and navigation information. Fans of the system like the fact you don’t have to scroll through multiple screens to get the data you need. The display is also colour-coded so you can easily see what function you wish to use – green for navigation, blue for controlling the temperature, red for music and orange for your hands-free set.

It also keeps the best features of the Sirius Travel Link and will provide petrol prices, movie listings etc. A nifty little app for music lovers is its song tagging ability, which means if you like a song and hit the tag button the name of the song and artist will be saved.
This probably doesn’t sound as sexy as some of the gear, but the functionality of the system is outstanding and something I could quite happily get used to in my car.
It looked and sounded great, however there is a catch in that Ford were cagey if the system would be available in Australian Fords. That being said, what’s to stop Holden from taking notice and doing something similar?

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