Gadgets

The consumer technology trends that will matter most in 2013

Lexus showed off a self-driving car. It uses lasers, sensors and GPS to find its way.

Above: Lexus showed off a self-driving car. It uses lasers, sensors, and GPS to find its way.

Image Credit: Sean Ludwig

Car technologies go big

With more than 100,000 square feet dedicated to car technologies this year, CES is increasingly becoming an auto tech show. With even more force than last year, companies including Lexus, Audi, Ford, and Chevrolet all showed off new models of cars and talked about tech they could incorporate in the future.

The most impressive thing we saw on the floor on car tech had to be Lexus’ semi-autonomous car. While Google has pushed its own driverless-car technology, Lexus seems to be pushing for an experience where the car can be an “intelligent co-pilot,” rather than drive itself around. While it doesn’t expect a semi-autonomous car to land in the near future, a Lexus exec did tell us the driverless car research is helping develop new features like better lane-keep-assist on future cars.

Audi did not show its driverless car on the CES show floor, but the German car maker did talk about it a bit during the show. It has developed a quite cool program that lets a car park itself. Audi believes the self-parking car could be here before the end of this decade.

Ford took a big step toward getting more mobile apps interacting with its cars with the Ford Developer Program. Ford has one million cars on the road in the U.S. that feature its AppLink program that lets users interact with iOS and Android apps by using their voice. Additionally, Ford added Amazon, Rhapsody, the Wall Street Journal, and more as new AppLink partners so drivers can do more with apps while on the road.

We can’t wait to see what other car tech breakthroughs appear throughout 2013. – Sean Ludwig

Samsung's massive 110-inch 4K TV

UltraHD 4K TVs come into focus

Just when you thought TVs couldn’t get any more confusing, along comes a wide array of new UltraHD (also known as 4K) sets. The new format offers around four times the resolution of 1080p, the highest resolution of HDTVs so far. We’ve heard about the potential of 4K for some time now —  it’s also made its way into cinemas and home projectors over the past few years — but this year was the first time just about every TV manufacturer had a 4K set to show at CES.

Samsung introduced a whopping 110-inch 4K set, and Sony has new 55-inch and 64-inch sets coming (joining its 84-inch behemoth).

While magnificently large and clear, we’re still unimpressed with the state of 4K so far. The TV’s are incredibly expensive, clocking in above $10,000 for 55-inch sets (in the rare cases companies discussed prices), and the 4K content ecosystem is nowhere to be seen. The new format’s films are too large for Blu-ray discs, which means we’ll either need a whole new disc format or a massive leap in streaming video efficiency and quality. So far, the 4K camera maker Red’s $5,000 “Redray” streaming offering is the closest we have to bringing 4K content to your home.

Ultimately, 4K’s impracticality makes it a pipe dream for most living rooms. At typical viewing distances, most consumers likely won’t even see the benefits until screen sizes climb above 80 inches. But of course, CES isn’t about showing us what’s immediately practical. With so many 4K sets announced this year, it’s clear that the pieces are finally being put in place for 4K’s promise to come into a reality.

For now, if you really want to get ready for the 4K revolution, consider investing in a 4K-capable home projector. You’ll get some immediate benefits by upscaling existing HD content, and you’ll likely save tens of thousands (not to mention time spent waiting) over huge 4K TV sets. – Devindra Hardawar

CEO Paul Jacobs at Qualcomm's CES 2013 keynote

Components become the star of the show (again)

This CES was strangely lacking in major device announcements. Most companies are saving their phone and tablet announcements for Mobile World Congress next month, and others will likely hold their own press events throughout the year. That left the door wide open for component makers like Qualcomm, Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, and Nvidia to hog the spotlight. All unveiled major chips at the show.

Nvidia announced the Tegra 4, its latest mobile processor sporting 72 graphics cores, while Qualcomm debuted its next Snapdragon chips, the Snapdragon 600 and 800. With the new mobile chips, both companies are setting the stage for the next mobile processor wars, which will directly impact the smartphones and tablets on the horizon. Both companies also held the biggest events of the show: Nvidia held a massive press conference to announce the Tegra 4 and Project Shield, while Qualcomm’s Paul Jacobs replaced Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer as the opening keynote speaker. Intel unveiled faster Ultrabook chips and AMD touted both graphics chips and faster processors.

Corning also announced the third version of its Gorilla Glass for mobile devices, which promises to be even stronger and more scratch resistant than its past versions. For a company like Corning, CES may be the only place that it can show its next-generation of super strong glass. Sharp also went on about its “IGZO” gallium arsenide zinc oxide technology that makes TV displays better when it comes to power consumption.

As a trade show, CES is typically where component makers of all types and sizes come to pitch their wares. So ultimately, the increased attention for components is more of a return to form for the show, back to a world before the rise of mobile made us expect something dramatically new every year. – Devindra Hardawar and Dean Takahashi

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