We may only be a mere week into 2014, but thanks to CES we’ve already been blown away by a whole load of awesome tech that’s really going to change our year.
The week long conference in Las Vegas - owned and produced by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) - is the showcase of both blockbuster products from the likes of Samsung and Sony, to hot start ups. From 4K content to cars that integrate Android and more wearable tech than we could ever cram on our inadequate wrists, this year’s CES is one of best, and most inventive, we can remember.
As you'll notice, a load of new tech is all connected to the internet, be it your car, tv, front door or even your slow cooker, this 'internet of everything' is sort of the all encompassing theme of this year's show and it's definitely only going to grow and grow in the coming years. We say: Bring it on.
Read on for the full guide on everything we think you need to know about the event and prepare to look into the future of tech.
Cars get connected
Cars are up there with the big boys at CES, and this year we saw stuff that is more akin to sci-fi than real life. A self drifting BMW – supposedly there to show these cars can handle even emergency situations is just the beginning.
As with the connected home (which we'll into more later) the connected car is growing ever and ever closer to being, with both Audi and Chevrolet showing there hands. First off, Chevrolet will be including an app store and LTE in models this year, so you'll be able to stream music, stay up to date with weather and have always updating maps. Audi on the other hand has shown off the Android powered Smart Display, which is basically a tablet for your car. Integrating via Wi-Fi, the 10.2-inch device boasts a powerful Tegra processor and full access to Google Play for apps.
Speaking of Android, the Google built os announced plans for the Open Automotive Alliance, which will bring a seemless system to a bunch of cars. This would be a real game changer, as we have lasted far to long with sub-par in-car systems.
Experimentation and concept is rife, the Toyota iRoad for example is a three wheeled city dwellers dream vehicle that manoeuvres when you lean side to side, while Audi’s Quattro Sport Laserlight tech will one day replace LED lights.
Self-driving is still a distant dream but with every CES that passes we see a little more, and get a little more excited about the possibilities that one day this could bring.
Wearable tech is here to stay
If it's quantity, rather than quality, that floats your tech boat, then you’re in for a treat with the sheer amount of wearable tech we’ve seen at this year’s show. It seems like every company has a product that it hopes will soon enough sit pride of place of your wrist.
Tracking your movements and daily activity seem to be the key features and while this is nothing new (we’ve had Jawbone’s Ups and Fitbit’s for a while now) this year’s CES has really taken it to the next level. LG, Garmin and even Razer, a company who mainly focuses on gaming, have all released some sort of fitness tracker. Sony has even expanded its own line-up, announcing the Core.
The other sector of wearable tech is slightly newer, and still not completely convincing – the smartwatches. CES has been full of them this year, though the only real standout seems to be the Pebble Steel.
As with anything that has to be worn, and seen by others, the real growth in this market probably won't happen until it becomes more acceptable to wear these devices.
4K is here - and there's stuff to watch!
It was one of the breakouts of CES 2013, but this year 4K is really the talk of the show. For one, we actually have some content. Online streaming giant Netflix has been out been out at CES in full force, seemingly hopping from keynote to keynote to ensure everyone that they will have plenty of 4K stuff.
Squirmy political drama House of Cards has been shot in the super resolution and its second series will be available in UHD for all to drool upon late this year, probably to the delight of your ISP. As it seems there won't be much going on in terms of disc based 4K media, at least not straight off, streaming is really key, and with Netflix on-board the possibility at gazing upon its original series in eye-popping quality is truly a reality. Amazon also announced they would be supporting 4K for its streaming service.
Another barrier for the current low uptake to 4K was the price of TVs capable of displaying this resolution (3840 × 2160, as opposed to 1920 x 1080 of the now common 1080p HD) however thanks to a great reduction in price, this could be changing as well. Both Polaroid and US company Vizio have announced plans to sell a 4K TV for under $1000 – quite a drop from the mammoth costs we were seeing 12 months ago.
Not to be outdone, Korean giants Samsung and LG are once again battling it out over who can create the most gasp inducing product. LG showed off a frankly beautiful looking 77-inch flexible OLED panel, while Sammy took to the stage with a prototype 85-inch bendable display – why do we need a bendable display? Well, we don’t really know, but it’s pretty cool.
Finally, WebOS, the once lauded Palm mobile operating system which made its original debut at CES in 2009, has made a dramatic comeback. Almost unrecognisable, the OS was purchased by LG and will serve as the basis for around 50% of the TVs the brand produce in 2014. Focusing on multi-tasking, the interface is colourful, quick and it could possibly be the first well designed Smart TV interface we’ve ever seen.
Streaming has been key at CES this year, starting first with 4K claims from Netflix and continuing with Sony’s ambitious Playstation Now service. First conceived as a way for people with a PS4 to play PS3 titles, the service will also let you game on Bravia TVs, the PS Vita and even on tablets and smartphones. Really, this whole thing will depend upon your broadband connection and Sony claim you’ll need a 5Mb/s connection to even get started.
We’re excited, if it a little curious about how this will work and we’ll get a better idea when the beta goes live later in January (for the US anyway).
Full Steam ahead
Apart from Playstation Now, the only other gaming related headlines came from Valve, after it finally announced the partners who will bring the fabled Steam Box to our living-room. Apart from the brands, which included Alienware and Digital Storm, details are still a little scarce, though hopefully this will be the year of Steam. We still didn’t hear about a Half-Life 3 announcement, sigh.
The home gets connected
The underbelly of CES, away from the TVs and more commonly seen tech, revolves a lot around the home. From fridges to dishwashers, vacuum cleaners to ovens there was a time when these products probably wouldn’t have got as much attention. However, as they have now managed to cram a load of screens, apps and wireless features into them, they’re big business.
The connected home (having lots of products all talking and working together) now seems to be fully realised and it really could revolutionise how we live. Samsung showed off its Smart Home, a system which combines all your (Samsung) household products, and even the Galaxy Gear, into one app. So, just as you’re heading home, tell the Gear where you are and it’ll tell the heating to turn on. Washing machine finished its cycle? You’ll be alerted on your TV.
Something else, a little less all encompassing, that caught our eye was the Belkin and CrockPot connected slow cooker. Through an app, you can keep up-to-date with the cooking of your evening meal. It really is the little things that impress us most, clearly.
It’s the range of products and new tech that makes CES just so exciting, even after the likes of Samsung and Song have left the stage, smaller companies have a chance to shine and really show off what they can do.