With its range of gadgets, the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, wowed tech fans. GEETA PADMANABHAN provides fascinating details
Las Vegas, a pilgrim destination? Yes, if it's January and one is an electronics consumer — which means all of us. Consumer Electronics Show (CES), 2013 drew its share of displayers and devotees to the city, along with wows, widened eyes and dropped jaws. A week of electronic darshan!
Samsung was big, literally. It unveiled the world’s largest 4K TV, 110 inches wide. And demonstrated a smart TV that recognises a large range of gestures using which you swipe through on-screen menus. So, wave on! Friends/Family can sit together to watch Samsung's 85-inch “ultrahigh definition” set but you may want to ask them to pool in cash to buy it. Want your remote control? Samsung 's new RC comes with a touch-sensitive clickable track pad, to navigate through viewing options. Integrated with Facebook/Twitter/YouTube, the new interface accepts text input — through a synced smartphone, a wireless keyboard, hand gestures for on-screen keyboard, or voice-to-type software. Searches for a show informs if and when an episode is available on live TV or through an app like Netflix. LG Electronics’ Magic Remote responds better to natural speech and is controlled with a single finger. It lets you surf channels by writing numbers in the air.
Panasonic has updated Viera smart TVs for facial recognition, voice control, and Android/iOS compatibility. The facial recognition feature will set up personalised home-screens for each member of the household. The Swipe-and-Share 2.0 capability lets users share photos and videos from iOS or Android devices, with the poke of a finger. Sharp showed off an 85-inch 8K-TV. That's four times the resolution of 4K-TVs, 16 times that of regular HD sets. The picture quality was amazingly, um, sharp.
Time to fold phones/tablets/laptops like they were maps and carry them in pockets/purses? Samsung’s phone had a matchbox-sized frame, with a paper-thin, flexible colour screen attached. The screen rolled into a tube (not folded into half), and used organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), whose chemicals were spread on plastic. Sharp exhibited two flexible OLEDs, again with plastic rather than glass, allowing them to be bent or flexed. Both were about the size of a playing card and ran full-motion, full-colour video.
An antidote to TV temptation/smartphone saturation was the display of health and fitness gadgets.
There was HapiFork (HapiLabs), a technology-infused fork with an accelerometer that measures the exact time you start and finish your meal and the amount of “fork servings” per minute/per meal. It connects wirelessly to a smartphone/tablet, from where information goes to a website or social media service. If you are eating too quickly, the fork vibrates, triggers an indicator light, helping you eat at a healthier pace. The fork detaches from electronics for a wash.
Fitbug, a small pedometer (put it in your pocket or clip to your belt), tells you how many steps you take and sends that data, via Bluetooth, to a smartphone. Fitbit (Fitbit-one/FitbitFlex) devices had an altimeter to measure stair climbing, wristband to monitor sleep patterns — again, communicated to a smartphone.
iHealth, Massimo and Withings introduced smart activity-trackers with blood pressure/blood glucose/blood oxygen monitors that connect to iPhones/iPads. A pulse oximeter measured pulse-rate and blood oxygenation when you placed your fingertip in a small sensor. Mio Alpha had a soft silicone strap that showed high pulse-rate climbing down when you relaxed. Runtastic and others showed off products that included a GPS watch with a heart rate monitor.
Gamers got Gunnar’s Optiks lens that had the right material/shape/colour and coating to reduce glare, filter out harsh light and improve detail. Kids had talking, singing, popping toothbrushes (Brush Buddies) to make brushing fun and educative. AboutOne promised a family file-management solution for tracking financial information, personal identification cards, school, medical records and other paperwork from one centralised location, accessible anywhere.
On the wacky side
The Necomimi brainwave-sensing cat-ears/devil's horns that drooped if you are not attentive, and perked up when you focussed. Healthmate half-sauna, meant to relax the lower part of the body. iPotty — a plastic potty with a moving mount for iPad. No, no iPad. The Game Skunk that gives your gaming experience an appropriate odour. The WheeMe — a 4-wheeled, 5-inch device that moves over your body massaging you. And Sharky the Beaver — the Sphero animated beaver with an iOS/Android device that you can chase. Wow.