Bigger televisions, smarter watches, thinner humans and foldable phones

The world’s biggest gadget show ended here on Friday and, like a prophet in the desert, revealed the future: bigger televisions, smarter watches, thinner humans and bendy phones.

That, at least, was the vision peddled by technology companies that unveiled 20,000 products over five frenzied days of networking and promotion at the Consumer Electronics Show. Some 1,50,000 industry professionals sifted through gadgets sublime and ridiculous, pointless and ingenious, seeking the next big innovation which will change the way we work, live and play.

Some ideas that provoked guffaws and headlines — the vibrating fork which chastises you to eat slower, the i-potty training system to keep your toddler on the bowl — may not endure but others seemed certain to have a future.

Samsung, Sony, Toshiba and other television manufacturers unveiled bigger screens — ranging from 50 to 110 inches — with “ultra high definition” four times sharper than traditional HD. Prices range from $20,000 upwards.

2D prototypes marked the quiet death of 3D TV, a much hyped innovation at last year’s CES which flopped in stores. The technology may resurrect if the likes of StreamTV Networks convince consumers to buy 3D TVs, due out later this year, which do not require glasses.

Pebble, a Kickstarter darling, won instant acclaim by unveiling a much-ballyhooed smart watch with e-paper display which connects to a smartphone and can receive emails, control music and track your movement. Priced at $150, there are 85,000 pre-orders. “We had to get it right, it’s on your wrist,” said Pebble’s founder, Eric Migicovsky. “People won’t tolerate something bad being attached to their body.” The show signalled an accelerating drive by tech firms to sell the idea that technology is key to mental and physical wellbeing, with a quarter of displays devoted to gadgets for losing weight, getting fitter and improving health.

They harnessed smartphones and tablets to “wearable” fitness devices which monitor your exertions and store them in the cloud. Diabetics were offered apps to monitor their condition. “It’s an inherently data-driven activity,” said Joseph Martorano, of iHealth.

Samsung unveiled a prototype phone — super-thin plastic replaces traditional glass — which lets you fold it almost like paper. The technology, called Youm, will spread to other devices.

All the gadgetry, however, did not dispel doubts that the expo is losing relevance. The event focused on hardware in a software-obsessed world and contained no major surprises. Some tech gurus declared CES a dying giant. True or not, the hordes leaving Las Vegas with their bags of freebie “swag” were happy. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013