Las Vegas is known for big shows and the annual Consumer Electronics Show, which just ended, is one of the biggest. In a space the equivalent of 35 football fields, 2700 exhibitors are displaying thousands of high-tech devices and services they will be marketing in the coming year. As Faiza Elmasry reports, the world's largest consumer electronics show does not just showcase tomorrow's advanced technologies, it also helps them move into the mainstream.
Since 1967, the Consumer Electronics Show has been providing a platform for technology developers and manufacturers to showcase their newest innovations and inventions. This trade fair introduced the world to the videocassette recorder in 1970, the compact disc player in 1981 and the plasma TV ten years later, and it continues to present the technologies and devices of the future.
Technology trend expert Brian Cooley says the novelties at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show are no less revolutionary than those of previous years. They include a car that drives itself, an intelligent bed that uses vibration to stop insomnia, a bathroom mirror that allows you to watch TV while brushing your teeth, and a smart automobile navigation system.
"You have a GPS navigation unit that you might have stuck to your windshield, then add Internet to that wirelessly," he says. "So you can search for things that you need right from the navigation screen. Then [you can] also get directions to go find whatever it may be, maybe a store or a restaurant."
Cooley says you don't need a GPS navigation system to find other cutting-edge products at the show.
There is a new refrigerator from Whirlpool that's equipped with a multi-port docking station for charging gadgets like iPods and computers, a home surveillance robot made by WowWee that can be controlled via the internet through a mobile phone, cell phones that function more and more like computers, and, of course, new ways to watch TV.
"I'm seeing devices that let you download television programming from the Internet and display it on TV in high quality," Cooley says.
Wireless is big this year, according to another analyst, Drew Krasny. He singled out the High Definition TV by Phillips.
"It's a frameless television set," he says. "There is a smooth and clean edge around their HDTV (High Definition TV). No speakers anywhere to be seen. It's all coming from the sides and the back of the television set."
Krasny says the company has won numerous awards for the Amba sound technology it developed.
"Ambasound actually simulates Surround Sound," he says. "So, in their home theater system sound bar are 6 speakers in this little bar that fits perfectly under your flat screen TV that shoot invisible sound throughout your room without any wires whatsoever. So you are able to have rich sounding [audio], the bangs and pops of bullet firing, the cats and dogs jumping off the roof in these cartoons that we watch. You just get this crisp, wonderful sound."
What's so significant about the annual Consumer Electronics Show, Krasny says, is it provides a formal, large-scale launch pad to introduce products that incorporate new technologies. As an example, he points to Lenovo's latest laptop computer, which uses facial recognition technology.
"You can actually use your face as your password, you need your face to log on your computer," he says. "I am so impressed with that technology! Do you know what this means? It means that it's around the corner that we just go to the teller at the bank or at the grocery store, buying groceries, and we just use our face as our identification!
While almost all the devices and gadgets on display are intended for the average consumer, technology expert Brian Cooley says a few seem unmarketable, such as the massive 2.5 X 3 meter plasma TV with a 380-centimeter screen.
"Nobody needs this in fact. Nobody really should even want this TV because the power bill to run it would be unbelievable," he says. "It's frankly too big, but for a very small number of very wealthy consumers with extremely large homes this is the kind of thing they would like." Nevertheless, Cooley says, "All the manufacturers have giant three-digit size flat panels in the show. It's a matter of almost showing off what they can do, not showing what you need."
The latest hi-tech gadgets will soon be moving off the show floor in Las Vegas to stores around the world. In general, they will be offered at prices that only wealthy enthusiasts are willing to pay. But once they satisfy that market, says hi-tech expert Brian Cooley, retailers will bring the prices down, making these technologies more available for the average consumer.