Three-dimensional television is one of the big offerings at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Joint ventures by high tech and traditional companies are extending the reach of new technologies.
The American automaker Ford will offer a range of high tech services in some of its 2012 models, including social networking through Twitter, maps and information from Google and AOL, and music from Apple's iTunes.
Ford is partnering with Microsoft for the new dashboard auto system. Microsoft's Walter Sullivan says his company already powers entertainment systems in some Fords, Fiats and Kias, connecting wireless devices to the car. "So your blue-tooth phone integrates into the vehicle. You can make phone calls. You can stream audio into the vehicle. You can bring in any media player you want, plug it into the vehicle. And you can control these things with your voice," he said.
He demonstrates by ordering a channel on his satellite radio.
More than 2,500 exhibitors are displaying their products or services this year. Spokeswoman Tara Dunion says home entertainment systems are big at this year's show, some with large-screen displays and others with eyeglasses that let viewers watch a program in both high definition and three dimensions. "3-D HD television is one of the biggest trends at the show this year. We saw some of it last year, but you're seeing all major television manufacturers coming out with product this year to hit store shelves in 2010 to just bring that fully immersive, very interactive experience of 3-D television that people are experiencing in the theater, now it will be available to consumers in their home as well," she said.
Panasonic has partnered with the satellite broadcaster DirecTV to bring 3-D programs to its viewers.
The company has also unveiled what it bills at the world's largest high definition 3-D plasma television, measuring nearly four meters.
Panasonic's Emilie Barta says the company partnered with Skype, the Internet teleconferencing site, to offer another service. "And what this means is that you can now place free Skype-to-Skype calls from the comfort of you living room on your large-screen HD television," she said.
Many digital reading devices are also on display. Companies from China and other parts of the world are competing with industry leaders, the Kindle from the Internet seller Amazon and Sony's eReader.
Not everything on display here is high tech. Devon Mish works for a company called M-Edge that makes accessories for electronic readers, including small lights, decorated cases and a waterproof container for the Kindle. "You can read in the bathtub, you can read in the pool, you can read in the ocean, you can read in the Jacuzzi, wherever you like to read, you can do it and you don't have to worry about dropping your $300 Kindle and ruining it. So it will give you that peace of mind," he said.
Other portable devices are also getting attention, including an expanding range of smart phones, and a new handheld tablet computer jointly developed by Microsoft and HP. Apple is expected to announce its own tablet computer at a separate news conference in California later this month.
Some companies are combining old and new technology. Taiwan-based Sangean still makes multi-band radios that receive shortwave bands, and rugged worksite radios to pick up local broadcasts. Rico Burgos of Sangean America says high quality HD radios and Internet radios are also big sellers. "You can listen to 16,000 Internet stations around the world. It's the new thing now. It's the new generation," he said.
U.S. Federal Communications Commission chairman, Julius Genachowski says the expansion of the wireless devices poses a technical problem. He says they rely on parts of the radio spectrum that are quickly filling up. He says the problem can be solved, however, and he hopes to expand broadband Internet access across the United States. Noting that one in four Americans has no computer at home, while nearly all Americans have television sets, he says one solution may be to encourage Internet access on television.
He sais the Internet is important for the country's social goals. "Promoting our common goals around education, health care, energy, public safety. And I think in each of those areas, you actually see on the floor here new innovative ideas to take advantage of this general purposes technology that broadband is, and apply it to provide better services at lower cost in each of these areas," he said.
He says that government plays a limited role in high tech development because most investment is private, but that his agency, which regulates broadcasting and telecommunications, hopes to promote innovation and make the new technologies attractive to investors.