PTJ 77 News: The Internet of Endless CES Announcements

The annual international Consumer Electronics Show opened in Las Vegas this week — at least for those who could get to it without weather freeze-outs or flight delays. Every company at the show seemed to have a press release about their upcoming gear the year; check out the in-depth coverage at CNet, the BBC, the Verge and The New York Times for roundups. Noticeable trends for 2014 include curved screens on phones and large television sets, more wearable computing ventures, an expansion of the Internet of Things and more big TVs with nice screens and helpful software.

Along with these general trends, there was plenty of specific product news, like Samsung’s new PRO models of its Galaxy Tab tablets. The new line runs Android 4.4 but with a revamped skin that NBC News has described as “like Android’s widgets crossed with Windows Phone’s gridlike layout.” No word on prices yet, but Samsung says the new models will be available in the first quarter of this year.

Panasonic announced a 7-inch addition to its Toughpad family of ruggedized tablets that can withstand more incidental physical abuse than more delicate hardware. The new FZ-M1 runs Windows 8.1 Pro on an Intel Core i5 vPro processor and will be available this spring for a list price of about $2100.

Google announced a partnership with several automakers to run the infotainment system in some new models on Android, possibly even later this year. General Motors, Audi, Honda and Hyundai are in the mix and all this is part of the new Open Automotive Alliance for accelerating innovation. Android appeared last spring in at least one Kia car model and joins Apple’s previously announced-but-not-yet-out iOS in the Car system and earlier ventures like Ford Sync for integrating personal technology into the dashboard.

Intel, always a presence at computer trade shows, has a new mini-computer called Edison that it hopes will give the wearable-computing market a boost. Edison, which is the size of a Secure Digital card uses a low-power Quark processor, has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, and can run Linux and probably other operating systems as well as apps written in the Wolfram Language.

LG Electronics and the messaging service LINE have a new virtual venture that lets users send text messages to their wireless home appliances. (As Wired pointed out earlier this week, The Internet of Things isn’t really all that secure, so could the Rise of the Machines really mean the oven and refrigerator will soon be coming for you?)

toothOther machines rising this year with their own CES announcements: Kolibree previewed  a Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush that beams your brushing techniques and frequencies to your smartphone, and the French sporting-goods company Babolat has a $400 Bluetooth-connected tennis racket that records your swing and transmits the data to a mobile app for further analysis.

The LG G Flex, that Android smartphone with a curved screen, will be available from AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint in the first quarter of 2014. (In addition to all its other CES announcements, LG Electronics also showed off its new line of smart TVs using the not- gone-but-almost-forgotten webOS operating system.

Small things got some press, too. Netgear announced its NeoMediacast HDMI dongle, which is basically a TV set-top box on an Android-powered stick. The MakerBot Replicator Mini 3-D printer will be available for about $1400 later this year and can create objects up to 5 inches high.

Sharp Electronics is trying to hit the price-point sweet spot between HDTV and 4K TV with its new line of AQUOS sets that use its Quattron+ subpixel technology to make screens noticeably more detailed than the standard 1080p. Prices for a 60-inch model are expected to start at $2300.

Panasonic brought forth its new line of “beyond smart” 1080p and 4K televisions using its “Life + Screen” platform. But if you have one of Samsung’s new Smart TVs coming out in the next few months, you can not only watch the movie’s trailer with the integrated Fandango app, you can buy tickets right on the TV. In case, you know, you want to leave the house for a bit.

And finally, here’s some wearable technology that’s a lot more fun than an overpriced exercise monitor. ThinkGeek now has an Electronic FPS Laser Battle Jacket. It may not be all the rage on the Paris runways this season, but who wants to play a ripping game of Frag Tag in all that fussy couture?

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