CES 2014: Day 1 Report

Headphones. A relatively simple piece of accessory technology that has been around for many years, but strangely, in between the sparkling new 4K screens and plethora of wearable tech, it’s the furniture for your ears that remains in memory. Welcome to day 1 of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I’ve also got the aching feet to prove it and two blisters (which I’m trying to manage for day 2). So much for comfortable footwear, as the newbie guides I’d read had suggested taking. With a colleague, we stumbled into the South Halls first and took in the wearable tech and digital health areas of the show.

Wearables are undoubtedly a big growth area. There are three flavours that are converging to make this happen; fitness, health and smartphone connectivity, like Samsung’s Galaxy Gear. As you’d expect, the wearables don’t come alone, with support from apps or online portals to track, monitor and measure your being in some form.

These small devices aren’t completely utilitarian either, available in funky shapes and sizes and with plenty of gawdy colours. The clever twist with this tech is the fashion trend it generates. In being about your person in some way means that it could be judged as a fashion choice, as opposed to a simple watch strap hidden under your sleeve. As with all newish tech, the number of mobile apps to support it will (and must evolve) before they move beyond the early adopters.

We also saw a great deal of sensor technology for both people and homes. With the later, this centred around energy saving and conservation. In virtually all cases there is some kind of financial benefit as well as environmental, with many promising simple retrofit processes into existing homes (using Wi-Fi connectivity). Certain energy suppliers have been making these for some time, but now they’re in the broader consumer market we can expect more innovation with mobile apps and websites to support them.

Then, in the main hall, we met some pretty nice screens. The characters 4 and K have now married in a short acronym you will be seeing a massive amount of in the next couple of years. Certainly, the screens were truly beautiful with their targeted, nature-orientated content. Talking to a couple of the vendors however, it became clear that content creation is currently the biggest setback.

It’s not just the higher-definition cameras, capacity and post-processing power the media creators need to manage. Transmission bandwidth is also a challenge before we see Ultra HD (or UHD, as it was also described), in our homes. In other words, if you bought one today, you’d have to work hard to get the right content on to it.

The internet may already come to our rescue, as it’s possible now with more Smart TVs that much of what we see on our flat screens in the future won’t just come through cable or the air. Indeed, with many of the 4K screens featuring Smart tech for internet connectivity and gesture control, it could be the only device you ever need in the home.

As a final note on 4K, we also saw Panasonic’s frankly astonishing 4K projector. This thing was enormous – you’d need a van to deliver it, and it may not fit through normal sized doors – but the quality of the projected screen in their custom-build, darkened theatre had to be seen to be believed.

Onwards to day two, and more headphones no doubt. I will update this blog to put in some more links and pictures later on.

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