Tech Trends to Watch: Report from CES 2013

Tech Trends to Watch: Report from CES 2013

It’s an electronics paradise… thinner-than-thin TVs, Bluetooth speakers, voice activated everything, and the “second screen.” All of these and more were hot topics at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which saw more than 3,000 consumer electronics manufacturers descend upon Las Vegas to launch more than 20,000 new products. So, what are the top consumer trends coming out of this year’s show?

If you thought high-def looked good, wait till you see 4K (aka “ultra” high definition TV). This technology has four times the resolution of HDTV, creating an image so breathtaking, it’s like you are there. The 4K sets shown this year were big, from 55 to 85-inches. Of course, while some manufacturers are already selling 4K models, the technology isn’t quite consumer-ready, considering the lack of content for consumers. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to be impressed and excited about the possibility of 4K resolution in home theaters and home systems in the future.

We’ve been hearing for many years that OLED technology—which makes current TV sets look positively dull—is just around the corner. However it is very hard to manufacture at larger sizes, which is why you’ll typically only find it on phones and gadgets. While some manufacturers have plans to sell large OLED TVs in 2013, they will come at a premium ($12,000 for a 55-inch set). A couple of manufacturers demonstrated large sets that were OLED and 4K, which were absolutely spectacular but clearly prototypes.

Smart TVs & Voice Command
This year, TVs got so smart, they can practically read minds. Okay, we’re exaggerating, but some TVs featured the ability to suggest content for you based on your habits not just on Netflix or cable, but also through Web-based channels like YouTube and Pandora. Other models let you do things like order products live, directly from your TV during broadcasts from home-shopping channels.

Voice command was also a common feature on the show floor. Instead of typing in the name of a movie to search, you can simply say it to your TV and it will begin its search. While the jury seems to be out on how valuable smart applications like voice control will prove to be for consumers, we think it’s pretty cool technology.

Smart “Phone” as Hub for Everything
Even though the iPhone and its competitors are essentially designed as phones, these devices are now being used in other ways. In fact, you could hardly enter a booth at CES without spotting an iPhone being used as a remote control, health monitor, a key to unlock doors, a home security system monitor, light control, and much more.

Bluetooth Audio
The biggest trend in audio at CES was the dominance of the Bluetooth speaker, which wirelessly streams audio from a vast array of enabled devices. They flooded the show floor, with most audio manufacturers showing some iteration or another in various form factors and a rainbow of colors. Some offered decent sound, while others were clearly gimmicks.

The Evolution of the Soundbar
We firmly believe that a true surround system, with multiple speakers and a subwoofer or two is the way to go for the ultimate in home entertainment. But we give props to some audio manufacturers for evolving their soundbars—horizontal all-in-one speakers meant to simulate surround that sit below your TV—to a respectable level. Not only did we hear some very nice audio coming from upmarket models, we saw some interesting configurations as well. There was a hexagonal model and the thinnest model we’ve seen yet. Some were shown with wireless rear speakers and another soundbar had removable ends that act as separate surround speakers. Many also now stream Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, and other services.

The “Second & Third Screen”
How many of you have ever toted your phone or tablet into your living room while watching TV? The rise of social media and web-based apps that revolve around the TV means these other screens—your iPad, laptop, and third screens – your smartphone—are becoming more and more ubiquitous in the living room. Expect to see more of these second and third screen apps and technologies that get you more involved with your favorite TV shows in the future.

Why Wait?
As you can see, there is a lot of exciting tech coming down the pipeline in the near future. And while some of the technology from CES won’t be ready for your living room just yet, there are things that we can actually demonstrate for you now that can make a dramatic improvement to your home entertainment experience. Give us a call and we’ll set something up.