The 3,100 companies in attendance have launched about 20,000 new products since the tradeshow opened on Jan. 10. They range from everyday items like new smartphones to crowd-wowing flying cameras.
Besides companies using the venue to introduce consumers to their hottest new products, this year's Consumer Electronics Show highlighted the materials and capabilities that will dominate the tech world in 2012 and for years to come. The prototypes and early models that debuted this year are the first versions of technology destined to change not only our consumer experiences, but eventually redesign our households and even our nation's military strategies.
Here are four of the most important trends from the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show setting the stage for the future of tech:
Shaping the Future of Tech1. Gorilla Glass: This game-changing material by Corning Inc. (NYSE: GLW) is lightweight, damage-resistant, and dominating new products that rely on thinner glass for optimal use.
"The Gorilla Glass breakthrough is important because we are moving to a touch-screen world," said Money Morning Defense and Technology Specialist Michael Robinson. "Thinner glass is integral to technology that will greatly enrich the user experience of smartphones, ultrabooks, TVs, and ATMs. The thinner the glass, not only the smaller the electronics, but the more responsive and accurate the screens become."
Robinson has detailed industry-defining innovations like Gorilla Glass in his Money Morning series, The Era of Radical Change.
While Gorilla Glass was showcased in smartphones and laptops at the Consumer Electronics Show, Robinson said the material's importance goes beyond these everyday items.
"We are moving to the Japanese model in which a wide range of products typically sold in stores now come to consumers through vending machines located everywhere," Robinson said. "You'll control them with a smartphone or with touch screens depending on consumer preference. I predict a flood of new vending machines will hit the U.S. in the next five years that will need tough glass to deal with thousands of consumer purchases a day."
2. Ultrabooks: With traditional laptop sales plummeting, and tablets last year's hottest CES export, companies have combined a computer's operating capacity and a tablet's size to create ultrabooks, the latest phase in personal computing.
Popular models at the 2012 CES include Hewlett-Packard Co.'s (NYSE: HPQ) Envy 14 Spectre, a 14-inch ultrabook covered in black Gorilla Glass and weighing less than four pounds. It's slated to hit markets Feb. 8 at a price of $1,400.
Lenovo Group Ltd. (PINK: LNVGY) debuted its IdeaPad Yoga, which will be available in the second half of 2012 for about $1,200. Its screen bends backwards to use as a stand for easier video viewing.
Coming in at a more affordable price tag of $999 is Dell Inc.'s (Nasdaq: DELL) XPS 13. It's made of aluminum and can download e-mail while in sleep mode. Toshiba's Portege Z series rings in at $899. It boots up in as little as 13 seconds, is only 0.62 inches thick, and has an eight-hour battery life.
3. "Smart" TV: The future of TVs will be thinner, clearer - and smarter.
Not only will they be no thicker than a pane of glass and display amazingly sharp images more realistic than any flat-screens on the market today, but they'll actually obey voice and gesture commands.
An example is the Samsung Super OLED 55" TV, equipped with Samsung's Smart Interaction software. It allows users to interact with their TVs through gestures, voice control, and face recognition technology. The TVs can customize your viewing options by identifying the user's face and showing the applications most frequently used. It also means controlling channels and volume with a wave of your hand or a simple voice command.
"Speech recognition for TV also strikes me as a breakthrough," said Robinson. "I've predicted that speech recognition would become ubiquitous within five years. This moves us that much closer."
Apple - one of the most notable Consumer Electronics Show absentees - has already introduced Siri voice software in its products. As the technology catches on, remotes and manual operators will become simply back-ups to our own voice controls.
"Siri is a great voice bot that could be used to run your entire home theater or all the appliances in your home in the "House of the Future,'" Robinson said.
4. Eye-tracking technology: Forget using your hands to control computing. Swedish company Tobii Technology debuted its eye-tracking technology prototype at this year's CES.
The cutting edge system, called Gaze, uses a webcam to follow eye and head movements allowing hands-free navigation. It uses infrared sensors to make a 3D image of your eye, then tracks where your eyes move.
Tobii demonstrated the technology with an arcade game that involved smashing asteroids through eye movement, and text that scrolled down as the user read each line.
"Eye movement control is very important," said Robinson. "We are moving toward all sorts of interfaces, from your personal computer to your car dashboard, that can respond to eye movements."
Eye-tracking technology will not only change the world of consumer products; it could be a major factor in the future of global warfare.
"Just think: in less than a decade soldiers could fly drones around the world just by moving their eyes," said Robinson.
News and Related Story Links:
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The "Miracle Material" That Will Change the World
The Wall Street Journal:
Tech Charms: Flying Cameras, Musical Purses
Thin, metal Ultrabook laptops ready for takeoff
CES 2012: Samsung announces 55-inch OLED TV, adds voice control, face recognition to Smart TVs
Death of the mouse: How eye-tracking technology could save the PC
Vending machines getting high-tech