The greatest show on earth

 
Steve Dinneen
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The biggest, loudest, wackiest technology showcase in the world, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), came to a close in Las Vegas this week, leaving geeks drooling over the gadgets we can expect to see over the next 12 months.

The six-day event saw an estimated 20,000 new products from the over-3,000 exhibitors. This year’s event was particularly important for CES in light of the high-profile withdrawal of long-term supporter Microsoft as an exhibitor, which led to speculation the show’s best years were behind it.

But a succession of “hero” announcements, including a glut of new tablets, were enough to convince those in attendance that there’s life in the old show yet.

In the event, Microsoft’s decision not to rent its usual football pitch-sized exhibition space didn’t stop its chief executive Steve Ballmer taking to the stage during a truly bizarre opening keynote hosted by Qualcomm, which included actors playing the part of the “mobile generation” and featured cameos by film director Guillermo del Toro and archbishop Desmond Tutu.

As ever, TV manufacturers were a dominant force, with a new generation of ultra-HD sets making a splash. The battle to be noticed in the impossibly competitive sphere was edged by Samsung, who not only unveiled an innovative easel-style TV, but got Bill Clinton to do a turn at its keynote presentation, complete with quips about the state of technology during his presidency.

The future of gaming was another key theme, with several milestone releases indicating how we will spend our leisure-time over the next few years, not least the integration of tablets into the high-end video-games market.

The strong relationship between CES and car manufacturers was maintained, with A-list manufacturers including Audi, Toyota and Ford all showcasing their latest smart technology.

And, of course, there was also the usual collection of weird, wonderful and downright awful gadgets, including a children’s potty that incorporates a (splash-proof) iPad dock. Here is a list of my personal favourite CES gadgets.

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110-inch HiSense XT900 4K TV
Yes, you read correctly – this TV set is actually 110 inches, meaning you probably wouldn’t even fit it inside most living rooms. And that’s not where it ends – it was also one of the new generation of ultra-high definition “4K” sets that will set the standard for the crispness of resolution for the next few years.

No pricing or release date

Panasonic 4K 20-inch Tablet
The Japanese manufacturer blurred the lines between TV and tablet with the launch of this 20-inch device, which it says is aimed at the corporate market (architects and the like). Its size also means the device is ideal for reading newspapers on as it is able to reproduce A3-sized pages in almost full size.

No pricing or release date

Samsung UN85S9 Ultra HD TV
The real show-stealer in the TV sector was Samsung’s UN85S9 Ultra HD set, which comes suspended in an innovative easel-like structure. As well as looking very cool in the corner of your living room, it also boasts an incredible 4K picture and a host of smart capabilities.

Very expensive; no release date

Philips 60-inch glasses-free 3D Ultra HD TV
3D was one of the big losers at this year’s show, with most manufacturers instead opting for higher resolution releases. But Philips showcased this impressive glasses-free set, which really benefits from the jump in screen quality.

No pricing or release date

GAMING

Oculus Rift
Virtual reality has been a staple of the “future of gaming” debate since the 1980s, yet it has always failed to gain any real traction. The Oculus Rift wants to change that. The VR headset places users right in the action, interpreting head movements and changing the video display accordingly.

From as little as £200; no release date

Project Shield
This project by graphics chip-manufacturer Nvidia is a glimpse of how we might end up playing games. It features a powerful tablet attached to what looks like an Xbox controller in a clamshell design.

Very expensive; no release date

Xi3 Piston
This nifty fist-sized device is a powerful little open-source computer, probably running the Linux OS. Its high end specs – including a 3.2-gigahertz quad-core processor and eight gigabytes of DDR main memory – make it ideal for playing top-end games. Expect to see more devices like this.

Around £620; no release date

Razer Edge
One of the most highly regarded gadgets from the entire show was the Razer Edge gaming tablet. The idea is to allow high-end, graphics-heavy games to be run on a portable device. It is built to clip into a dual-sided gaming controller (pictured below), allowing console-like control. It also runs all your usual desktop/tablet features, making it a mobile one-stop shop.

Around £620; released this spring

WEIRD GADGETS

The iPotty
This plastic monstrosity is exactly what it looks like – a (splash-proof) iPad dock for a children’s potty. If toilet training your children isn’t high-tech enough for you, you are the iPotty’s target market.

$40; on sale in March

HapiLabs HAPIFork
We’ve all heard of smart cars and smart TVs – now we also have smart cutlery. The HAPIfork will light up and vibrate if you try to eat too quickly, supposedly helping you lose weight (because mastication is an important part of healthy eating).

$99; on sale later this year

Ecovacs Winbot
Is cleaning your windows just too much of a chore for you? Really, is it? Well, OK, then I guess the Winbot is for you. It sucks itself to a window and slides across it like a slug, cleaning as it goes, ending up where it started. Don’t try it in the rain, though, or you’ll break it.

$299; on sale in April

Tethercell
This ingenious little gadget allows you to remotely control the batteries in devices around your home using an app on your smartphone. When you tell your kids playtime is almost over, they will know you really mean business.

From around $25; released this summer

PHONES

Huawei Ascend Mate
The Ascend Mate isn’t the most visually appealing phone, nor the most powerful, but it earns its place in this list for just being so damned big. At 6.1 inches, the device is the biggest “phablet” by quite a margin. Whether there is demand for a phone this big remains to be seen.

No pricing; probably released later this year

YotaPhone
This ingenious device has one big USP – it has a screen on each side. One is a regular Android LCD display, the other a black and white e-ink screen. The idea is to transfer content to the e-ink side (by swiping the screen) to vastly improve battery life.
No pricing information; expected late 2013

Sony Xperia Z
Sony has, by its own admission, failed to make a foothold in the smartphone market. Its new Xperia Z is its best effort yet. It has great specs, a sleek design and, for clumsy phone owners everywhere, has the benefit of being waterproof, too.

£530 (unit-only); released March

Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra
Squeezing as much as is humanly possible into increasingly small form-factors is the name of the game in the consumer tech world. Alcatel’s new phone has swiped the crown for the thinnest mobile out there, at just 6.4mm (the iPhone 5 is 7.6mm).

No pricing or release date

“WOW” GADGETS

Tobii REX
The Tobii REX is a USB device that connects to your laptop, PC or tablet and allows you to control it with your eyes alone. Using complex sensors, it tracks eye movement – possibly heralding a new dawn for user interfaces.

Pricing unknown; expected late 2013

CubeX 3D printer
3D printing remains one of the most bafflingly futuristic concepts in the tech world. The CubeX takes the concept further, allowing bigger objects, up to three colours and two different materials. 3D printers allow you to create items with moving parts from a digital blueprint.

From $2,499; no release date

Dish Hopper
This smart digital video recorder (DVR) allows you to push live and recorded TV onto devices including your iPad, laptop or TV. It can record six different channels at once and – controversially – also allows you to skip through adverts.

Prices vary with subscriptions; available now

MindMeld
This is definitely not one for privacy activists. MindMeld is an app that, when activated, will listen in to your voice phone conversations and bring up internet search suggestions based on what you say (restaurant recommendations, for example).

No pricing; release expected “within weeks”