CES 2014: Fresh tech for your TV, home, and car debuts in Las Vegas

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The annual Consumer Electronics Show is in full swing in Las Vegas this week. Here’s a look at a few of the TV, home, and car technologies that might be in your future.

Televisions

3-D is so yesterday. The talk this year is all about ultra-high-definition (UHD), which includes 4K televisions with a resolution of 3,840 by 2,160 pixels. In fact, the only mention of 3-D in Vegas came from Vizio, at CES showing off its line of consumer 4K televisions, which revealed that it will no longer be manufacturing 3-D screens.

Samsung curved UHD TV.

LG and Samsung both presented curved, 105-inch panels that boast resolutions of 5,120 by 2,160 pixels (and, as has become the norm at CES, both companies claimed theirs was the largest). These organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens can provide better images with a thinner panel using less electricity. Both companies also have screens that will curve on demand. (Samsung’s 85-inch bendy is an LCD, LG’s 77-incher is OLED.) Yes, you read that correctly: bendable televisions. Whether curved screens take hold or go the way of 3-D remains to be seen.

Panasonic, meanwhile, tried to be brave about not having any plasma displays to show. (The company announced a few weeks ago that it is no longer manufacturing televisions using the technology.) Instead, reps announced a line of 4K LED televisions, as well as 4K projectors for business.

Sharp’s Aquos line of screens includes 4K models, but its new Quattron Plus is designed to fit between the 1,920-by-1,080 resolution of high-definition and the 3,840-by-2,160 resolution of 4K. The Plus will be able to play 4K content but at half the price of a UHD panel.

Sony is also going big into UHD. But because the company provides the hardware for all aspects of video production, from cameras to televisions, new Sony Electronics president Mike Fasulo spent most of his time on-stage at a news briefing talking about how Sony is developing 4K content. The new Sony 4K video camera, the FDR-AX100, will sell for only US$2,000. Sony also announced nine new 4K Bravia televisions in a range of sizes and price points. And rather than being ultra-thin, they’re wedge-shaped: thicker at the base to allow for improved speakers, and tapering towards the top.

For those who’ve cancelled their cable subscription, the Tablo DVR—from Ottawa-based Nuvyyo—connects to an HDTV antenna and provides pause-and-record functionality for over-the-air broadcast programs. Available starting in February, the two-tuner model retails for US$219.99, and the four-tuner model (expected in the spring) will sell for US$249.99. A subscription to program-guide data is optional.

Home automation

Belkin announced an expansion of its WeMo home automation system with a line of Smart LED light bulbs. Each dimmable bulb is equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent and emits a similar warm light. WeMo bulbs can be grouped together or controlled individually, and a WeMo Link device connects them to your home Wi-Fi network so they can be programmed and operated from the WeMo smartphone app. Individual bulbs will sell for $39.99, about a $10 premium over the cost of a standard LED bulb. A starter set that includes a WeMo Link and two bulbs will cost $129.99.

Belkin WeMo LED lighting starter set.

The WeMo system is also being embedded into appliances such as the Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker, which can be controlled with your smartphone from anywhere. Other WeMo-compatible home appliances are expected.

Samsung takes automation even further with its Smart Home service, which the company claims will have you telling your Galaxy Gear watch—or Samsung mobile or TV—that you’re going out, and your thermostat, lights, and appliances turning themselves off as a result.

Car tech

Your car is your new living room. The battle for a spot in your home—Apple, Google, Microsoft, Roku, Sony, and others are vying for space in your entertainment hub—has transitioned into a brawl for control of your dashboard.

Apple has already signed up more than a dozen manufacturers to provide iOS in the Car, and this week, the Open Automotive Alliance revealed that it’s working to build the Android platform into vehicles. Audi, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, and Nvidia have partnered with Google in forming the alliance. In a news release, Nvidia president Jen-Hsun Huang quipped, “The car is the ultimate mobile computer.”

Toyota FCV concept.

Toyota, meanwhile, promised to bring hydrogen fuel-cell technology to market in 2015. The zero-emission vehicles, which combine air with hydrogen to create electricity and water, will have engines similar to those used in the company’s Prius hybrids. The big stumbling block, said senior vice-president Bob Carter in a stage presentation, is fuelling stations.

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