Four big trends from the 2014 International CES

The International CES, arguably the largest annual consumer electronics show in the world, has taken place in Las Vegas, Nevada over the past week.

Here is a round-up of four of the big tech trends that have dominated the show:

1. Self-driving cars and in-car devices

When you think of consumer electronics, generally devices such as computers, smartphones or TVs are the first things that pop into mind. Yet one of the biggest stories from this year’s CES has been the marriage of consumer electronics with the automobile.

The big news story on this front is Google’s announcement that it has formed the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) with automakers Audi, GM, Honda and Hyundai, as well as chipmaker NVidia. The aim of the alliance is to get Android integrated into cars.

Audi went a step further, unveiling a prototype ‘self-driving’ car that can be set to cruise the streets on autopilot.

If a computer controlling your car is an idea slightly beyond your comfort zone, Toyota unveiled a car powered by hydrogen gas, which has water vapour, rather than carbon dioxide, as an exhaust gas.

2. Smart, ultra-HD and flexible TVs

The CES was paradise for TV buffs and couch potatoes.

Almost all the major TV manufacturers displaying on the show were keen to show off their latest 4K ultra-HD TVs. These TVs feature a display resolution of 3840 by 2160 pixels, compared to “just” 1920 by 1080 pixels on an “ordinary” full HD TV. The benefit for TV lovers is obvious – larger TVs with more detail.

After years of research and development, LG and Samsung were both keen to show off their flexible screen TVs. LG’s impressive 77-inch OLED screens can bend and then flatten out again at the touch of a button.

And, of course, there were smart TVs galore.

3. Smart home integration

Another innovation on display during the show was smart home integration.

Like the flying car, home automation is one of those technologies that forever seems to have been just around the corner. In the ‘80s, processing power and memory were the issue.

In the pre-Wi-Fi ‘90s, it was the need to use physical wires to network your house. Through the 2000s, the thought of allowing Windows Vista to control every appliance in your home was enough to put anyone off.

However, with Wi-Fi in most homes and offices and a growing number of “smart” appliances, the idea of controlling every device in your house (or at least most of them) through an app has never been a more viable prospect.

For companies such as Samsung, the idea of consumers controlling all of their appliances from a smart TV, smartphone or tablet has an obvious appeal – consumers are locked into buying all their appliances from one vendor.

And for consumers, integration means much less hassle in day-to-day life.

4. Android on the PC

In a move that’s sure to be causing some concern at Apple and Microsoft, PC makers HP and Lenovo both demonstrated all-in-one desktop PCs running Google’s Android operating system, rather than Windows or Mac OS-X. 

HP’s 21.5-inch Slate 21 PC is a low-cost machine aimed at businesses, while Lenovo’s N308 Table PC features a 19.5-inch multitouch display and a 500 gigabyte hard disk.

No doubt there will be some in Redmond, Washington and Cupertino, California who will be watching this trend very closely.

…and then there was that Michael Bay incident

However, perhaps the most high-profile story from the CES was not the unveiling of a new computer or television, but rather Michael Bay’s keynote speech incident.

Now, as the director of Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and The Island, Bay is certainly a man who is familiar with disaster. And ‘disastrous’ a good term to describe his performance in a keynote speech on behalf of Samsung.

Bay stormed off stage after a teleprompter failed just moments into a speech unveiling a new line of curved Ultra-HD TVs. A timely reminder that, no matter how advanced the innovation, all things digital are also prone to failure.

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