CES 2013 preview: Rise of the robots, plus phablets and Ultra HD

If you suddenly felt a change in the air – as if a million voices suddenly cried out in terror (or joy)– fear not. That’s just the stampeding herd of 200,000 or so gadget fanatics converging on Las Vegas for this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. The largest such convention of its kind (if not all kinds) CES is like New York Fashion Week for geeks – a chance for electronics makers big and small to tout their latest breakthroughs and innovations, and for gadgethounds to salivate over the hi-tech gear that (in theory) will eventually hit store shelves.

Even though the show doesn’t officially open until Tuesday, a few trends are already emerging from press releases and the gauntlet of early press conferences by the towering electronics giants that have already taken place. As always we’re hoping for a few surprises (oh lord, please let there be surprises) and we’ll post some of the standout products we happen upon over the next few days. For now, though here’s a few of the trends we’re expecting this year:

Ultrabook redux

Last year we were assured would be the year of the Ultrabook – those super thin, light and powerful PC laptops a la Apple’s successful MacBook Air. And man was that a bust. Turns out consumers turned instead to tablets that offered much of the functionality of Ultrabooks but at half or even a third the price. Speaking of tablets…

Android-o-rama

Google’s open source OS is already in countless tablets and smartphones of every size, shape, and price point imaginable. And it’s only going to spread more this year. We’ll keep an eye out for Android devices that have jumped into new categories too, like Samsung’s recently released Galaxy Camera that has Android built-in.

Robots

We’ve had robotic vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers for years now and even advanced remote control toys (like last year’s tablet-controllable Parrot AR Drone). But the guys in lab coats have been furiously at work and we think we’ll see some serious smart and sophisticated robotic devices that are everything from entertaining toys to helpful assistants. We may not have Rosie yet, but we’re getting close.

Fabulous Phablets

Following the dark horse success of Samsung’s Galaxy Note – an oversized, stylus friendly tablet/phone mashup – we’re expecting to see updates and introductions and outright copycats from everyone. We’re as surprised as anyone, but it seems there’s a real market out there for phones the size of an NBA point guard’s foot.

Ultra HD

Call it Ultra HD, 4K, 8K, or HD 2: Electric Boogaloo, the story is still the same: packing four times the pixels as today’s HD sets, this new TV standard is a quantum leap in quality on par with the jump from radio to TV. And we can’t get one into our living rooms fast enough. Of course, that probably means a couple years, as for now they’re still around 20,000 bucks.

Smartphones rule

Few are the standalone gadgets that succeed alone anymore – nowadays everything has to play nice, instantly and seamlessly, with all your other gadgets, and typically your smartphone is the gatekeeper. So we’re going to see lots of products, besides apps, that rely on a tablet or smartphone to be functional. Already there’s tons of fitness related products being announced for quantified selfers and other masochists, but also remote controlled devices (like robots), or security systems, or rugged video cameras and so-on. The smartphone is just a few sensors and a belt hip-clip away from being a Tricorder at this point. We couldn’t be happier about it.

Read more:
CES 2012: Five biggest trends


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