8 CES tech trends that will change your life

We’'re just back from the consumer electronics extravaganza in Las Vegas where we saw some amazing new gadgets and gear including new TVs, tablets, smartphones and new high tech automobiles.

Much of the technology we saw may not be available for some time (if at all) but we did see some trends that will sooner or later make many of your high tech possessions obsolete.

Future TVs Will Be Sharper

A year ago at CES 2011 we saw just a few 4K resolution HDTVs but at this year'’s show we saw lots more. Full HD is defined as 1920 x 1080 but the next generation standard will double that to 3840 x 2160, which they are calling 4K (4K x 2K). Just as everyone who saw HD when it first came out could see a big difference between its higher resolution and older standard definition TVs, once you see 4K TVs you'’ll want one. Yes, it will take new production equipment, new distribution methods and present all kinds of challenges but isn'’t that what the industry thrives on?

3DTV Will Use Passive Glasses or No Glasses at All

One of the most impressive demonstrations we saw at CES was in LG'’s private viewing room at the Bellagio. One of the problems with large screen passive 3DTVs is a noticeable raster (at least to our eyes) due to the need to interlace different views to each eye within a single frame. LG'’s 4K display solves that problem by adding another set of scan lines to the current 1080p resolution. Viewing 3D on their AH-IPS LCD 4K set was the closest it comes to looking out a window, it was that smooth and realistic looking.

4K Will Make Glasses-Free TV Acceptable

At the Sony booth there was a demonstration of autostereoscopic (glasses-free) 3DTV. As light and inexpensive as passive glasses are, the ideal way to watch 3DTV would be without special glasses at all. So far all the autostereoscopic sets we have seen have had restricted viewing angles and a 3D image that just didn'’t look right to us. Sony'’s prototype 3DTV uses a 4K high resolution display that delivers a highly satisfactory glasses-free 3D picture.

TVs Will Be Connected and Smart

Smart TVs, with wireless connectivity, are already available but that doesn'’t mean the next generation of  TVs won'’t be smarter and more connected. All the major TV manufacturers at this year’'s CES showed off TVs that could run apps and connect between devices. Panasonic showed an interface where you can flick an image off a tablet right onto the screen of a TV. Unless Google can convince all the TV manufacturers to make Android their TV OS, we may see each TV manufacturer running their own proprietary apps on their own TV OS, which may be a variant of Android or some other OS but it also may mean that there won'’t be any standard TV OS that will run standard apps.

High Tech, Connected Cars Are on the Way

There was a very interesting trend at this year'’s CES show. In years past the Auto pavilion used to be full of aftermarket car audio systems each trying to play louder than the booth next to them. Unless you liked that blast of loud music it could be a somewhat unpleasant experience. This year it’'s almost like the neighborhood has been transformed. Gone were a lot of the aftermarket vendors and in their places were auto manufactures like Mercedes Benz, Audi, Ford and others -- all with very classy booths and very high-tech cars.

Next Wave in Auto Consoles and Infotainment Systems

We saw a lot of cars with high tech, touchscreen (or gesture-based) displays. One of the most impressive was in the new $57,000 Tesla S, which uses a 17-inch display that can be used for everything from changing the temperature to reading the front page of the New York Times. Along with touchscreens, we saw quite a few heads-up displays (HUDs) that use tiny projectors to display information in your field of view without forcing you to look away from the road.

Laptops With Touchscreens and Windows 8

Lenovo named their new laptop Yoga because it is flexible enough to have its cover bent all the way around and turned into a tablet. With the touch-friendly Windows 8 about to appear on the scene, the Lenovo Yoga might not be the only laptop with a touchscreen display. Just because you have a touchscreen doesn'’t mean you still can'’t mouse around but we think it would be nice to also swipe and pinch as you see fit.

Smartphones Will Have High Res Displays and Stream HD over 4G LTE

Smartphones come out at such a high rate it'’s almost certain anything you buy today will be obsolete before your two year contract is up but we did see some impressive smartphones at CES which had resolutions higher than Apple'’s “Retina” display and could stream 720p video over a high speed 4G connection. We just hope their batteries can keep up with the demands of streaming HD video.

Andrew Eisner is Retrevo's resident gadget enthusiast. The former PC World executive producer helped establish Ziff Davis' premiere test lab, where he led a team testing the latest high-tech gear.

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