It’s a new year, which means another International Consumer Electronics Show. Thousands of people will wander through the Las Vegas Convention Center this week in search of novel gadgets and new ideas in tech. What better time (or place) for a scavenger hunt? Here’s what we’re looking for:
A TV that costs more than $100,000. Televisions are always the main event at CES. Companies such as Samsung (005930:KS), LG (066570:KS), and Panasonic (6752:JP) will try to one-up one another by making the largest, sharpest, least necessary televisions the world has ever seen. 3D is out; 4K is in. These televisions generally cost upwards of $3,000, but that’s not necessarily a concern at CES.
At last year’s show, Samsung showed off a 110-inch TV. It recently went on sale in Korea—for $150,000. It’s hard to make your electronic rectangle stand out in a sea of electronic rectangles, so expect to see some enormous curved televisions from LG and Samsung. And these things will all connect to the Internet, of course.
Bonus: Programs to watch. The missing piece for 4K and Internet-connected televisions alike? Content. Any move to expand the options of what you can watch on these things would be the most impressive feat.
A car whose computers do everything but drive for you. With the absence or retreat of some major tech companies—Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG)—from CES, the tech show has turned to the auto industry to bring some heat to Las Vegas. Ford Motor (F) has been an exhibitor for the past several years, and this year includes Audi (NSU:GR), Mercedes-Benz (DAI:GR), and, for the first time, Mazda (7261:JP).
No matter which carmaker’s booth you visit, you’ll hear about computer-controlled driving aids that take over more and more of what used to be managed by a human being, as well as enhanced multimedia options that bring more of the smartphone to the dashboard. Cruise control, automatic braking, automated parking, and even steering control are being operated by the onboard computers under the latest cars’ hoods. At the same time, look for more tie-ups between car companies and Silicon Valley (namely Apple and Google) that aim to take mobile operating systems like iOS and Android and incorporate them into the car itself. The concept cars shown at CES this year will inch us ever closer to that fully autonomous world where there are no drivers, only passengers.
Nike’s (NKE) booth. Just kidding. The FuelBand maker won’t have a booth, and neither will Jawbone (Fitbit will), but there’s still a shocking 365 digital health and fitness companies included in the conference’s directory. Their products range from sensor-laden fabrics to foldable scooters, but most of the attention will focus on devices that take constant measure of physical activity or vitals like your heartbeat. Absent two of the three most well-known fitness wristband companies, the also-rans will have the run of the place.
Google Glass clones. The fitness wristbands are a subset of the larger wearable technology craze, which has caught on, at least among companies that are taking a build-it-and-they-will-come attitude. Retail revenue from wearables is expected to grow to $19 billion by 2018, according to Juniper Research, more than a thirteenfold increase from the market last year. Many wearable devices at CES are likely to be designed for your eyes, so watch out for a batch of Google Glass clones.
Wrist-volution! The other part of your body that tech companies are lusting after are your wrists. Pebble, one of the early darlings of the smartwatch industry, says it will make a major announcement at the beginning of the week. There will also be 10 exhibitors in a special “WristRevolution” zone peddling their wares. Of course, breaths remain held for Apple’s iWatch (or whatever it will be called if it ever shows up). Don’t spend too much time searching for Apple’s booth, though, because the company always skips CES.
A relevant laptop. The slow-motion death of the PC continued in 2013; in early December, IDC predicted that total contraction of PC sales would be 10.3 percent over the course of the year. While that rate is supposed to slow in 2014, it’s more of a bottoming out than a recovery. To the extent that the PC can continue to exist as a consumer device, it will have to take on characteristics of the tablets that marked its doom. PC companies will be showing off hybrid devices that will attempt to lure customers away from the most popular tablets, with things like full keyboards. There will be dozens of these things around, but few are likely to catch on.
A 3D printer that will change the world. While most technologies at CES are designed by those who harbor hopes of capturing some consumer market, the 3D printing industry aims much larger. Those who believe in 3D printers expect wholesale revolution in everything from education to manufacturing and think that 3D printers will soon be running off homes, meals, and new 3D printers. This year marks a coming out of sorts for the printers at CES: The show has added a 3D printing TechZone, and had to double the space allotted for it because so many companies wanted in. In addition, Bre Pettis, the founder of MakerBot and a darling of the 3D printing crowd, will be giving a keynote address on Wednesday. The focus at the show will likely be on low-cost consumer-level devices.
A smart home by installments. While the connected home has been a favorite CES trope for years, reality has actually begun to catch up with the fantasy in recent years. But this isn’t happening all at once. Instead, Internet connectivity is creeping into appliances, thermometers, and smoke detectors. While almost all have some tie-in to the smartphone, the vision is more a patchwork than a coherent whole. Dozens of companies are planning to show off their slice of the vision.
200 billion things. The small steps toward the smart home doesn’t mean the companies making this stuff are settling for modest accomplishments. The so-called Internet of Things, encapsulating all devices that automatically communicate over the Internet, will be a $8.9 trillion market by 2020, according to IDC. By that time, 212 billion things will be connected, says the research firm. There won’t be quite that many things at CES. But it will sure seem that way.