Every year, countless bloggers and journalists flock to the Nevada desert for the Consumer Electronics Show to try out new products and gadgets from thousands of companies, which set up elaborate, blinking displays in their quests for consumer eyeballs. Since 1967, CES has given attendees a unique prism into the future, sketching a roadmap not necessarily of where technology is, but where it's going. While critics continue to debate the trade show's relevance in a media landscape dominated by a 24/7 news cycle, and big players like Apple, Google, and Microsoft have either pulled out entirely or scaled back their presence, CES nonetheless remains technology's biggest, brightest week, where some of the smaller players are showcasing genuinely innovative stuff. Here, a compendium of products and the latent trends that are worth keeping an eye on. We'll update this list as new products continue to pop up:
1. A Netflix for videogames
Chipmaker Nvidia is aggressively invading the video game market with a flurry of new products ostensibly developed to compete with Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. Front and center is the Nvidia Shield, a portable console replete with joysticks and buttons capable of running Android, Tegra, and PC games. Perhaps more awe-inspiring: The company pulled the curtains off a new graphics processing supercomputer called the Grid, which combines the horsepower of 700 (!!!) Xbox 360s into a single towering unit. The idea is to license the Grid's processing might to a handful of other companies to finally build a responsively smooth Netflix-like service for streaming video games, which companies like OnLive have tried to do, but failed. Nvidia hopes to launch the Shield sometime in Q2. Sources: CNET, Gizmodo
2. A device that tracks where your luggage is in real time
Losing your luggage is a horrible, stressful experience — just ask any of the 26 million travelers whose belongings got misplaced by careless airlines last year. Los Angeles company Globaltrac is hoping to cut down on the number of travel-induced headaches with a tiny little GSM-powered device called the Trackdot, which you can throw into your checked baggage. "So if you're flying to Paris, and your luggage flies to London, you'll get a message on your phone saying where your bag is," says Paul Sloan at CNET. "Still a pain, of course, but at least you'll know." $49.99 starting in March. Source: CNET
3. More smart glasses
Something to keep your eye on: Vuzix, a company dedicated to developing wearable computers, is trying to beat Google's Project Glass to the punch with the M100 smartglasses. The Android-powered headset sits just under the eye and is controllable via Bluetooth from a companion smartphone app. Much like Google's smartglasses, the M100 doesn't look cool, but it lends credence to the idea that wearable computers are indeed inching their way toward legitimacy. Source: The Verge
4. The FitBit Flex fitness bracelet
Nike drummed up quite a bit of hype when it revealed the FuelBand, an unobtrusive little fitness device you wear on your wrist that tracks your daily physical activity and beams that data to your smartphone or computer. Now there's the FitBit, a new high-tech bracelet that one-ups the current version of the FuelBand by tracking your steps taken, distance covered, calories burned, and even your quality of sleep. It's iPhone/Android compatible, and it looks pretty slick to boot. On sale for $99.95 starting this spring. Source: ABC News
5. The laptop hybrid with a detachable screen
Tablets and laptops continue to converge in interesting ways. One of the more practical is the ThinkPad Helix from Lenovo, a Windows 8 notebook that lets you snap off the screen to use as a tablet. It's still a bit on the heavy side (just under 4 pounds total), but let's hope other companies are taking note. Source: CNET
6. Flexible e-paper tablets
"Thinner" is every tech blogger's favorite word, but this might be the end all. Researchers have created a 10.7-inch flexible e-ink display called the PaperTab that's — you guessed it — about as thin as a piece of paper. To navigate around you can bend and earmark the page in different ways rather than swipe your finger around through menus. With any luck, maybe they'll even make the thing waterproof. Source: Gizmodo
7. Pentax's MX-1 retro point-and-shoot
Smartphones are making point-and-shoot cameras more obsolete by the day, which is why it's fascinating that more companies — like Fujifilm and its X series — are refocusing their efforts to create cameras that are not just functional and full of specs, but also beautifully designed. Take Pentax's MX-1. It has a fast f/1.8-f/2.5 lens for low-light shooting and a 12 megapixel CMOS sensor — standard stuff. But the company is housing all the guts in a handsome, retro-inspired body with a textured grip that at first glance might even be mistaken for a Leica. On sale for $499.95 starting in February. Source: The Verge
Update: Want more? Check out 6 more products and gadgets from CES 2013 that you should care about.
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