For years now, the annual Consumer Electronics Show held each January in Las Vegas has been all about the latest in technology, and this year will be no different, but for the first time, fashion could play an important role in the show's biggest takeaways, as wearable technology takes center stage at CES 2014. That's just one of the many categories that Gizmag's team will be going hands (or heads or arms...) on with from the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center and other venues around Sin City this week. Here's a preview of what we expect to make waves at the world's biggest tech show.
Wearables everywhereConsumer gadgets designed to go everywhere you go because they're literally attached to you or your clothing is far from brand new. Fitbits and Nike Fuel bands have been around for some time now, and Google Glass is on the brink of becoming a consumer reality, having entered a period of high-profile beta testing.
But this year at CES could be the year we see how these devices actually begin to integrate with our lives beyond just counting our steps and heartbeats. Fitbit and a gaggle of fitness competitors could have some new hardware for us, smartwatches are likely to be all over the place, and there's even an augmented reality contact lens that will be demonstrated in Las Vegas this week.
More laptops get the Google treatmentA few years ago, it was all about super-thin and powerful "Ultrabooks" at CES, but the world remained more interested in less powerful phones and tablets. So this year, expect to see some interesting new hybrid laptops capable of running Windows as well as Android apps – some OEMs will be calling these "PC Plus" systems.
Of course, we already have the Samsung Ativ Q that runs both Windows and Android, but this week we could see the likes of Dell and others also getting in on this wacky multi-platform action.
There will also likely be some new Chromebooks to talk about, as Google seems determined to force its cloud-centric lightweight operating system to gain some traction with the public sooner or later.
We'll also be on the look out for a continued blurring of the lines between tablets and laptops with more convertible devices. So far, few of these have had much staying power, with even Microsoft's Surface Pro line yet to really catch fire, but maybe a system capable of running Android and Windows 8 with a detachable keyboard is what the world is secretly yearning for.
Something the masses definitely are not crying out for is tablets with 4K displays, but we'll probably see a few this week anyway.
Little to call home aboutAs smartphones have become perhaps the most important piece of personal technology in our lives since, well ... ever, the big name companies have taken to introducing their latest and greatest at their own events rather than at CES. As such, there can be a surprising dearth of hot new phones on display, even as smartphone cases, covers and other accessories seem to take up about 25 percent of the floor space at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
That said, we'll be trying to track down some time with at least one interesting new phone – LG's flexible "G Flex." Sony usually likes to debut a top flight phone or two in Las Vegas as well.
CES also tends to be a prime place for spotting interesting new up and comers and smartphone sleeper surprises. Each year, the presence from Asian companies like Lenovo seems to increase as they continue to test the waters and tease North American consumers with cool concepts that seem to never arrive on these shores. We'll also have our eyes out for the latest from ZTE, Huawei, Meizu and Xiaomi, just to name a few.
Particularly of note for American wireless customers will be a planned announcement from T-Mobile, which is expected to have something up its sleeve with regards to the much-despised long-term contracts that dominate the landscape here.
The car in the age of Big DataWhile mobile has been falling off the CES schedule somewhat in recent years, automotive's presence seems to be increasing as more consumer tech has been finding its way into what we drive.
Another much hyped Google project, its famed self-driving cars, turns out not to be just a Google project. Last year Audi was the second company to get a license for autonomous vehicle operation in the state of Nevada, so it makes sense that we'll also be seeing them in Las Vegas this week. Other big names including Ford and Mercedes might also bring the autonomous goods this week.
Of course, we're still a ways off from seeing such robot cars on sale, but vehicles we can actually buy will be on display with all the latest "connected car" concepts. Most intriguing is a rumored Android / Audi announcement that the mobile OS will be hitting the dashboard soon, and not as the result of a head-on collision.
And all the restTaking up a ton of floor space this week will be the requisite new batch of HD televisions. This year will be all about 4K, which is nice because it means fewer headaches induced by myriad trendy new 3D screens. Both LG and Samsung are also set to unveil huge curved TVs sporting Ultra HD displays.
Rounding it all out is sure to be a slew of new "smart home" innovations that will promise to connect all our appliances, switches and thermostats to each other and to the rest of our lives via that vital invisible master tether to the vaunted "internet of things," which also includes our all-important phones, tablets, and perhaps even all those new wearables.
Be sure to check back here at Gizmag early and often during CES week and afterwards for all the latest news and team coverage from the convention center floor and all the other big venues in Las Vegas.