Many trade shows have had a bit of a rough go of it lately. In the past, access to information about new products was typically doled out in newspapers and magazines but with the World Wide Web, the information comes fast and quickly directly from the companies to the consumer. Social media has made this even more apparent. However, many shows have still continued to flourish as they provide people with a hands-on experience to what is coming around the corner.
The Consumer Electronics Show (or CES as it is more commonly known) in Las Vegas just wrapped up and there were some pretty cool things. What seemed to dominate the show was curved televisions and wearable technology, which wasn't really a surprise but then it's always fun to speculate as to what will be the next "big thing".
CES has been the show where many innovations that we use (or did use) were first launched. You might be surprised to know that the VCR made its first public appearance at the show in 1970 and its related cousin - the camcorder - first appeared in 1981, alongside the CD player. The Nintendo Entertainment System launched in 1985 and the first DVD was shown in 1996. It's hard to believe that HD TV was around back in 1998 alongside the first DVR (sometimes known as a PVR). Of course, Microsoft launched their first Xbox console in 2001 as well and the Blu-ray made its first appearance in 2003.
Wearable technology has really hit the ground running and will be what everyone is likely talking about this year. Last year, the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift made waves with developers (it's not available to the general public yet) but Sony surprised many by revamping their Rift competitor - the HMZ-T3Q which is a "theatre virtualization" headset. This means that it simulates watching a screen 700 to 750 inches in size, similar to actually going to the theatre without leaving home (or being tempted by the wonderful smell of theatre popcorn). Sony's product is quite up to speed with video games like the Rift is but it's interesting to see the options for consumers already coming out of the woodwork before the products are fully ready for prime time.
You might have heard about curved televisions - ones that supposedly provide a more "natural" viewing angle for our eyes. Many consumers are not convinced and fear that it might go the way of the 3D television which still isn't gaining a lot of traction with the general consumer. Samsung is hedging their bets by releasing a bendable TV that can actually switch between flat and curved on demand. They are likely sensing consumer hesitation towards the unknown and going this route ensures everyone has the best of both worlds.
Of course, smartwatches could be found everyone and even a new competitor to Google Glass made an appearance. iOptik is actually a high-tech contact lens that dances social media feeds from Facebook and Twitter right in front of your eyes. Working in combination with special glasses, it lets your eyes focus on the "information" or the world depending on what you want to do. It's all sounding again a little like science fiction has become science fact.
I've written before that 3D printing technology is going to change the world (and it will) and it's also getting more and more affordable. While the 3Doodler isn't a full 3D printer, the $99 device is going to enable you to unleash your artistic side in 3D to create real world objects out of plastic. It will be shipping soon and will help change how we think about our world and the items in it.
For me, it's a good thing that CES happens in January. It means that the next Christmas is still very far away and I'll have time to think about what new toys I'll ask Santa for. One thing is for sure. There are lots of exciting new products on the way and technology is being used in interesting and innovative ways. The best is yet to come.
Syd Bolton is the curator of the Personal Computer Museum and the Manager of Information Technology at ACIC / Methapharm. You can reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail care of The Brantford Expositor.