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Tomorrow's technology revealed: A new Sony walkman, floating speakers and 'super-ultra-HD' TVs set to wow at CES 2015

January 5, 2015 11:00 AM
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Resurrecting old technology might not elicit visions of the future, but at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week a rebirth could steal the limelight.

Because alongside smart homes, 'super-ultra-HD' TVs, floating speakers and more, Sony will be unveiling a new version of its once popular Walkman.

It will be among the many technologies on show, with the event being a chance for the latest and greatest gadgets to be shown off by thousands of manufacturers.

Of the various new gadgets on show there are rumours that Sony is planning to unveil an updated Walkman at CES. It could signal that the company is planning to revamp the once popular portable music device, which was discontinued in 2010 (old model shown)

Hot trends this year include Internet connectivity in everyday products such as cars and appliances and the growth of online video as an alternative to traditional television channels.

The four-day show begins Tuesday, though pre-show events took place yesterday and will continue on into today.

Among the many new technologies on show, most companies will be pushing the so-called 'Internet of Things' to try and make their device appeal to consumers.

This includes devices employed in a 'smart home' of the future where cars, appliances and other devices all have sensors and Internet connectivity to think and act for themselves, and make your life easier.

Having the latest gadget or app has been a status symbol for years, but all that could be about to change.

Experts predicted 2015 will be the year when people forsake gadgets, social networks and other technology in favour of the simple life.

Recent figures have already revealed that certain social networks are losing favour, and now a digital trends report believes we are entering the era of the ‘neo-Luddite’.

The prediction was made by London-based communications agency Hotwire in its sixth annual Digital Trends Report.

‘While there are many early adopters out there scrambling around to get their hands on the latest smartwatch or iPhone, there are a group of much cooler kids working out ways to kill tech altogether,’ explained the report.

One reason given for the expected decline is the growing irritation of adverts on apps, sites and other screens.

Current iterations primarily include our ability to control gadgets such as lights and security alarms or view data remotely through a smartphone app.

The Consumer Electronics Association projects sales of smart energy and security systems alone will total £375 million ($574 million) this year, a 23 per cent increase from 2014.

Although that pales by comparison to the £12 billion ($18 billion) spent on TVs and displays, growth has been swift.

In terms of people smartening up their homes in earnest, though, it will probably be another two years before devices are cheap and widespread enough for the typical consumer, says Eduardo Pinheiro, CEO of Muzzley, which makes a hub that allows devices to talk to each other.

It's not just smart homes that will take centre stage at CES, though - improvements to more 'regular' gadgets will also be revealed.

There are even rumours that Sony is planning to unveil a new version of its Walkman - although what exactly it might be is unknown.

But with the recent discontinuation of the iPod, it could perhaps signal a return to the era of the portable MP3 player that was once so popular.

An internet-enabled Dacor Discovery gas range and electric oven is pictured during the show. The 36" model shown is available now and retails for £5,878 ($8,999)

TV manufacturers are set to unveil a slew of new devices that this year focus on enhanced picture quality, as opposed to previous years where 'bendy' screens got top billing.

Others will showcase increased functionality; Samsung, for instance, will show off a TV that can play Playstation 3 games without having a physical console, by streaming games over Sony's PS Now service.

Various new smartphones and smartwatches will also be shown off, and in the rapidly growing wearable technologies market consumers can expect more wristbands, bracelets and so on.

Many companies exhibiting at CES will also be laying the foundation for what a smart-home system will eventually do, hoping to entice consumers to start thinking about upgrading to smart gadgets - but it's not always an easy sell.

Consider wearable devices that track fitness and other activities. In many cases, the novelty wears off quickly, and devices end up in drawers.

But what if a wearable device that tracks sleep could tell the coffeemaker to start brewing as soon as you awoke?

When the coffee's done, what if the sprinklers on the front lawn automatically turned off so you didn't get wet walking out the front door to work?

One company hoping to tap in to the world of wearable gadgets is Lucis Technologies, which will soon ship a smart-lighting device called NuBryte that can learn your behavior, such as what time you tend to come home.

Sensors can turn on the night light if you wake up to use the bathroom but switch on brighter lights during the day.

A coffeemaker from Smarter will soon use data from fitness trackers such as Fitbit. If you had a bad night of sleep, the coffeemaker will know to make the java stronger that morning.

Other products focus on better notifications: a battery for a smoke detector to alert you on your phone when the alarm goes off, or a bracelet that vibrates when the baby cries in its crib.

The bracelet is even smart enough to alternate which parent it alerts to get up.

'It's got to be something people are seeing it can do and want it to do,' says Chris Penrose, AT&T's senior vice president for the Internet of Things.

'True consumer value will come when devices work in concert with one another and in many cases across manufacturers,' adds Brett Dibkey, a Whirlpool Corporation vice president.

At CES, Whirlpool will showcase dryers that can run at a slower, energy-saving cycle if you aren't home and thus aren't in a rush.

The dryer integrates with Google's Nest smart thermostat, which has sensors to figure out that no one's home and then lowers the heat automatically.

Meanwhile, a smart-home hub called DigitalStrom plans to take cues from Nest.

If Nest is trying to cool down the house, for instance, DigitalStrom will lower automated window shades to block out sunlight.

These are the building blocks for an eventual automated home. Once those building blocks are in place, services can better predict what you want.

For example, Netflix is already good about recommending movies to watch based on your preferences, but it might suggest something different if it could read data from a wearable device or camera and tell that you're with friends, or stressed out, says Shawn Dubravac, senior director of research with the Consumer Electronics Association.

As we get closer to being able to live like the Jetsons, manufacturers will have to convince consumers that the technology is secure from hackers - and that convenience and peace of mind are worth any risks.

Ann Poletti, who now uses the Nest thermostat at her home in San Francisco, said her first apartment burned down, so she is sensitive to making sure all her appliances are off.

'Toothbrushes and ironing boards, one day it will all be connected. I think that's great,' said Poletti.

And quite how close we are to such a future will be on show at the this year's CES.


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