CES 2013 Trends: Gadgets Start-Ups, Bigger TV’s, and Smartphone Integration

January 22, 2013

CES 2013 marked the year of gadget start-ups, bigger TV’s, home automation, connected cars, and smartphone integration. It was a massive event that consumed Las Vegas and was noisier and more crowded than any other past CES. Over 150,000 industry professionals roamed the convention center and streets of Vegas, making this the largest in the show’s forty-six year history.

TV’s are Bigger, Smarter, and Brighter with 4K Technology
While 3D TV’s may have been a big hit at last year’s show, this year it was all about 4K (aka “ultra HD”) technology. Samsung, Sony, Sharp and other manufacturers unveiled bigger screens with “ultra high definition” four times sharper than traditional HD. Perhaps one of the most notable introductions at the show was Samsung’s 110” Ultra HD television that looks more like a piece of furniture than a TV. The TV isn’t just impressive in terms of size, but it features a frame that extends above and below the boundaries of the screen, making it look like a giant easel. Sharp also showed off an updated version of the 8K TV prototype it unveiled last year.

Samsung TV at CES 2013

Samsung 110” 4K TV (left) and Samsung's Curved OLED TV (right)

In addition, LG promoted their OLED (organic light-emitting diode) technology again this year. Both Samsung and LG, using this technology, introduced curved OLED TV’s. The curved screen is intended to give viewers a more realistic and grand experience, similar to that of going to an IMAX movie theater.

Home Automation
Home automation is becoming less expensive and easier to use compared to years past. Rather than having to invest in a “connected” home, you can add devices to your home environment that connect via WiFi and are controlled by your Smartphone or computer. Companies like LG, Ingersoll Rand, and Belkin showed us innovative ways for controlling lighting, security cameras, door locks, HVAC systems, shades, video surveillance, and a number of other functions in your home from anywhere in the world.

NexiaTM Home Intelligence, a brand of Ingersoll Rand, showcased a bigger and better-than-ever home automation system featuring an array of compatible products and technologies that gives homeowners control of their home’s safety from wherever they are.

NexiaTM Home Intelligence

Year of the Gadget Start-Up
With the rise of Kickstarter and other crowd-funding sources, it’s more obtainable than ever to bring a concept to life. The Pebble watch made a big impression at the show when it debuted the final version of its smartwatch, which connects to your smartphone wirelessly to show you messages, calendar notifications, and control music.

Urban Home Phone

Another product we liked was from Urban Hello. Smartphones have replaced most home phones in the past few years and Urban Hello is trying to bring landlines back with a sleeker and more intuitive design. The phone is designed for the modern household with a 360° loudspeaker and smart hands-free switching system. It breaks the traditional aesthetics of landline phones and features two OLED screens on both the top and bottom to display the name and number of the person calling. The Home Phone is currently on Kickstarter and received a CES Best of Innovations Award in the Home Appliances category.

Attention on 3D Printers
3D printing was all the craze in 2012 with the introduction of MakerBot and a number of other at-home 3D printers. This year, another 3D printer making some noise at the show was 3D Systems CubeX. The CubeX can print objects in up to three different colors. It also features faster printing, an upgradable system, and more material selections.

Large scale 3D models from MakerBot

Considering the level of consumer interest, as well as the ever-growing field of 3D printer manufacturers, it may not be long before this technology becomes mainstream.

Audio Gets More Portable
Last year was a huge year for audio products and companies and this year was no different. Bluetooth portable speakers were everywhere at the show. While Beats Pill (from Beats by Dre) and Jambox have already established themselves as leaders in this market, there were plenty of other companies making a statement. We especially liked Samsung’s portable speakers for their sleek and modern design. The speakers pair seamlessly with Android smartphones and tablets.

Celebrity-endorsed or inspired headphones once again flooded the show floor of CES. This trend arguably started with Beats by Dre and has spread to a number of different musicians and athletes hoping to get it on the movement.

Samsung (left) and Polaroid (right) Bluetooth Portable Speakers

In-Car Technology
There was a big automotive presence at the show with companies like Lexus, Ford, and Audi showcasing their newest electric and connected cars. Audi’s booth was the most impressive, and while it was one of the largest, they only featured three cars inside, including the Audi R-18 e-ton Quattro hybrid race car. Audi’s overnight racer features a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) that works by recovering kinetic energy created during the braking process, which in turn stores that energy and allows it to be used at a later time. It’s a very fancy hybrid.

Audi R-18 e-ton Quattro

Advances in technology have left car manufacturers with exciting new options to provide utility and efficiency to drivers. Eventually, we’ll most likely see cloud-based apps that work on your car just like they work on your smartphone.

iPhone Accessories Dominate Show Floor
Though Apple doesn’t have an official presence at CES (and hasn’t for years), iPhone accessories dominated the show floor. There was a never-ending supply of cases, covers, Bluetooth keyboards, and charging stations for iPhones and iPads.

There were quite a few virtual keyboards for smartphones, but our favorite accessory was Celluon’s Magic Cube – a projection keyboard for mobile devices. It’s small and light enough to be carried around and because it uses Bluetooth, setting it up is really simple.

Magic Cube

Another product that caught our eye was the Miveu, a wearable POV camera and outdoor activity sports case for iPhone 4 and 4S. The Miveu features a wide-angle lens and offers a convenient and inexpensive way for you to record POV video on the phone you already own.

Miveu Wearable POV camera

The Home of the Future
Whirlpool showcased an all new ‘6 Sense Live’ concept at CES. It is a futuristic technology integration that will allow easy management and control over all your kitchen appliances, while also saving plenty of energy. They are referring to their concept as “Whirlpool 2020”.

Whirlpool’s ‘6 Sense Live’ concept: ‘The Fireplace’ (left) and FreshConnect fridge (right)

One of our favorite concepts they presented was “The Fireplace”. The Fireplace is a concept dining table, which will activate on both cooling and heating modes, depending on the items placed on it. Above the surface is a standard stove hood, which also provides customizable mood lighting depending on the user’s preferences.

They also had a concept on display called the FreshConnect refrigerator. While we are not sure of the details, it appears that the idea is to keep different types of food fresh for the maximum amount of time, based on the unique humidity and temperature requirements of each.

The “connected future” depicted at CES included a number of devices and gadgets that can be controlled, monitored, or synced from a smartphone or computer. It’s quite possible that the smartphone will one day be a universal remote for our lives – connecting our car, home, TV’s, fitness activity, and just about every other aspect of our lives. Smartphone integration, as well as touch and gesture UI’s, allow for some very innovative ideas for future design opportunities in 2013.

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