You’ll see a lot of new 4K TVs—and maybe programs worth watching on them
TV makers have already dropped hints about what they’ll be showcasing at CES. Sony plans to make 4K TV a centerpiece of its CES presentation, while LG plans to unveil a high-resolution TV of its own—a 105-inch curved Ultra HD set, to be precise.
Unfortunately for TV makers, these technological advances don’t seem to be convincing consumers to part with their cash as readily as the introduction of flat-screen HDTVs did. Setting aside issues of size—I’d need to knock out a wall in my house to accommodate a 105-inch TV set—there’s not enough 4K content out there to justify springing for new hardware.
That’s why you should pay attention anytime Netflix gets mentioned next week. The streaming video service spent 2013 testing UltraHD streaming. TV makers are likely to unveil UltraHD Smart TVs next week that feature a built-in Netflix app capable of streaming the next season of House of Cards in 4K. (Amazon, another player in the streaming content market, has promised original shows in the 4K format during 2014, too.)
Why you should care: As nice as these higher-resolution sets look, so far it’s been hard to get excited about 4K TV. Now that prices of sets are falling from astronomical to merely steep, and 4K content is becoming easier to find, there's a little more there there.
You’ll be riding shotgun with Google
CES has become a real car-technology showcase, a place where automakers roll out new concept vehicles, as well as in-car information and entertainment systems due to appear on next year’s models. At CES 2014, alternative energy will be in the spotlight: Toyota will show off its fuel-cell concept car for the first time in North America, and Ford will take advantage of several of the 300-plus days of sunshine in Las Vegas to exhibit the C-Max Solar Energi Concept, which can track the sun's path to maximize energy collection. We also expect to see new milestones on the road toward self-driving cars.
But the most significant automotive news at CES next week may arrive via Silicon Valley. Hyundai’s 2015 Genesis, which will be an attraction at the show, may incorporate Google’s search capabilities to find destinations via the car’s navigation system. And earlier this week, reports surfaced that Google and Audi may team up to build Android into the automaker's infotainment systems—an announcement that could come as early as Audi’s Tuesday morning press conference.
Why you should care: Between Google’s efforts and Apple’s iOS in the Car standard for connecting iPhones and iPads with in-car systems, the Android-iOS rivalry may soon extend beyond mobile devices and onto the open road.
You’ll be awash in wearables
If we can step into the Wayback Machine for a moment, two of the bigger hits from CES 2013 were the Fitbug Orb fitness tracker and the Pebble smartwatch, setting the tone for the rest of 2013. People seem fascinated by mobile devices they can wear on their wrist, even they can't explain what problem those devices are trying to solve.
Look for more of the same at CES 2014, with exhibitors showing devices that track how many steps you take, monitor your heart rate, or display messages without forcing you to reach for a smartphone. We also expect to see more than a few challengers to Google Glass: Vuzik plans to show off the M100 Smart Glasses it first previewed at last year’s Mobile World Congress, and GlassUp is promising a prototype of its take on smart eyewear.
Previewing all the wearable technology slated to appear at this year’s CES could fill a separate article—in fact, my colleague Jon Phillips is doing just that. Trying to forecast which will win the day before CES even begins would be a fool’s game. But on the fitness-tech front, I’ll be looking out for gadgets that successfully blend two essential features: the ability to analyze the collected data, and the opportunity to boast about my accomplishments over social networks. As for smartwatches, anything that can avoid the high price tags and limited functionality of current offerings like Sony’s SmartWatch 2 and Samsung's Galaxy Gear will have a promising head start.
Why you should care: A lot of companies are doing a lot of work in this area. Though there are bound to be more misses than hits, someone will eventually come up with a breakthrough product—even if it’s not at this year’s CES.
Smart appliances and power trips
CES has become a hotbed for smart appliances and home automation—things like washers and refrigerators you can control from your mobile device, and high-tech security products and locks. I don't want my appliances to connect to anything other than an electrical outlet, but the buzz around products like the Nest Smart Thermostat shows that some people can't wait to talk to their toaster. I look forward to seeing products like smart lightbulbs that can encourage better sleeping habits and attentiveness—and my wife can't wait, either.
You know what else I could use? A device that could sustain a tired journalist after three or four days at CES. For now, I'll be on the lookout for anything that promises to keep my essential devices powered up, whether it be a battery-equipped case or wireless charging technology. As for the human version, well, there's always next year.