Like most things in Vegas the Consumer Electronics Show is big, brash, colourful and slightly terrifying, yet it wears a sartorial disguise of jeans and blazers.
Buzzwords this year include ‘internet of things’ meaning small chips inside everyday objects, like lightbulbs – which can be controlled with an app – and connected fridges.
More advanced gesture control, eye tracking, and voice recognition, phones with enormous screens, automotive technology, and the absence of Google, Microsoft and Apple are also topics on everyone’s lips.
When the sun rises over the Mojave desert in a few hours, Panasonic president Kazuhiro Tsuga will deliver the keynote, but before the show had started in earnest some companies were already trying to get ahead of the competition. Here are some of the most noteworthy bits so far.
Sony XPeria Z and ZL
The new phones present Sony’s waterproof challenge to Apple and Samsung; literally waterproof as the devices can be completely submerged in water of up to 1m for 30 minutes.
According to Sony one in ten of us drop our phones down the toilet at some point, so this would offer protection for the butter-fingered, and may kickstart the kind of nuclear competition, which occurred between schoolboys with digital watches in the ‘90s.
Fitting squarely with the trend toward even larger screens, one version, the Z, will sit somewhere between large phone and small tablet.
Features include a 12.7cm screen, a higher resolution screen then the iPhone, shatterproof glass, and a 13 megapixel camera, but you will have to unplug little stoppers to get to the ports for charging and headphones.
Lenovo Idea Centre Table Top PC
Lenovo is a Chinese company, which owns what was IBM’s PC business. Its grandly named touch-screen device, as you may have already worked out, can be stood up like a PC or used flat as a tablet.
Dubbed by Lenovo an ‘interpersonal computer’ as opposed to ‘personal computer’ owing to its 27 inch screen, it can cope with commands from ten fingers at a time, if people are sat around the device, which runs off of Windows 8 technology.
Although you can view and edit photographs and stream video, it’s particularly geared to multiplayer gaming; the device comes with plastic air hockey ‘striker’ disks – an obvious choice given its form – and joysticks with sucker pads, which attach to the screen.
Nvidia ‘Project Shield’
Another gaming device causing a stir is Nvidia’s Project Shield, effectively a game controller with a screen, which is being lauded for its connectivity.
It’s a portable Android enabled device which can stream PC games from any computer with a GeForce GTX 650 GPU Graphics Card and play the games through a television screen when needed, download Android games and access Nvidia’s TegraZone gamestore.
We might want to forget about touch-screens if the power of this eye-tracking technology is to be believed.
Swedish company Tobii Technology has developed Windows 8 eye-tracking technology, which is pitched at the majority consumer market rather then as a specialist tool for computer users with a particular disability.
The Tobii Rex is attached to a monitor, but the user can also use, mouse, touch and keyboard alongside it.
Combining these instructions the gaze of the user can then zoom, scroll, auto-center and open windows.
There’s plenty of novelty at CES. This mind-bogglingly over-designed cutlery is fun but could become annoying quite quickly.
It’s a Bluetooth enabled fork, which can show how much and how quickly you are eating, via an iOS or web app, and for the real sadist, can be set up to vibrate when you’re overindulging.
Again, it’s got a lot of people talking, although this time with their mouth full of dubious praise. Maybe it should have been called Stab in The Dark.
The Consumer Electronics Show runs until 11 January in Las Vegas, USA.