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'Rolling computers,' smart TVs to steal electronics show

| Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The annual Consumer Electronics Show, when tech companies gather in Las Vegas to show off their biggest, boldest ideas of the year, is set to open the second week of January. The show has lost some of its cachet in recent years, particularly with former headliner Microsoft opting to stop its traditional keynotes. But it is still a key place to see what smartphone makers, television companies and automakers are forecasting for technology. Here are five trends to watch at this year's Consumer Electronics Show.

• Connected cars: Audi, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Kia and Subaru are among the top automakers making appearances at this year's show.

“Cars are becoming rolling computers,”said Tom Coughlin, a consumer electronics consultant and member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. It's not simply that cars are becoming more technologically advanced, with richer sensors and better data, he said, but they're also working more closely with existing gadgets that consumers are already carrying. “Cars are a mobile application platform; let's start configuring them in the way I want them to be.”

• Higher hi-def: There's always a push to make high-definition screens even better, and this year is no different. Tech trend watchers are expecting to see high-definition televisions get even clearer, sharper and more accessible to the general public. The screen resolution on cellphones is also expected to get better, particularly as the screens creep up and over the 5-inch range.

Coughlin said he expects screens on laptops, computers and other devices to continue getting sharper while manufacturers also figure out how to have these screens use less energy overall.

• Video on demand: Samsung has already made clear that it's planning to do something big in television, which is generally viewed as the area of consumer electronics that's most ripe for innovation and disruption. A teaser on Samsung's “Tomorrow” blog hinted at a television with “unprecedented new TV shape and timeless design,” the Verge reported.

Whether it's set-top boxes or smart TVs that offer more a la carte programming, consumers have made it clear that they want greater control over what they're watching. Large companies such as Google and Microsoft have jumped into the space with their own offerings through Google TV and the Xbox Live service. Consumers should expect more on-demand video integration than ever at this year's show.

• Gesture control: Technology companies are also looking for more intuitive ways for users to interact with their gadgets, putting aside the remote control in favor of something that won't get lost in the couch cushions — your body.

EyeSight, an Israeli-based company that works on motion control, is particularly interested in bringing down the scale of gesture control.

“These are not shoulder-level hand motions,” said EyeSight Marketing Director, Liat Rostock. “It's all down to the wrist level . . . down to the resolution of the fingertip.”

EyeSight is already putting some of its technology in the laptops and televisions of major manufacturers, and saving some money by building their technology directly into the devices rather than adding the features on as accessories.

• Competition for digital advertising: While CES is mostly about the gadgets, content is important at the show. One of the companies rumored to be making a big splash at this year's show is Yahoo. The company is reportedly looking to make a name for itself at this year's show under the new leadership of chief executive officer Marissa Mayer. According to a report from All Things Digital, Mayer is going to work on building up partnerships with companies who may be looking at competitors such as Google, Facebook and AOL.

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