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The future is here [New Straits Time (Malaysia)]
[January 12, 2014]

The future is here [New Straits Time (Malaysia)]

(New Straits Time (Malaysia) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Consumer electronics trends suggest a growing desire for human- machine connections through wearable and smart, interactive products, write Izwan Ismail and Nicholas King.

TECHNOLOGY is very much a part of our life today and we simply cannot live without it. The recent Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas reflects how technology has advanced.

With pervasive Internet connection and the ability for devices to interact with each other, today's world is driven by embedded technology, where "intelligence" exists in things we use or wear.

WEARABLE TECH Wearables, especially smartwatches and smartbands were the highlight at CES this year. These don't only make you look good but also feel good.

Computer gaming company Razer unveiled the Nabu smartband which it describes as "a cross between a smartwatch and a fitness band". It can track activity, sleep and location as well as deliver text messages and calls. Shaking your wrist makes the alert go away and flipping it open allows you to view personal data such as details about texts, emails and activities.

LG's LifeBand Touch's "physical activity-tracking wristband designed to monitor and collect fitness data during exercise or just everyday life" has an Oled touchscreen display that turns on automatically when you rotate your forearm to check the time, distance and speed of your run or walk, as well as calories burnt.

Sony delves into the wearable computing market with its SmartBand, a waterproof wristband that tracks just about all daily physical activities and sleep patterns to social count with friends. It has no display and interacts wirelessly with an Android smartphone or tablet through an app called Lifelog.

For those who prefer something more traditional in smartwatches, Pebble has announced its Pebble Steel. Lighter and thinner than the original version, it has access to the same apps and watchfaces in addition to a LED light that indicates when it is charging.

And if aesthetically pleasing Pebble's smartwatches just aren't up to the job, MetaWatch is unveiling its premium-looking Meta smartwatches.

SMART CARS The future of automotive does not lie in the speed or performance, but in intelligence. The concept of the self-driven car has long been seen in sci-fi movies, but not in the real world due to limitations in technology.

However, at CES, sci-fi came to life when Audi lifted the curtain on its sleek self-driving A7. Coupled with a state-of-the-art laser- powered headlamps, the car "drove" itself onto the stage.

The German carmaker's chairman Rupert Stadler said the self- driven A7 redefines mobility.

Unlike the typical car engine, this smart technology that powered A7 is only the size of a desktop computer's motherboard and is capable of handling data from its laser, radar, camera and ultrasonic.

Audi, however, stressed that the technology is to make driving easier and more comfortable. It also showcased how a car can be "connected" to the driver via 4G LTE technology.

Audi was definitely not alone in this year's CES, which saw more and more car makers including Ford, General Motors, Mercedes, Toyota and Hyundai making inroads into the world of tech.

Ford banked on solar power in its tech showcase with its C-Max Solar Energi Concept.

Although solar-powered vehicles have been around for quite sometime, the Ford initiative showed its application in a practical passenger-carrying car.

Instead of relying on the electric grid to charge its battery, the Solar Energi Concept uses a special solar concentrator lens to draw in the sun's rays to its solar panel roof.

The lens follow the sun rays to maximise the amount of charge being fed to the car batteries, taking about a day to fully charge the 21-mile, all-electric range of the C-Max Energi and Ford's data suggests that the combination may be enough to power 75 per cent of all trips made by a statistically average driver.

One can reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by up to four metric tonnes when compared with the driver of an average petrol- powered vehicle.

Meanwhile, Toyota is placing bets on its FCV Fuel Cell Vehicle), which combines hydrogen with oxygen to power the car.

The Toyota FCV has no emissions, with the exception of water vapour. It is essentially an electric car that doesn't need to be plugged in. It is capable of going 498km before it needs to be refilled.

South Korean car giant Hyundai is also at the car tech showcase with its 2015 Genesis which will have some Google Glass functionality. Owners will able to remotely start the Genesis and check service information, using the company's cloud-based Blue Link system.

German marque maker Mercedes-Benz brought in smartwatch technology which combines with its Digital Drivestyle app to keep the driver fully informed of his vehicle's status.

The smartwatch gives the driver information such as fuel gauge and other information, including traffic conditions.

All these new emerging technologies in vehicles give us the idea that tech is not only on devices but already slowly moving into the things we use.

BOOST FOR TV Expect more people to turn into couch potatoes as innovations in TV technology get more exciting.

Ultra high definition, Oled, curved design and smarter TVs are the buzzwords at CES this year. Although facing fierce competition from tablets, new age television sets prove they are here to stay, with even better viewing technology.

LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Sony and other brands are putting their money on these new technologies and designs which they believe will take viewers to a new level of entertainment.

The 40-inch range and 1080p TVs are things of the past. Well, sort of. Today, the industry is talking about 4K TVs - the ultra high definition TVs with four times the resolution of FullHD TVs.

Samsung, LG, and Panasonic for example, showcased a range of curved and ultra-high definition TVs which are said to offer better viewing and immersive pictures. The sizes make them monsters - we are talking 70-inch to 110-inch screens! Having super high resolution will not mean anything is there is no content to support the technology.

This is why Samsung is working with Hollywood content producers to ensure there's enough high-quality content for its ultra-high- definition screens.

All Samsung's curved televisions will have smart capabilities to allow viewers to use the Web while watching television, company officials said. For example, users will be able to watch a football game while looking up stats and the weather at the stadium, using apps that run on the television.

Samsung also showcased a prototype television that can bend on demand with the touch of a remote. The set will pop out of its housing and bend towards the viewer.

Besides that, smart capabilities are added in to give viewers the ability to surf the Web while enjoying the shows.

While Samsung, LG and Panasonic seemed to be going along a similar strategy path, Sony had chosen the "road not taken". While competitors bank on slim and curved TVs, it offered a wedge-design TV. Its XBR-X900B 4K series Wedge design is thick at the bottom and tapers up to a thin top.

Sony said the extra space at the bottom will allow room for more capable speakers at each side of the TV. It is said to deliver better bass, sonic range, and clearer vocals than other TVs.

GAMING IS KING Last year saw a decline in PC sales, while gaming emerged as a lucrative segment in digital entertainment. Take the two and put them together and companies see the math adds up - yes, gaming can save the ailing PC market.

The next thing that happens here is a split between two camps: You have companies going for 2-in-1 PCs interchangeable between tablet and laptop or notebook, and you have companies pushing for superior gaming capabilities.

CES this year was a lot about gaming. Video game and digital distribution company Valve Corporation for example announced its multi-collaborated project of Steam Machines - 13 hardware consoles (so far) that run on the ValveSteam OS network acting as video game consoles.

This adds pressure to the already intensely fought game console war between Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One. In addition to sale figures Sony also announced its PlayStation Now cloud gaming service for TVs, consoles, and phones. So you can stream games - especially those from the PlayStation 3, on to newer consoles PS4 and PlayStation Vita anywhere and anytime without the need of discs! The Oculus Rift prototype VR gaming device - Crystal Cove also made its way to CES and wowed attendees although no date has been set for a commercial release.

If there was any indication we'd say that 2014 is going to be a great year for gamers.

EVEN MORE TABLETS The one electronics segment which has taken the market by storm is only going to intensify and get bigger. As if there weren't enough tablets in the market already, CES 2014 saw even more launches of these electronic slabs particularly from companies Acer, Alcatel, Asus, Lenovo and Samsung.

Many have 1080p display, double OSes and larger screens with Samsung pushing its tablet format up to 12.2 inches in addition to multi-screen display. But will tablets surpass sales of PCs as predicted last year? Here is a list of those which made the headlines: Acer Iconia A1- 830, Acer Iconia B1-720, Lenovo ThinkPad 8, Alcatel One Touch Pop 7, Alcatel One Touch Pop 8, Asus PadFone X, Asus VivoTab Note 8, Asus Transformer Book Duet TD300, Samsung Galaxy NotePro, Samsung Galaxy TabPro, Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2, Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 and Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.

With so many at the start of the year, imagine how many more there will be as the year progresses.

(c) 2014 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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