It hasn’t even started properly yet and already the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has seen a Hollywood director humbled by stage fright, a TV that flexes and technology that can be worn on almost any part of the body.
There were genuinely impressive gadgets announced on Monday, at the preview day filled with rounds of press conferences. Like the TVs Panasonic put on show which saw the Japanese technology company – long the makers of the best plasma TVs in the world – assert that it had found a way to make LED TVs look as good.
It also announced a hairdryer which moisturises your hair as you dry it. Even if it seems counter-intuitive to be making hair wet as you dry it, the result is softer hair that’s been more gently treated. Panasonic, in one of its strongest press events in recent years, proved that its new ruggedised tablet was tough by hurling it across the room at a surprised executive’s feet. Sure, the floor was carpeted, but it was an impressive demonstration.
Not everything in the day went according to plan. Technical gremlins can strike any presentation, but they happened to pick on Samsung, just when film director Michael Bay was on stage to lend his support to a massive 105in widescreen TV which was concave. The curved screen wasn’t the only non-flatscreen of the day, but it drew extra attention because of Mr Bay. When the autocue went awry rather than “winging it” as he said he would, the movie director went into meltdown when asked why a curved TV would make his films look better. The answer – that a curved screen can provide a more immersive viewing experience – eluded him and he fled the stage, to general bewilderment. He later apologised in a blog, saying he’s embarrassed himself but that the product was “stellar”.
If you’re not persuaded by a curved screen (and many hacks in Vegas would agree with you), maybe LG’s flexible telly would suit. It starts out flat but at the touch of a button, the edges creep forward to become curved. The impressive technical achievement is that it does this while the picture is on and without distorting it. Curved screens benefit from a centrally placed viewer, so this feature might come in handy if the rest of the family decide to go out, leaving you to enjoy what you’re watching with maximum wraparound quality.
LG also had the most intriguing gadget of the day: the Heart Rate Earphones contain sensors to measure blood flow signals from the inner part of the ear to capture data relating to heart rate and oxygen consumption.
Sony has had a good CES so far. Showing its commitment to the next generation of TVs, it launched nine 4K ultra-high definition models, and for the US at least announced persuasive ways of viewing more 4K content. This included an arrangement with Netflix to make movies available for streaming, and TV programmes including every episode of Breaking Bad.
And it jumped on the wearable gadgets bandwagon with its tiny Core which measures walking, running, watching TV and sleeping to assess how healthy you’re becoming. Sony also promised the same focus on sound with more hardware to play back High-Resolution Audio.
Best of all, it showed a professional-quality 4K video camera which, compared to the previous model, is such a pipsqueak it can be used as easily for weddings as blockbusters. And it will go on sale for $2000 – a snip for a gadget of this quality.
Today I’ll be scouring the show for quirky, surprising and impressive gizmos from manufacturers large and small, reporting back with more picks tomorrow.