Want an oven that talks to a computer? Then go to the Vegas gadget fair

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The Independent Online

The World's largest electronics trade show ended in Las Vegas last night, leaving participants buzzing over every gadget soon to burst on to the market, from video games played into eye-glasses to television screens bigger than sitting-room walls.

The World's largest electronics trade show ended in Las Vegas last night, leaving participants buzzing over every gadget soon to burst on to the market, from video games played into eye-glasses to television screens bigger than sitting-room walls.

But the theme of the five-day show - with exhibits displayed over 1.5 million acres of convention floor and visitors from more than 100 countries - was less about new categories of toys and gadgets and more about ease of use for the ordinary consumer.

"We're encouraged by the real-world products at affordable prices this year," said Mike George, chief marketing officer at Dell. "We're finally moving from hype to reality."

There was something for everyone. Flat-screen televisions masquerading as artworks for the living room tempted couch potatoes. Video-game fans glimpsed the portable version of the PlayStation, due out soon. And cooks discovered how to prepare meals far from a kitchen.

"If you change your mind about dinner, you just get on the internet," said Alan Porter, a spokesman for TMIO, a Tennessee company introducing a stainless steel oven that takes its instructions over the internet. Put the dish in the refrigerated oven, hit the road and when you are ready to get cooking, just switch on your computer - or your cellphone - and tell the oven to start roasting.

While Samsung showed off its 102-inch television - the world's biggest - Philips took an aesthetic take on what viewers want. Its range of plasma sets includes ambilight. Designed to hang on your living-room wall, it has a backlighting system that sends out a glow from its edges. The colour of the diffused light changes according to the dominant hue of what is on the screen at any time. A purple sun-set will send a purple haze rippling over your walls.

"How can you improve on ambilight?" asked John Morog, one of thousands of reps hawking products. "The idea is to get the viewer more involved and to move the picture beyond the screen itself. And it's a piece of art".

While Apple was absent, the influence of its iPod was strong, with scores of companies introducing rival products for playing digitally compressed music - including in hats and on mobile phones. And if you had spent just an hour at the show, one thing would have become clear: if the music you listen to now isn't digital, it will be. It is predicted that around 9.5 million US homes will buy some form of MP3 player, such as an iPod, within the year - a 30 per cent jump on 2004. And Thomson RCA have just the product for all the newcomers: a system that will convert all their CD's into digital file format without the help of a desk-top computer.

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