The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 may have been the most-wanted presents this Christmas, but PC gaming is hogging the headlines at CES.
The world’s most popular PC gaming service, Steam, has over 65 million active users and its parent company, Valve, has just announced partnerships with 14 companies to make Steam Machines – games consoles that bring PC gaming into the living room.
The big attraction of Steam Machines is that they’re open, upgradeable and flexible like a PC, but they have the plug-in-and-go convenience of a console. This could signify a major shift in the way games are played in the future.
Alongside the new Steam Machines are a group of new peripherals that make even Xbox’s Kinect look old. The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that fits over the eyes and allows gamers to look around inside a game, and its latest prototype offers a visual experience no TV or monitor will ever match. People have been talking about Virtual Reality since the 1980s, but in the latest Oculus Rift we’re finally seeing it emerging as a consumer product.
Wearable technology in general is a huge trend. It’s become a lot more bankable with the success of fitness gadgets like the sports bands and GPS watches we’ve seen in the last couple of years, but the vision shared by a lot of large tech firms is that in the near future we’ll have an ‘Internet of Things’.
This meanse everything from your coffee machine to your shoes to your baby’s bottle will have a sensor or two and a low-power wireless connection, allowing you to monitor and control everything from your houseplants to your kettle to your front door lock with your PC or smartphone.
To help people build new portable or wearable devices for this new world, Intel has developed a tiny computer called the Edison. It’s as powerful as one of the old Pentium PCs that used to be a staple of every office, but it fits inside one of the SD cards you’d put in your camera.
Of course, any technology journalist will tell you that CES is also the event at which all the new TVs are announced, and in the last couple of years companies have quietly shelved 3D and raced to produce 4K screens, which have four times as many pixels as a Full HD set.
This year’s most impressive sets from LG and Samsung are not only 4K but curved, like the screen in a cinema, and solve a conundrum that’s plagued 4K since its consumer inception - where’s the 4K content? - by incorporating 4K streaming services from the likes of Netflix. They’re dizzyingly expensive, but at the lower end of the scale 4K TVs are becoming just about affordable – if you’ve been waiting to replace your old telly, this could be the year to do it.
Will Dunn is the Associate Editor of Stuff magazine
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