In our final wrap up from CES, Jack Walsh identifies the key technologies to shape the consumer electronics arena in 2010.

3D

While 3D TV is the headline technology from the 2010 CES, it is also the one about which least is known – partly because there is so little content and a many the products showcase were either prototypes or for demonstration purposes only. The important things to remember about 3D is that you need a new television, some glasses and probably a new Blu-ray player – unless you have a Playstation 3, that is. With a downloadable firmware upgrade, Sony’s games console becomes a Playstation3D.

Whichever way you look at it, tooling up for 3D will be a serious investment, and once you buy a few expensive 3D Blu-ray discs and an upgrade to your Pay TV service (Foxtel has said it may trial 3D in 2011), it may be worth taking the family to the movies for a bigger experience.

When it comes to 3D content, animation and big-budget movies specifically produced in 3D are far more engaging than sport or television shows that have been scaled up from 2D to 3D. Gaming could be the dark horse in the 3D race. This could be where it really takes off, so watch out for the cool kid at school with the rich parents.

Philips 3D TV at CES 2010
Televisions from Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, LG and Philips showcase 3D as the tech de jour of CES 2010.

HDMI

HDMI – High Definition Multimedia Interface – is the new USB and, in the age of high definition, really represents the tagline – “one cable, more able”. Samsung’s top-end television, the C9000 (likely to be called the 9 Series in Australia when if arrives mid-2010), has four HDMI ports, while the company that makes the most from the category, Monster, rolled out a new 3.5mm super-thin HDMI cable.

The new HDMI 1.4 standard, which supports 3D and allows a single Ethernet connection to be shared between devices, featured on a few new products, including Panasonic’s Soundbar and the majority of the new 3D Blu-ray devices.

Monster's 3.5mm thin HDMI cable
The thick cable characteristic of HDMI connectors has been reduced to just 3.5mm by US company, Monster.

Skype

There’s a very large base of Skype consumers, 500 million to be exact, who are going to be really excited when Panasonic and LG ramp up their marketing for Skype TV this year. Whether it’s calling up loved ones or conducting some amateur teleconferencing, Skype on the big screen in the lounge room turns the TV into a terrific communication tool.

You’ll need a new television that pairs a nifty webcam with four-directional microphones, however, but because these TVs can communicate with Skype on a PC or any other device, there’s no need for both parties to invest in a Skype television.

OLED

The bridesmaid of the television technology at CES 2010 was the organic light emitting diode (OLED). LG tried to create some excitement with a 15 inch (38cm) model it referred to as the “world’s largest commercially available”, plus there were 3D OLED demonstrations and prototype models above 30 inches (76cm) on the Samsung stand.

It was Samsung, too, which showed off the active-matrix OLED – also called AMOLED – within a music player. Called the IceTouch, the screen displaying the information was transparent, indicating a new use for the technology in screen applications. Samsung also showed off an AMOLED photo frame with self-luminescent screen that enabled bright, high contrast 1024 x 600 images.

Samsung's new mobile handset with an AMOLED display
Samsung IceTouch with transparent AMOLED screen.

E-books

A few companies climbed aboard the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader bandwagon at CES, but apart from Samsung, they weren’t the companies you’d think would be in on this game. In what appears to be a replay of the digital photo frame debacle, a number of smaller companies are creating what looks like a very large MP3 player for words and music to undercut the emerging market. As always, functionality and capacity is determining the cost of the devices, but there are some pretty good knock-offs to be had. One of the more interesting products is a recipe reader containing 2500 recipes – like an iPod for the foodie rather than the muso

The Eee Reader from Asus
The EeeReader from Asus.

Tablets

The twisted sister of the e-book is the tablet that doesn’t quite know whether it is a computer or a reader. Sony presented an original take on the tablet with the launch of the Dash, a product likely to be upstaged by Apple’s hotly rumoured ‘iSlate’, which is expected to be released next week. In the meantime though, Dash is something that can live anywhere in the house and, while it looks like a photo frame, it can be everything from a media player, to an email device or a lifeline for the Facebook-addicted.

Wi-Tricity

One of the more interesting products which went largely unreported was the wireless television from Haier. This demonstrated the wireless transfer of HDMI signals and electricity (yes, power minus the cables!) from a resonant coil mounted on an adjacent wall to the Haier’s television. But how does it work?

The circuit in the resonant coil converts standard AC power to a higher frequency and feeds it to a power source. This then uses the current to induce an oscillating magnetic field. The device to be powered (ie. the TV) is tuned electronically to the same frequency as the power source in a process called “resonant magnetic coupling”, and the energy of the oscillating magnetic field induces an electrical current to power the device.

Simple.

Haier's wireless television
Haier’s TV demonstrated WiTricity, a technology that receives power wirelessly from an AC outlet via a resonant coil.