Las Vegas once again hosted this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week, with developers and tech companies the world over showing up to display their upcoming wares. We've combed through the muckety-muck (including about 4,000 4K TVs) to highlight some of this year's best and brightest innovations – plenty of which will likely make their way into your lives in the near future. —Evan Shamoon
Perhaps the most ubiquitous device at CES this year was the fitness tracker, and the latest models have come a long way from Nike's original Fuelband. The LG Lifeband Touch and Razer's Nabu, for instance, take a page from smartwatches by displaying phone notifications and letting users control their music. Garmin's Vivofit, another tracker that made its debut at CES, is completely waterproof down to 50 meters, while Movea's G-Series gets more data than current products and does so with more accuracy: it knows whether you're standing, sitting, walking or running, and can determine the speed at which you're running or biking.
The future is now: the Oculus Rift is a VR headset that fits over the eyes and ears, effectively allowing users to look around virtual worlds by moving their head. The company showed off its latest prototype, code-named Crystal Cove, which fixes the nausea-inducing motion blur that has plagued previous headsets while also adding sensors and a camera to track the position of the user's head and body (for more accurate movement). This latest incarnation lurches one step closer to its final retail form – and stands a good chance of revolutionizing the way we interact with our video games, movies and more.
One big takeaway from this year's CES is that "The Internet of Things" is finally arriving: everyday items are getting smarter and more connected. Everything from your refrigerator to your desk lamp will soon have built-in sensors and a low-power wireless connection allowing you to monitor them while they monitor you. One of the more popular applications will help do away with the pesky keys in your pocket: Kevo, OKIDOKEYS, August and Goji Smart Locks all use the sensor in your phone to unlock any door in your home. The Sen.se Mother is a "household management device," taking over mom duties by tracking your movements and temperature to make sure you're living right. You even be able to text LG's new Hom-Bot Robot Vacuum when you're almost home so it cleans up and gets out of your way.
While Apple's long-rumored iWatch remains a no-show, seemingly every other player now has its own smartwatch to show off. Neptune's Pine uses its own SIM card, making it a standalone device that need not rely on a connection to your smartphone, while Cogito's circular analog dial watch has a range of icons around the clock face to provide alerts about emails, text messages and calendar events. Nuance's Omate TrueSmart, however, had the most impressive showing: Android Jelly Bean (and SIM card integration) allows you to call, text, schedule and listen to music without your phone, while integration with Nuance's Dragon voice software lets you interact with the device simply by talking to it. Cue the Dick Tracy music. . .
Valve, whose Steam platform revolutionized PC gaming, is about to make its big play for your living room. Its game-centric SteamOS has finally arrived, and the company has big gaming PC makers like Digital Storm and Alienware on board to design various hardware setups, built to play the latest PC games on an HDTV. The machines will all work with Valve's unique Steam Controller, and designs range from the size of a Nintendo Wii to a huge PC tower (prices range from CyberPowerPC's $499 Steam Machine to upwards of $6,000 for a fully-equipped Falcon Tiki). While designed to be plug-and-play, these boxes are much more versatile than game consoles; with hundreds of titles available at launch, the Steam Box (in its various forms) may very well give Xbox One and PlayStation 4 a run for their money.
After years of mediocre, proprietary infotainment systems, automakers are finally turning to the tech heavy hitters for dashboard apps and navigation features. Honda, GM, Audi, Hyundai, Google and chip maker Nvidia have formed the Open Automotive Alliance, which will bring Android and Google Maps to the companies' vehicles and work with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to create an industry standard for connected, in-car mobile apps. BMW showed off a Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch with an app that connects to its 2014 i3 electric vehicle, which displays info on the battery's charge status, notes whether the doors and windows are closed and can even adjust the climate inside the cabin. Lexus and Audi showed off their own self-driving cars, while Toyota showed off its Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV), a four-passenger sedan with a range of 300 miles. It takes three to five minutes to refuel and only emits water vapor from its tailpipe, making it far more efficient than gas- or battery-powered EVs.