The annual Consumer Electronic Show (CES) is an occasion for the entry of exciting new inventions. Here, Popular Mechanics presents the 14 most innovative technologies that have emerged at CES 2013.
CES 2013: Editor's Choice Awards
By The Editors, Popular Mechanics, 9 January 2013.
By The Editors, Popular Mechanics, 9 January 2013.
The Consumer Electronics Show has officially opened its doors, and we've selected the coolest and most innovative tech of the year.
1. Lenovo IdeaCenter Horizon
The mission of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system is to break down the barrier between the PC and tablet, but it's also a challenge to PC makers to rethink the fundamentals of computer design. Lenovo picked up the gauntlet and ran with it, creating a huge 27-inch monitor that lays flat and becomes an interactive table. The IdeaCenter Horizon has an HD screen, i7 processor, a 2-hour battery, and a specialized multi-user UI called Aura with games and activities oriented towards multiple users. The Horizon should go on sale this summer for around US$1600. [More info]
2. Canonical Ubuntu For Android
Ubuntu - the cultish, open-source computer Linux operating system - has made it onto a phone. And gestures are king in Ubuntu for Android, the first foray onto smartphones by Ubuntu's for-profit arm, Canonical. Due in late 2013, the open-source phone OS swipes uses swipes from the sides to reveal favourite apps or running apps. A drag-down windowpane reveals elegant, horizontally scrollable access to the phone's settings. The interface is a beautiful take on classic smartphone icons, which aren't stuck in a static grid but instead come and go as they're updated. For instance, they change size to display recent posts on Twitter or active text message conversations. [More info]
3. Ford's Open Developer Program
Ford has been working with a small group of developers to come up with innovative apps for its in-dash Sync environment. At CES this year, the company announced the program now would be open to all interested. Entrepreneurs will pitch ideas for apps, which Ford engineers will review for safety and approve the app for work. Ford sends out a development kit, application programming interface, and grants access to Ford's library of Sync intellectual property without a licensing cost. [More info here and here]
4. Samsung Smart TV Platform
Samsung has won an Editor's Choice Award before for its smart TV platform, which helps users navigate the increasingly complex and diverse world of video entertainment with custom apps, as well as voice and gesture control. This year, the company has launched a big update to its platform with a quad-core processor, facial recognition that customizes content to the individual viewer, plus improved natural language and gesture controls. Samsung's line of 2013 smart TVs also uses predictive analysis to monitor viewing habits and suggest relevant content. And, as it has in years' past, Samsung offers an Evolution Kit that bumps up older sets to the new processor and interface. [More info]
5. Martian Watches
Martian Watches unites traditional enemies: smartphones and wristwatches. The company's smart watches make ignoring a phone call just a shake of the wrist away. The analogue timepieces connect to smartphones via Bluetooth and pull up information on a small OLED display. And by using voice recognition (with a noise-cancelling microphone), the watch responds to voice commands to control Siri, music, the camera's shutter, texts, phone calls - pretty much everything with inputs on the phone. Because Martian has released a full Android SDK, further app integration isn't far off. [More info]
6. Sony Xperia Z
Sony's newest smartphone is a model of corporate synergy done right, incorporating the company's display and image capture technology into its stunning 5-inch 1080p touchscreen display, and also including the world's first smartphone sensor that can take HDR video. The Z has smart features such as NFC connectivity with other Sony devices, and a battery-saving mode that turns off power-intensive apps when the screen is off. But our favourite feature is the one every phone should have: The Z is seriously water-resistant. You'd never know it from its sleek profile but this Sony phone can sit under a meter of water for a half-hour. [More info] [Video]
7. Lego Mindstorms EV3
Lego's latest generation of its Mindstorms platform opens the door to a new level of brick-based robotics play. The "intelligent brick" remains the brains of the operation, and it's now improved with an SD expansion slot, USB interface, and iOS and Android compatibility, all of which command an enhanced array of sensors and interactive servomotors. Parents beware; the "Reptar" will strike if it senses your hand is too close, and that gangly droid fires mini-spheres when provoked. The set will be available in Q2 of 2013 and cost US$350. [More info] [Video]
8. Nvidia Tegra 4
That Nvidia's new five-core mobile processor is a beast, with 72 GPU cores and roughly six times the speed of its predecessor, is no surprise. Nvidia has always specialized in putting graphics brawn into digital devices. But the Tegra 4 is also a versatile component. It's designed for applications ranging from smartphones and tablets to automotive infotainment systems. It has an integrated 4G LTE modem and can take high dynamic range (HDR) photos as much as 10 times faster than the iPhone. And at CES alone, the Tegra 4 has shown up in a tablet from Vizio as well as Nvidia's own Project Shield portable gaming console. [More info]
9. Samsung 2D/3D Lens
As an accessory to its new NX300 interchangable lens camera, Samsung's first-of-its kind lens can shoot both 2D and 3D content through the same optics. It's also a spectacularly fast 45mm prime lens rated at F1.8. The NX300 is impressive in itself, with a 3.31-inch tilt touchscreen, a 20.3-megapixel CMOS sensor, and a 1/6000-second shutter capable of 9 frames per second. Camera and lens hit the market in March - the NX300 should retail for $749, the 2D/3D lens for US$499. [More info]
10. Intel Atom Z 2420 Processor
Intel's latest smartphone processor gives low-cost phones the power of more expensive models. Code-named Lexington, the mobile processors are aimed at emerging markets. The phone will cost in the lower US$100s and support 1080p video, an HSPA+ dual modem for dual-SIM and dual-standby, a microSD slot, and processor speeds up to 1.2 GHz. So far, Acer, Safaricom, and Lava International have signed on to make phones based on the platform. [More info]
11. iTwin Connect
The beauty of the iTwin Connect is its simplicity: Plug one half of the device into the computer you're using and you can browse the Internet via VPN through one of the company's servers. Or you can create your own VPN using two computers - one at home, say, and the other in an insecure public network - to tunnel your Internet browsing through your personal computer and keep your browsing safe and secure. The Connect, which costs US$129 and is available now, protects all browsing with AES 256-bit encryption. [More info]
12. Vehicle Diagnostics by Delphi
The lightning fast development of in-car electronics has been a boon to automotive techies, but much of the benefits are lost to used car owners. Now Delphi has released the Vehicle Diagnostics, a dongle that plugs into the OBD-II port found in any vehicle built since 1996. The dongle has a Verizon data connection and GPS sensors that send position and vehicle data up to the cloud. A smartphone or tablet can access all the vehicle data, diagnostic information, speed, and remotely unlock the doors or start the car via web. Other neat stuff: You can set up geofences to alert if the car leaves or enters and area, starts speeding, or does all kinds of things you don't want your teenagers to do. Pricing will be set by Verizon and the unit will go on sale by the end of the first quarter. [More info]
13. Xi3 Piston
The Piston is a gaming PC that's the opposite of what you'd expect from a gaming PC: tiny, power-sipping, and beautifully designed. The exact specs for Piston are still under wraps, but it will be based on the company's X7A, a modular 3.2 GHz quad-core rig that starts at US$999 and runs on just 40 watts. More noteworthy is that the Piston is being developed with backing from Valve Software and optimized for that company's wildly popular Steam digital download service - specifically for Steam's "Big Picture" mode, that displays games on your TV. In other words, Piston has the potential to combine the best of a gaming PC and gaming console, with nary a running light or giant alien head decal to be found. [More info]
14. LG Smart Control Appliances
By embedding its home appliances with NFC chips, LG allows everything from washers and dryers to vacuum cleaners to be operated via smartphones (you can also control them through LG's TVs). With a single tap, appliances and phones pair for remote control and diagnostic alerts. The appliances also work together, too. LG's smart refrigerator, for instance, preheats the oven based on a chosen recipe, generated from the ingredients on hand. The camera-equipped vacuum cleaner, an update the LG's Hom-bot, doubles as a surveillance device. These, and all other LG smart appliances, respond to natural-language input. They're also built to maximize energy efficiency, showing that the smart grid starts at home, not just at the utility level. [More info]