3D is on the way to your living room
Hang fast to your wallets, the third dimension is coming. The movie Avatar pushed 3D into mainstream cinema before Christmas and the world's leading electronic giants are determined to do the same for TV in 2010.
But early adopters will, as always, pay the price, with sets costing upwards of €2,000 and requiring expensive glasses at up to €200 each. Then you'll need something to supply the content, such as forthcoming 3D Blu-ray players or new Sky boxes. PlayStation 3 owners will be given a free software update to enable them play 3D movies and games.
Companies such as Sony will introduce TVs with 3D before the World Cup is broadcast from South Africa in the third dimension this summer.
Sony chief executive Howard Stringer told the media at CES: "When it comes to home entertainment, there really is no experience like 3D. We intend to take the lead in 3D. We want to provide the most compelling 3D content possible."
The menu of 3D programmes will be thin on the ground at first, but will extend beyond sport into music and movies. Retrofitting 3D into footage originally shot in 2D will be also possible. Sony has already reworked Jimi Hendrix's 1969 Woodstock performance into 3D and is promising a new TV channel in partnership with Discovery dedicated exclusively to 3D programmes.
Even if it's another year before 3D content becomes common, the new batch of tellies at CES have more tricks up their sleeves. Internet connec- tivity was a common theme for Samsung, Panasonic, Sony and co.
Services such as YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and weather forecasts will look even better on the big screen. Samsung went one better with its concept of apps for TV -- some of the mini-programmes common on the iPhone will become available on your living-room goggle box. Panasonic, whose enormous 152-inch TV claimed bragging rights as the biggest screen on display, joined LG in adding Skype videocalls to selected models, providing you buy a special webcam accessory.
Some Irish firms flashed their wares at CES with an eye on the massive US market. Amulet has developed a voice-activated remote control that makes light work of navigating the music, video and pictures stored on a Windows PC.
Dial2Do turns your mobile into a dictation machine, enabling you to send and listen to received email or texts using voice commands. Targeted at drivers, it's already available in several countries including Ireland.
But this year's CES was almost as notable for what happened outside its cavernous walls as within.
Google launched its impressive iPhone challenger, the Nexus One, just before the show. Meanwhile, Apple's upcoming "tablet" computer was the elephant in the room.
Dozens of firms launched e-readers that will compete with the Kindle and Sony Reader but could also be swamped by the wave of hype surrounding the new Apple machine, expected within weeks.