Does CES 2014 mark the death of 3D television? The technology, which has struggled to gain consumer interest despite massive promotion from television manufacturers, received its latest blow when medium-sized TV-maker Vizio announced that it is discontinuing support for the format. Instead, the company is focusing most of its effort on the emerging ‘4k’ television format.
Elsewhere, not a single television manufacturer at CES 2014 -- which is the world’s largest technology trade show with 150,000 people attending -- is using 3D functionality as a selling point for any new models. Even if most models still support 3D, the banks of 3D glasses handed out to attendees last year have disappeared from manufacturers’ vision of our TV future.
Instead, telly-makers are focusing squarely on 4K, also referred to as ultra-high definition. This technology doubles the number of pixels (and, effectively, the clarity) on television sets. It is most relevant for high-end models over 50 inches in size, although manufacturers such as Panasonic are adding the technology to large tablets and PC displays aimed at designers and graphics professionals.
Panasonic, whose consumer market share is highest in televisions, announced a number of new TV sets based around the emerging 4K standard. A new range of Life Plus Screen models features technology that can differentiate viewers using facial recognition technology. The system is designed to customise information feeds -- including social media updates -- when a recognised user is in its proximity.
Panasonic announced that its highest-grade premium television sets would start at 58 inches in size, rising to 85 inches. The electronics giant also promised to deliver “plasma quality on Oled televisions”.
Sony also launched nine new 4K televisions, measuring up to 85 inches in size. Samsung launched new curved screen 4K televisions, with a top size of 78 inches. Samsung's press conference encountered a hiccup when action movie director Michael Bay, brought on to endorse the new televisions, forgot his lines and walked off stage.
Meanwhile, LG announced a new television operating system that aims to simplify the ‘smart TV’ interface that TV manufacturers have been trying to sell to people for the last three years. The system, called WebOS, lines up a number of online services -- including Netflix, YouTube and Skype -- for easy access to TV users.
Other interesting TV-related products and services launched on Monday included a new set-top box from Dish that can record up to 8 different programmes at any one time.
A number of new tablets were launched on Monday, including the 12-inch Galaxy note Pro from Samsung. The large Android device is being aimed at those who want to switch to tablets but prefer the larger screens of laptops.
Panasonic launched a new 7-inch ‘rugged’ tablet called the M1. The drop-proof tablet, which opts for Windows 8 instead of Android, is targeted at business and public sector users rather than iPad or Samsung consumer customers.
It was a busy day in the world of ‘wearable technology’, with a new device from Pebble called the Pebble Steel. The popular brand has become an icon among smartwatch owners, despite not having some of the functionality of higher-end devices such as Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch. The Pebble Steel (€200) retains the same (non-touchscreen) functionality as previous models, but it comes in a higher-end strap and metal finish.
Meanwhile, Sony launched a new fitness tracker device called ‘Core’. The tiny gadget, which counts and analyses steps, sleep and other activity, is designed to work with software on Sony smartphones. It will fit into new Sony sports bracelets, similar in nature to those from Jawbone, Fitbit and other popular fitness gadgets.