Gadgets that can hear, track and watch to dominate CES

Wearable cameras, glasses, smartwatches to dominate CES show floor

Kreyos smartwatch

Kreyos smartwatch

Wearable gadgets and "smart" devices that can see, track motion and record activities will be out in abundance at this year's International CES trade show.

The world's primary electronics junket in Las Vegas next week will be flooded with smartwatches, wearable cameras and glasses, fitness trackers and other wirelessly connected gadgets. Last year's hot technologies -- 3D printing and 4K TVs and displays -- will also be prominently featured.

As usual, there will be a stream of celebrities promoting products, and even World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has scheduled a mystery event on the sidelines. And CES is never complete without unique products like an iPhone 5S case that also is a stun gun, and a sensor-packed basketball that can rate a shooter's fade-away or jump shot.

Samsung and Sony made smartwatches viable, and cheaper models from companies like Archos will be shown this year. The crowdfunded Kreyos smartwatch, which the namesake maker claims is "the only smartwatch with voice and gesture control" will make its first appearance at the show. The Kreyos smartwatch also works with the Android, iOS and the Windows Phone 8 operating systems.

A small, wearable camera from Google and Ambarella that can record high-definition video and "allow users complete mobility during a [Google] Helpouts session," will be shown, according to the companies. The camera can wirelessly stream video via a smartphone or Wi-Fi access point to the servers of Google Helpouts, which is a live, video-based support service. The wearable camera could eventually be used for Google Hangouts or other forms of chat in the future.

Digital health is expected to be a big theme, with wearable fitness devices in the middle of the action. Sportbands and wrist monitors that track fitness activities, packed with consulting and fitness services for those who need extra help, will be shown. Fitbug is planning to provide "groundbreaking smart advice and tailored programs" that will work with its Orb wrist monitors so customers can reach weight loss or fitness goals.

Gartner last month forecast revenue from wearable electronics, apps and services for fitness and personal health to reach $5 billion in 2016, increasing from $1.6 billion in 2013.

Wearable devices are benefitting companies like Intel, Qualcomm and Freescale, which make low-power processors and other components. The chip companies will show wearable products that showcase the abilities of their chips and components.

Recently crowned world chess champion Magnus Carlsen is being used as a carrot by Nordic Semiconductor to draw attendees to its booth. On Jan. 8 between 3:00PM and 4:00PM Las Vegas time, Carlsen "will take on 20 players in a simultaneous match" and wear a bracelet that monitors his heart rate, which will be wirelessly transmitted to a large screen. Nordic Semiconductor hopes to show off its wireless and sensor technologies via the chess showdown.

Last year's hot trend at CES, 4K, will be everywhere -- in TVs, laptops, all-in-ones and monitors. Sony believes that buyers for 4K TVs will emerge only when content is available, and the company has talked about plans for delivering a 4K streaming service. Top TV makers like Sony, Samsung, LG, Panasonic and others will show 4K products.

Beyond the new cool stuff, expect the usual fare of tablets and PCs. Asus, Acer, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard will announce new laptops and tablets, with new Android PCs up against Windows computers. Advanced Micro Devices will talk about its latest Kaveri laptop and desktop chips.

Intel is building 3D cameras to replace traditional webcams in laptops, and the company may provide an availability date for those PCs. It also may show the first 64-bit Android tablets based on its Atom chip, and provide a glimpse at sub-$150 tablets running on its Bay Trail chips. A handful of ARM chip makers may follow Apple and Qualcomm and announce 64-bit processors.

Also appearing on the show the floor will be gaming machines designed to compete with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles. AMD will show a prototype gaming tablet running on its upcoming tablet processor code-named Mullins. Many gaming PCs will be announced with Valve's SteamOS, a Linux-based gaming OS that is generating a lot of buzz.

Motion-sensing technology, made famous by Nintendo's Wii and Microsoft's Kinect, will also be in many products. A unique product will be InfoMotion Sports Technologies' 94Fifty Smart Sensor Basketball, which has nine sensors that can wirelessly deliver "real-time shooting and ball-handling feedback" to an iPhone or iPod. A CES innovation award winner was Tobii Technology's EyeMobile, which is a mount with sensors that allows eye control of Windows 8 tablets.

Other unusual items that may draw interest include Yellow Jacket's latest iPhone 5/5S "stun gun case," designed to deter smartphone theft by issuing a 650,000-volt jolt through power drawn from an integrated battery pack. Now that's one product no one will try to steal that from the show floor.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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Agam Shah

IDG News Service
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