Samsung steals show in Las Vegas for Bay stage exit

CES boasts the latest tech to watch, wear... and help you brush your teeth

High-definition TVs and wearable technology took centre stage ahead of the opening of International CES yesterday as companies jostled for space in an increasingly crowded market.

The show doesn’t open to the public until today, but major exhibitors made their big announcements ahead of the official opening of the world’s largest consumer electronics show.

With LG kicking off the announcements early yesterday with the next generation of high definition TVs and health monitors, it was Sony that finished out the day in a similar fashion.

Curved TVs


But it was Samsung that got most of the attention, thanks to an appearance by director Michael Bay. Taking to the stage with Joseph Stinziano, Samsung’s executive vice president for home entertainment, to discuss Samsung’s new curved TVs, Bay left abruptly after an issue with the teleprompter left him stuck for words. Later, a statement on his website explained the sudden departure. Acknowledging that he’d “embarrassed himself”, Bay took the blame for the awkward encounter.

“I got so excited to talk, that I skipped over the Exec VP’s intro line and then the teleprompter got lost. Then the prompter went up and down – then I walked off. I guess live shows aren’t my thing,” he said.

Samsung showed off its range of 4K TVs at the show, and a TV that switches from flatscreen to curved at the touch of a button. The curved screens are intended to make iewers fee more immersed in TV shows and films, and also cut down on the distortion usually experienced when watching at an angle.

Tablets also made an appearance at Samsung’s presentation, with a new line of Pro tablets that take the screen size to 12 inches.

Sony, meanwhile, continued to push its credentials in the 4K area, not only revealing its plans for screens but also how it would allow customers to create their own 4K content. A new line of camcorders includes a more affordable 4K enabled Handycam that will cost around $2,000.

Although the company didn’t announce anything too dramatic in the mobile phone sector – its Xperia Z1 Compact is a shrunken version of the current Z1 that manages to retain the power of its predecessor – it did unveil new audio products that it says will take advantage of new “high-res” audio standards.

Sony also made tentative moves into the wearable technology market, with what it described as its smallest gadget to date – the Core. This is a small sensor intended to be worn in a wrist strap that records movement, social interaction, linking in with Sony’s new LifeLog application.

Intel, meanwhile, was keen to impress on attedees tha it was still relevant, with chief executive Brian Krzanich demonstrating a processorthat can plugs into a memory-card slot in mobile devices.

Earlier, LG took to the stage to remind tech fans that “it’s all possible” and promised a simpler experience for TV users, before going on to unveil 4K TVs (4,000-pixel resolution) and new services.

It had already shown off its 105in curved Ultra HD TV, but it took the opportunity yesterday to reveal other plans for newer, bigger TVs.

Dr Skott Ahn, the company's global president of mobile communications and chief technology officer, was on hand to show what he described as key LG innovations, including a simpler smart TV interface via WebOS, which it bought from HP last year, and LG Home Chat, a new way for smart appliances in your home to communicate. This will allow users to text home and instruct appliances to turn on or off quickly and easily.

Health and fitness
Not to be outdone on the health and fitness front, LG also indicated its intention to try for the wearable technology market, with a new smart activity tracker, the Life Band Touch, and the LG Heart Rate earphones.

The Bluetooth-enabled band will link to most Android phones and iPhones, and also display incoming call alerts. The earphones, meanwhile, measure blood flow from the external part of the ear to determine heart rate and oxygen consumption.

Panasonic was also keen to share its vision of the future for the living room, and to make some lofty statements. Saying that Panasonic was more than a television company, chief executive of Panasonic North America Joe Taylor described it as "a company dedicated to creating a better life, a better world".

That world, it seems, is in ultra high-definition, with 4K TVs and screens planned for everywhere from the living room to business, and the potential to take it into the security industry at some stage.

The president of Panasonic Consumer Electronics, Julie Bauer, was on hand to unveil the company’s latest innovation for the living room, Life+Screen, a new platform for Panasonic’s TVs that will bring voice and face recognition, personalised content, and “redefine what a 21st century TV should be”.

“This year we plan to take things to greater heights,” she said.

Panasonic also showed off a range of high-definition cameras, including a wearable 4K camcorder, and personal care products such as a hairdryer that apparently adds moisture to your hair while it dries it.

It also unveiled a new seven- inch Windows 8 Toughbook tablet that it claims is its lightest to date, and plans for in-car technology that include a new heads up display, and a partnership with Abbey Road Studios to work on in-car audio.

That followed Lenovo’s announcement on Sunday that it would launch a new Windows 8 tablet, the Thinkpad 8, and its lightest 14in ultrabook to date, the Thinkpad X1 carbon.

Also on Sunday, Nvidia revealed its new Tegra K1 product, a chip aimed at the mobile and tablet sector.

Based on Nvidia’s Kepler GPU architecture for PCs, the chip is expected to up the game for mobile devices, making them capable of running more advanced video games.

Chief executive Jen-Hsun Huang said the benefits to games developers would be "immense". "This is real-time computer graphics on a little mobile chip," he said.

Game changers
Other companies were keen to show off inventions they hope will be game changers for consumers, including a smart electric toothbrush from Kolibree which helps you brush your teeth correctly and tells you if you miss any vital parts before sharing the information with family members or dental professionals.

Belkin is hoping to tap into the current popularity of smart home products, with a slow cooker that can be controlled from outside the home, and wireless LED bulbs for your rooms.

It wouldn’t be CES without a few drones though, and as usual, Parrot was happy to oblige. The company showed off its new generation of smartphone controlled drones including the Mini Drone, which can move between the ground and air, and travel short distances, controlled via Bluetooth, and the wifi controlled Jumping Sumo.

The latter is designed to be a little more grounded, although as the name suggests, it can jump on command.

CES runs until January 10th.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist