CES 2014: Wearables, connected appliances, automated cars, and curved TVs

This year's International CES in Las Vegas once again showcased the latest and greatest in tech. Here's what it all means.

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LAS VEGAS -- That's a wrap: CES 2014 is history.

As the largest global gathering for the consumer electronics and technology industry, the International CES is always viewed as a barometer for where tech is headed in the coming year. To be sure, part of that trend is that many once cutting-edge products -- mobile phones, tablets, PCs, and TVs -- have begun to enter middle age. This year's upgrades are looking more evolutionary than revolutionary -- but also more approachable and mainstream than ever before.

But other categories -- car tech, home automation, and especially wearable technology -- were on fire this year. From small startups to global behemoths, companies small and large are working transition these nascent tech verticals from their geeky hobbyist phase to mainstream adoption.

Here's what grabbed the attention of CNET editors this year, across each of the major product categories at the show.

Wearable technology

It seemed as if every company at this year's CES had a wearable product to show off. From LG to Sony, Pebble to Martian, smartwatches and health monitors were everywhere -- as were Google Glass wannabes . Intel even showed a smart onesie for monitoring infants -- more proof that humans are going to be intimately tied to technology before we can crawl.

Read: Wearables at CES 2014: Many, many small steps

The Pebble Steel.
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Smart appliances, connected home:

GE , LG , Samsung and Whirlpool all showcased new ideas for connected large appliances at the show this year, from fridge texting to a full-blown ecosystem for smart home devices. No one has nailed it yet, but they all clearly see value in the idea, and likely also its inevitability. On the smaller smart home device front, everyone seems to have a connected household gadget, but the most impactful trend might come from mainstream retailers like Lowe's , Home Depot , and Staples .

Read: Smart homes get smarter at CES 2014

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Car tech

Cars may not be truly "driverless" yet, but they are becoming much more autonomous for various parts of the journey -- be it finding a parking space or low-speed driving. Inside the car, meanwhile, the cabins are becoming ever more connected, with an array of apps and wireless connectivity that would make your smartphone jealous.

Read: At CES 2014, the cars drive you

Toyota's hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle.
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Gaming

Usually, the big gaming news waits for its own show -- summer's E3 in Los Angeles. But CES 2014 delivered some of its biggest gaming news in years: the unveiling of the new line of Steambox gaming PCs; and (arguably the biggest one) the announcement of PlayStation Now, Sony's forthcoming streaming game service.

Read: Gaming finally has its day at CES 2014

iBuyPower's Steam Machine.
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Televisions

CES has always been about bigger and better televisions, and 2014 was no exception. 4K -- sets with quadruple the resolution of existing 1080p TVs -- has replaced 3D as the new "coming whether you want it or not" feature. Curved and "bendable" TVs were all the rage, as were Smart TVs that emphasized better, simpler user interfaces -- as exemplified by LG's WebOS-powered TVs and new Roku TVs from Hisense and TCL. Meanwhile, short throw projectors -- which project giant images on nearby walls rather than across the room -- were also on display, priced at $1,800 to $40,000.

Read: TVs of CES 2014: LCDs get curved, 4K, bendy... and better

Samsung bendable TV
Samsung showed off a TV that goes from flat to curved with the touch of a button. Sarah Tew/CNET

Living room tech: Video and audio

The home theater or home audio categories at CES 2014 were more about incremental improvements and better services than radical rethinking -- but the result looks to be better products with more mass market appeal across the board. From streaming everything -- Sony's forthcoming cloud TV service, Dish's "Virtual Joey" apps, Netflix going to 4K -- to cordcutter-friendly over-the-air DVRs (finally), video content choices are more widespread than ever. And on the audio front, nearly every company had a pedestal soundbar, and wireless speakers were ubiquitous.

The Dish app running on an LG Smart TV -- it creates a virtual set-top box, the 'Virtual Joey.' Dish

Read: CES 2014's home theater gear is the same, but better, and that's a good thing

Computers and hardware

Microsoft no longer attends CES, and most of the PC vendors aren't on the show floor -- but they're in attendance throughout Las Vegas in hotel suites, mini trade shows, panel discussions and parties. Lenovo came on strong with a slew of new models, and hybrids continued to be the favored Windows 8 form factor, as designers keep trying to perfect the 2-in-1 concept.

Read: Computers and hardware at CES 2014: Hybrids, Chromebooks, and 4K screens

Lenovo Yoga 2.
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Camera and photography

The market for entry-level cameras is all but disappearing as consumers increasingly use smartphones for convenience photography. But the category is adopting the features from across the electronics spectrum to stay competitive: more Wi-Fi connectivity, 4K resolution, and more wearable models. (Expect more camera news from the CP+ show in Japan next month.)

Read: For cameras, camcorders, CES 2014 brings more Wi-Fi, wearables, 4K, fewer models

Nikon D3300
The Nikon D3300 at CES 2014. CNET

Smartphones

It was easier to find cases, accessories, and wearables at CES 2014 rather than new and notable mobile phones. That's because manufacturers prefer to launch their latest superphones at the Mobile World Congress trade show in February or at their own dedicated press events. Arguably the biggest phone news, though, was the announcement from renegade T-Mobile CEO John Legere that the upstart carrier would buy out the early termination fees for new customers coming from Sprint, Verizon, or AT&T -- an aggressive move that could spark a price war among US wireless companies.

Read: At CES 2014, the next wave of smartphone tech on display

Sony's Xperia Z1S at CES 2014.
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Tablets

As with smartphones, most big-name tablet releases sat out CES 2014. But there were exceptions: Samsung debuted two Pro Android tablets, and the Asus Transformer Book TD300 runs both Android and Windows.

Read: Industry leaders set trends for tablets at CES 2014

Lenovo's ThinkPad 8 tablet.
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