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The big trends of CES 2015 (pictures)

CES this year was as crowded and crazy as ever. So what did we learn and which announcements will really matter? Here were the biggest trends and takeaways, told in pictures from the show.

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Jennifer Guevin
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1 of 20 Sarah Tew/CNET

CES 2015 trends

LAS VEGAS -- CES this year was as crowded and crazy as ever. The show floor is absolutely jammed with tech companies large and small vying for attention for everything from cars to iPhone cases. Yet many of the things we saw won't be released for years; some will never come to life.

So what did we learn and which announcements will really matter? Here we've put together a collection of the biggest trends and takeaways, told in pictures from the show.

For a more in-depth summary, read our article "CES 2015: The final word" here.

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2 of 20 David Carnoy/CNET

Over-the-top TV

The traditional cable TV model is being challenged by a string of over-the-air and online streaming video services. Dish's Sling TV (shown in this picture) was one of the biggest announcements at this year's show.

See: CES 2015 -- the year of the cable TV cord cutter

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3 of 20 Sarah Tew/CNET

Giant TVs and quantum dots

The kings of CES are still the giant, impossibly thin TVs that dominate the show floor. 4K, OLED and curved screens are now ubiquitous. But this year we also saw a revival of LCD TVs boosted by quantum dot technology, including this Samsung JS9000.

See: TVs at CES go beyond quantum dots

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4 of 20 Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony's ultra-thin TV

We tend to concern ourselves more with picture quality when it comes to TVs. But if thin is your thing, you're in luck, as manufacturers still compete to squeeze that great picture into the most streamlined packages they can. Sony's X900C is currently the world's thinnest LCD at 0.2 inches thick at its skinniest point.

See: TVs at CES go beyond quantum dots

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5 of 20 Josh Miller/CNET

Self-driving cars

Several car manufacturers showed off cars with autonomous features -- from futuristic self-driving concept cars to real-world-right-now self-parking and collision-avoidance capabilities. Audi took its demo to the extreme, sending a self-driving version of its A7, called Jack, from San Francisco to Las Vegas.

See: Self-driving cars, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto take over CES 2015

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6 of 20 Josh Miller/CNET

Mercedes-Benz concept car

Mercedes-Benz showed off this futuristic concept car, which it called a "living room on wheels." With design inspired by old carriages, these doors open outward from the center.

See: Self-driving cars, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto take over CES 2015

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7 of 20 Josh Miller/CNET

Self-parking the Volkswagen e-Golf

Volkwagen had a working e-Golf on demo in the parking lot outside the Las Vegas Convention Center, showing how the electric car can park itself and back itself out of a tight spot, responding to voice commands delivered via a smartwatch.

See: Self-driving cars, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto take over CES 2015

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8 of 20 Sarah Tew/CNET

Smartwatches

It's no surprise we saw quite a few smartwatches at the show. The Withings Activite Pop, shown here, is one of the best-looking watches we've seen since these devices started coming on the market.

See: Connected, invisible and everywhere: Wearables at CES aim to blend in

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9 of 20 Quell

Fitness trackers and health sensors

While we did see quite a few smartwatches, the more interesting developments in wearables were the fitness trackers, medical gadgets and health sensors that monitor just about any data point you can imagine. Wearable tech right now is all about the sensor. And those sensors are getting smarter and stealthier than ever before.

This picture shows a device called Quell, which uses electrical nerve stimulation to treat chronic pain.

See: Connected, invisible and everywhere: Wearables at CES aim to blend in

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10 of 20 CNET

Misfit Swarovski Shine

Talk about shine. One of the most eye-catching gadgets of the show was this Misfit Swarovski Shine, a fitness tracker that puts a heavy emphasis on two areas where wearables have suffered--style and battery life. A violet-blue version of this device harvests energy when exposed to sunlight, so Misfit says it should never need a charge.

See: Connected, invisible and everywhere: Wearables at CES aim to blend in

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11 of 20 Nick Statt/CNET

Virtual reality

One of the most exciting areas in tech right now is virtual reality. In fact, we're so interested in where VR might be going, we made it the subject of our 13th annual Next Big Thing panel at CES this year.

At the show, we got to test out Crescent Bay, the latest version of the Oculus Rift, which makes some hardware improvements and gives you the ability to move around more naturally while wearing it. Still no word on when it will be commercially available though...

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12 of 20 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

LG Twin Wash

Smart home devices like connected light switches, power plugs, and hubs were ubiquitous at CES 2015.

But the most buzz-generating household tech came from LG when it debuted, of all things, a new washing machine. The LG Twin Wash has one main wash basin, with a second, smaller one in a drawer beneath it, which can be used to simultaneously wash small loads of delicates.

See: A washer in your washer and smart-home sprawl at CES 2015

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13 of 20 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

iHome Smart Plug

Apple didn't have a booth at CES, but that doesn't mean they didn't have a presence. We got a first look at many of the first products that will be compatible with its upcoming HomeKit platform, including this iHome Smart Plug. The Smart Plug lets you use Siri to remotely control any appliance that uses a wall socket. Android users will be glad to hear the device can also link to an Android app.

See: A washer in your washer and smart-home sprawl at CES 2015

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14 of 20 Sarah Tew/CNET

Dell XPS 13

Thanks to new materials, processors and designs, the PCs of this year's show were impressive.

The most notable was the Lenovo LaVie Z, which weighs less than any comparable PC thanks to the magnesium-lithium alloy it's made from.

The best-looking of the show was probably the updated Dell XPS 13, shown here with its super-thin bezel.

See: Lighter laptops, longer-lasting batteries for computers at CES 2015

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15 of 20 Josh Goldman/CNET

Drones

Drones. Everywhere drones. Drone makers are so plentiful at CES 2015, the show gave them their own space called the Unmanned Systems Marketplace. That's where we found the Lantronix and Torquing Group showcasing their aerial photography and HD video nano drone called Zano.Fresh from its ridiculously successful Kickstarter campaign, the palm-sized quadcopter is controlled with your smartphone and can that can "avoid obstacles, hold its position and know exactly where it is in conjunction with your smart device."

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16 of 20 Dong Ngo/CNET

3D printers

3D-printed dresses, 3D-printed toys, 3D-printed food.

3D printing might not have hit the mainstream yet, but the technology is definitely advancing. This year we saw printers that can work with materials such as metal, wood, stone, nylon and, yes, even chocolate. Meanwhile, printer technology is getting faster and simpler to work with.

At $1,499 (about £990, AU$1855, the XYZprinting Nobel 1.0 shown here is currently the most affordable 3D printer on the market using Stereolithography Apparatus technology. SLA printing uses a liquid ultraviolet-curable photopolymer, called resin, and an ultraviolet laser to build a 3D object, layer by layer. It can make objects with much higher detail than other 3D printers.

Neil Young's PonoPlayer
17 of 20 Sarah Tew/CNET

High-resolution audio

Audio at the show was all about cutting cords, with Bluetooth headphones, Bluetooth speakers and multi-room setups to challenge Sonos around every corner.

But a more interesting story was the effort being made by two companies pursuing high-end digital music. Neil Young's Pono Player (shown here) and Sony's reborn ZX2 Walkman both deliver high-resolution digital audio and will be available soon.

See: CES 2015 taught us the wireless audio future is now

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18 of 20 Ty Pendlebury/CNET

360-degree sound

These Samsung WAM7500 speakers were just some of the so-called 360-degree speakers on display at the show.

See: CES 2015 taught us the wireless audio future is now

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19 of 20 Josh Miller/CNET

LG G Flex 2

We didn't see much in the way of new mobile phones, but that's for good reason. Manufacturers now typically hold that news for Mobile World Congress, a mobile-focused show in Barcelona in early March. We'll, of course, cover all the news out of that show.

As for CES, the most interesting phone announced was the LG G Flex 2. The second-generation of the curved smartphone features a 5.5-inch screen, a Snapdragon 810 quad-core processor and 'self-healing' capabilities.

See: Smartphone showing at CES 2015 a preamble for huge MWC to come

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20 of 20 James Martin/CNET

Startups at Tech West

CES is held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. New this year was an entirely new show floor held at a second location, the Sands Expo. As opposed to the enormous booths of tech's heavy hitters, Tech West housed mostly startups showing off up-and-coming technology like drones, 3D printers and wearable tech.

For the first time, CNET had a second stage, where we hosted dozens of these innovative companies. Here's a collection of the coolest things we saw there.

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