CES 2008: Emerging technologies

Preview of what's to come in new tech at the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show.

Michelle Thatcher Former Senior Associate Editor, Laptops
Tech expert Michelle Thatcher grew up surrounded by gadgets and sustained by Tex-Mex cuisine. Life in two major cities--first Chicago, then San Francisco--broadened her culinary horizons beyond meat and cheese, and she's since enjoyed nearly a decade of wining, dining, and cooking up and down the California coast. Though her gadget lust remains, the practicalities of her small kitchen dictate that single-function geegaws never stay around for long.
Michelle Thatcher
2 min read

Often, "emerging tech" describes something esoteric, a component or product so far on the cutting edge that its application to everyday life isn't immediately apparent. While we certainly expect to see such technologies on display at this year's CES, the broader emerging category contains developments that are closer to home and easier to grasp--literally.

Best of CES 2007: Powercast CNET Networks
High-tech homes
The allure of the smart home, where everything from appliances to doors and windows to lighting is controlled from a single console (or remotely), grows greater every year. We fully expect to see more home automation products from such major players as Hawking, Eaton, iControl, and Lagotek. Buyers wary of a fully automated home will also be tempted by new solutions--both wired and wireless--that integrate media libraries and deliver streaming music and video throughout the house.

On a slightly smaller scale, increasing consumer comfort with high-tech products has paved the way for ever-more-connected household tools, from Internet-capable refrigerators to robots that help with cleaning and other chores. We expect to see plenty of both at this year's show.

Hands-on with tech
The hacker's DIY philosophy has lots of room to play at CES, where some of the newest products require assembly--in a good way. Our favorite: Bug Labs' BUG, a modular hardware-and-software platform that starts with a small, programmable Linux computer and lets you add self-contained modules--for example, a Webcam--to create the gadget of your dreams. We're also hoping to see new products from Robotis, maker of the build-it-yourself Bioloid robot kit.

Even nongeeks will appreciate the opportunity to rethink human-computer interaction with the LtWv Wrist Remote, a bracelet that detects finger movements and gestures, effectively replacing a mouse or remote.

Wireless still going strong
This time last year, emerging technology was all about life without wires. That concept continues to gain momentum as we see companies like eCoupled, WildCharge, and Powercast making inroads for power that charges your mobile devices without plugging them in. Plenty of other wireless technologies, from streaming high-definition video to USB monitors and electronic payment systems, will also be on display.

Where are they now?
After three years of keeping its technology under close guard, Powercast came to CES 2007 to get consumer and manufacturer attention. The company succeeded so well that it earned our Best of CES Award with its wireless power solution, which transmits a radio frequency whose energy can be "harvested" by small devices like cell phones. The technology poses near-limitless potential, but because Powercast relies on other companies to build its technology into products, consumer applications have been slow in coming. An early partnership with Philips produced LED light sticks and a wireless Christmas tree; products from other manufacturers should hit the market in 2008.