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April 24, 2014

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2014 CES: Must-see gadgets of the trade show

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Steve Marcus

A Sony 85-inch Bravia XBR-X950B 4K television plays video after being unveiled during a Sony news conference at the International Consumer Electronics Show on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Las Vegas.

The 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show kicked off at the Las Vegas Convention Center today featuring more than 3,200 exhibitors touting the latest technological creations across 15 categories.

From wearable tech to intelligent toothbrushes to sharper-than-life HD screens, we scoured this year’s big reveals for the most creative gadgets and innovations to look out for on the trade-show floor:

    • 4K TVs

      3D TVs: out. 4K TVs: very, very in. These Ultra HD televisions made an appearance at last year’s trade show, but manufacturers like Samsung, Sony and LG have made big strides in their high-res displays over the past year, upping quality as prices for the consumer continue to decrease. Size-wise, Vizio might be leading the pack with its 120-inch Reference Series Ultra HD LED Smart TV, clocking in at 6 feet high, nearly 9 feet wide and weighing more than 100 pounds.

      This morning, Samsung introduced its innovative 105-inch curved Ultra HD display and announced plans to release smaller, more living room-friendly models, as well. The curved display features four times the resolution of HDTVs and is designed to mimic the feel of 3D IMAX screens — minus the pesky glasses.

      But what to watch on these flatscreen behemoths? Netflix is expected to launch a streaming in 4K feature any day now, so get ready to get up close and personal with the next season of “House of Cards.”

    • Smart appliances

      Ever wish your refrigerator could tell you what to cook for dinner? Turns out we’re not too far from that. LG’s new Home Chat smart platform allows users to control their LG home appliances, including refrigerators, vacuums and washing machines via text and voice commands. You can even ask your fridge what groceries its out of — in person at home and through text while at the supermarket — ensuring that you’ll never forget to buy milk again.

      Other cool household gadgets include the Belkin Crock-Pot WeMo Smart Slow Cooker, which can be controlled remotely via smartphone and hits shelves in March, and the Kolibree Internet-connected toothbrush, which helps track your brushing habits over time through a smartphone app for maximized minty freshness.

    • Gaming

      Video game companies typically skip out on CES for conferences like E3, but a few still stop by to flex their tech muscles. Software developers Valve hinted at their foray into hardware at 2013 CES and are finally unveiling the first wave of its Steam Machine gaming system this week. The company announced an array of systems today based on its Steam platform, which has about 65 million users, being built by 14 PC manufacturers.

      The systems will include a Linux-based operating system (it will be able to run Windows, as well), unique controllers and high-powered hardware to run the 250 games that Valve and its publishers already distribute on the Steam game network. The 13 machines, which are expected to hit shelves this year, are $499 to $6,000 apiece.

      Elsewhere, Sony unveiled its new PlayStation Now cloud-based gaming service, which will give users immediate access to older generations of Sony game consoles, including PlayStation 2 and 3. The service is in beta testing and is expected to roll out this year.

      PrioVR may soon have gamers bidding farewell to button-pushing with its full-body wearable PC gaming suit. The system hooks up to a player’s head, chest, arms and legs and uses sensors to move a game’s character and react to its environment. The device, touted to be the most accurate motion-sensing controller of its kind, is still raising funds through Kickstarter, though developers are aiming for a full suit retail price of $400.

    • Wearable tech

      Smartwatches and fitness trackers were all the rage at 2013 CES, and this year the field of wearable tech has expanded well beyond jogging gear. Intel’s new batch of microprocessors are expected to power a fleet of new smart devices, including a Bluetooth headset with a Siri-like assistant feature, earbuds with fitness tracking sensors and watches with “geo fencing” technology that help parents keep track of their children in a given area.

      If you can’t be parted from your smartphone, the Razer Nabu smart band is a next step up that tracks activity like movement, sleep and location, as well as delivers texts and email alerts — all with an estimated seven to 10 days of battery life.

      For sports enthusiasts, the new $149 Zepp sensor helps improve your game in golf, tennis and baseball by using 3D tracking to measure and analyze your swing. The device snaps onto your glove, club, bat or racket and is available at Zepp.com or at Apple stores.

    • This image provided by Roku Inc., shows a screen frame grab of Roku's service. Internet streaming platform company Roku Inc. is launching a line of TVs that plays back video from services like Netflix without requiring an extra set-top box.

      Roku TV

      Roku — best known for its Internet-to-TV streaming device — has its first foray into smart-TV territory with Roku TV. In a similar vein to Xbox One, the device streamlines the streaming experience by consolidating entertainment content, including TV shows, video games, streaming content, Blu-ray content and streaming music, to a single device.

      Its remote will have about half the buttons of other devices and provide access to 1,200 channels of TV shows, live sports, news and other programming on its Roku Channel Store. The set also can be controlled via a Roku app for Android and Apple devices. The TVs, which are 32 to 55 inches, hit stores this fall.

    Follow Andrea Domanick on Twitter at @AndreaDomanick and fan her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AndreaDomanick.

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