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Gaming Guru

Chris Jones
 

International Consumer Electronics Show: Get a Load of This!

5 January 2005

While Rosie the Robot was nowhere to be found, odds are good even George Jetson would be impressed by the products showcased at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show.

And fortunately for those who love new technologies, you don't have to live in a cartoon world to enjoy the futuristic gadgets on display this week at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Approximately 2,400 companies from 110 countries will be in town for CES, each hoping to snag its share of an industry that generates nearly $109 billion in U.S. sales each year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, the trade show's Arlington, Va.-based organizer.

As evidenced by the latest models of portable digital music players and wireless telephones, tech watchers expect some of today's most-popular products will continue to evolve in 2005, becoming faster, smaller and much more versatile. But the dominant theme at this year's CES will likely be the long-awaited realization of true inter-connectivity between multiple household devices, said Sean Wargo, the association's director of industry analysis.

"We've been talking about it for five years, but now we're seeing the realities," Wargo said Tuesday at a preshow media gathering called CES Unveiled.

Companies such as Microsoft Corp. and Motorola are increasingly rolling out products that enable consumers to shift digital entertainment content away from a personal computer and into other aspects of their lives, Wargo said.

Distributing audio content from room to room through a high-speed Internet connection is now common, he added, with widespread video distribution the next key step as more U.S. homes establish home networks powered by a media server.

So-called "smart kitchen" products are also expected to make a splash in 2005. With broadband connections becoming more popular in U.S. homes, tech experts believe it won't be long before consumers' refrigerators will automatically tell them when their milk has gone sour as their oven simultaneously executes cooking instructions from a recipe it downloaded from the Internet.

Innovation isn't limited to the home, however. As any driver who's ever caught a 70-mile-per-hour glimpse of "The Lion King" while peering inside a nearby sport utility vehicle on the freeway can attest, automobile-based video systems are already popular with American consumers. But new technologies called "telematics" will soon give travelers even more high-tech options when on the open road.

Wargo said devices are on the way that will allow digital music, television programs or movies to be downloaded using a wireless connection to a car or truck, giving drivers the opportunity to "wire up" their vehicles just as they've wired their homes and offices.

Steve Weimar, a vice president with Corona, Calif.-based Rosen Entertainment Systems, came to CES to pitch his company's in-vehicle entertainment products such as the G10 Onboard, a digital video disk/video game console with 25 preprogrammed game titles. Like Wargo, he too sees home-style entertainment systems becoming common in vehicles.

"People are installing complex entertainment systems in their homes," Weimar said. "When they're on the road, they want to take that living room experience with them."

That trend has even sparked an echo: Audiovox Entertainment is marketing a DVD player that can go from the car to the home, just in case the kids' journey home from school ends before the conclusion of the program they were watching on the way, spokesman Jeremy Stoehr said.

CES runs Thursday through Sunday and is closed to the public.