A Vegas vision of tomorrow today

From gesture-controlled TVs to a super-sized mobile that blends smartphone with tablet features, the future of technology is on display this week at the Consumer Electronics Show.

The Samsung Electronics booth at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Ethan Miller / Getty Images / AFP
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From smart televisions to super-sized mobiles that blur the line between smartphone and tablet, the future of technology has been on display in Las Vegas this week.

Tech trailblazers Innovations in the marketplace

txtRng;) sells a US$29.99 (Dh110.15) thumb ring that claims to make it easier to use touchscreen devices, such as when drawing on tablets or flipping pages of an e-book.

Prize Monkey provides technology that delivers real prizes, including iPods and flash drives, through vending machines when people use their smartphone.

Zipbuds sells tangle-resistant headphones and earbuds, for $39.99, that are in the shape of a zipper.

More than 2,500 technology makers and retailers have descended on the desert city to display their latest wares at the International Consumer Electronics Show.

While the world's largest technology trade show promotes the growth of the US$186 billion (Dh683.2bn) electronics industry within the US, it also attracts plenty of attention from players in the UAE who help to shape buying trends in the Emirates.

"There are a lot of rumours about what's coming out," says Ziad Matar, the head of Middle East and Central Asia operations for the chip maker Qualcomm.

"We'll definitely see some very cool devices," says Mr Matar, who is attending the event.

Retail executives at Jumbo Electronics and Jacky's Electronics say the big trends from this year's show centre on high-tech improvements in existing categories such as TV sets and smartphones.

Major manufacturers have been rolling out new models in recent days, although they have been pushing different types of technologies for their TVs.

LG came out boasting to have the world's largest organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TV set, at 55 inches, claiming it generates more natural colours than any other TV on the market. Samsung then announced it had eliminated the need for the colour filter used by OLED sets and unveiled a 55-inch "super OLED" TV set, which can be controlled via speech and gestures.

Sony, meanwhile, has jumped into the fray with a 55-inch high-definition prototype that uses a crystal LED display.

But much of the focus was on LG, which also introduced its much-anticipated Google TV. This set lets users download apps and search the internet from their armchairs but goes further than many Web-enabled models on the market today by multitasking - searching for content, displaying social networking sites and allowing TV functions to be used at the same time.

LG's Google TV can also convert any 2D programme or movie into 3D and includes the new Magic Remote, which can control the set via voice commands and hand gestures.

In the smartphone space, more models have better cameras and the ability to harness 4G and long-term evolution (LTE) mobile networks, which make it faster to download music and watch online video compared with many of today's handsets.

"Features that allow consumers to interface with the UAE's strengthening wireless infrastructure such as built-in Wi-Fi, 4G and LTE will be a hit," says Ann Mack, the director of trend spotting at JWT, a marketing and communications company.

Nokia unveiled its Lumia 900, which features a forward-facing camera and is the Finnish company's first model that includes Windows Phone software and LTE connectivity for higher-speed downloads and streaming. Yet the phone was designed "specifically with the US in mind", says Chris Weber, the president of Nokia in North America, so there may be different features if it is launched in the Emirates.

Sony announced a new Xperia S smartphone for the UAE this week that features a 12-megapixel camera, which is as sharp as some standalone digital cameras. It is also PlayStation-certified, meaning it can access the company's video gaming store. It should be available globally this quarter.

Mr Matar, who calls this latest generation of mobiles "super-smartphones", expects them to be increasingly popular this year with business people "and not just the consumer segment".

Samsung has high hopes for its new handsets, which the South Korean company says will help it become the world's largest mobile maker this year - ending Nokia's reign at 14 years.

Its new super-sized Galaxy Note is a 5.3-inch mobile that runs on Google's Android software but, because of its big screen, blurs the line between the traditional smartphone and the tablet. It also features a stylus for writing - the first high-end smartphone with this feature, some tech analysts say.

But other devices to be released this year, such as an update to Apple's popular iPad, are expected to be announced once the show wraps up - as not all of the biggest technology manufacturers attend the event.

Apple is well known in the industry for not having an official booth at the Las Vegas show each year, although Reuters reports more than 250 employees from the company registered to attend this year.

Another major name, Microsoft, is pulling out of the show after this year because its product-release cycle does not match the timing of the event.

So look out for more announcements to come.

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