CES 2013: Five trends to watch in Las Vegas

Attendees look at components for an electric vehicle

Attendees look at components for an electric vehicle at the Panasonic booth at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center January 12, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology trade show, runs through January 13 and features more than 3,100 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to about 140,000 attendees. (Credit: Getty Images)

Get ready for a gadget extravaganza. One of the largest consumer electronics shows opens next week when tech companies gather in Las Vegas to show off their biggest, boldest ideas of the year.

International CES — which was the debut stage for the VCR and high-definition television — has admittedly lost some of its cachet in recent years.

Former headliner Microsoft won't have a booth at this year's event, which is sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association. Apple doesn't even attend.


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Despite those conspicuous absences, techies will still tune in to CES for a peek at the technological innovation on tap for 2013.

Here are five trends to watch at the show, which runs from Tuesday to Friday.

1. More automakers are coming to the show this year than ever as cutting-edge technology continues to trickle down from luxury lines. Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Kia and Subaru are among those talking about features that make the drivers' seat feel even more like a cockpit.

"Cars are becoming rolling computers," said Tom Coughlin of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Cars already have rich sensors to collect diagnostic data about how a car is performing, but automakers are also making vehicles that work more closely with such consumer gadgets as smartphones. Developers are now making apps that drivers can download directly into their vehicles to customize their cars.

Carmakers are also expected to introduce more features that allow vehicles to do more of the driving, building on automation technology such as collision avoidance and automatic parking features. Lexus is among those expected to introduce vehicles than can do more with less driver input.

2. There's always a push to make screens better. This year is no different. Tech trend watchers expect to see televisions get clearer, sharper and cheaper. The screen resolution on cellphones is also expected to get better, particularly as screen sizes creep up and over the five-inch range.

Screens on laptops, computers and other devices will continue to slim down while manufacturers also show off ways to make them more energy-efficient.

3. Television is generally seen as the area of consumer electronics that's most ripe for innovation and disruption. Samsung has already announced one major debut for this year's show: the "Evolution Kit," which will let existing Web-enabled televisions get easy access to new and upcoming features.

Consumers should expect to see more on-demand video integration than ever at this year's show. Whether it's through external devices or software built into the TV itself, consumers have made it clear that they want greater control over what they're watching.

Google and Microsoft have jumped into the market with the Internet-enabled Google TV and the video apps on Microsoft's Xbox Live service, but more competitors are expected to emerge.

4. Tech companies are also looking for more intuitive ways for users to interact with their devices, putting aside the remote control in favor of something that won't get lost in the couch cushions — your body.

EyeSight, an Israeli company, will be presenting technology that makes machines more sensitive to the slightest gesture by a user.

"These are not shoulder-level hand motions," EyeSight Marketing Director Liat Rostock said. "It's all down to the wrist level, . . . down to the resolution of the fingertip."

The next evolution of this technology will be built into televisions or laptops, making it cheaper for consumers.

5. While CES is mostly about the gadgets, content is now a growing focus of the show as advertisers work to reach consumers on more devices.

It's a particularly important show for Yahoo, a former advertising leader that is under new leadership — Marissa Mayer was named chief executive last year — and fighting a declining position in the market. Despite losing its lead to Google and Facebook, analysts say it could mount a comeback with a solid pitch to advertisers on how to reach consumers through the latest technology.

"They're still in a strong position — Number 3 is not such a bad place to be," said Clark Frederickson, vice president at the online advertising analysis firm eMarketer.

Expect this trend to last far beyond 2013.

"Fragmentation of media is a huge disrupter today," Frederickson said. "In a lot of cases, people look to shows like this to try to get a sense of where consumers are going to go next."

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