Technology & Science

Innovative tech on display at CES 2011

Cutting-edge tablets, smartphones and 3D displays have so far been the focus of the annual 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Cutting-edge tablets, smartphones and 3D displays have so far been the focus of the annual 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

More than 60 technology exhibits and a number of keynote speakers have stimulated the imaginations of thousands of enthusiasts with almost futuristic gadgetry since the annual showcase kicked off Thursday.

CES, which runs until Sunday, has already delivered intrigue and some disappointment — we wade through the sea of tablets to give you the highlights.


Motorola made a splash introducing its new flagship Droid Bionic smartphone and the Xoom — a 10-inch tablet cut from the same mould as much of the competition, though that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Motorola's Droid Bionic will compete at the highest end of the smartphone market. ((Verizon))

The Bionic smartphone, however, is outstanding: a 4.3-inch Android-powered device that is capable of Skype video-calling through the combination of a dual-core processor and 4G LTE connectivity.

CNET writer Nicole Lee was particularly impressed with its display quality, saying that it is "bright, crisp, and the viewing angle was surprisingly wide."

Meanwhile, Dell opted for the less-is-more route, revealing the seven-inch Streak 7 tablet. Despite having a smaller display than the nearly ubiquitous 10-inch format, the Streak maintains similar specifications to other, larger tablets; that could likely mean longer battery life and greater mobility.

Brian Barret at Gizmodo believes that the Streak 7 could find appeal in a market that is now over-saturated by bulkier 10-inch models.

"If there is, in fact, a demand for this peculiar form factor, the Streak 7 has got what it takes to fill that niche."

Google emphasized its presence at the CES by walking the audience through Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" — the operating system that will run on most high-end tablets introduced this week.

The general consensus is that with 3.0, Google has finally designed a user interface esthetically pleasing enough to compete with Apple's mobile iOS while maintaining the functionality of previous versions.

The official Google Mobile blog embedded a short preview of the upcoming update to the user interface.

Both T-Mobile and Verizon boasted their new 4G LTE mobile networks, capable of much faster and more consistent speeds relative to the current 3G implementation.

If history is any indication however, Canadians will have to wait a while longer before we can test drive an equivalent network.

Research in Motion shot down rumours of long delays for the PlayBook tablet, stating that the Wi-Fi only version is still scheduled for release early this year.

"That's the word from the company itself, which was forced to issue a hasty clarification after its announcement of a 4G version of the device launching this summer raised fears," writes Digital Daily's John Paczkowski.

Microsoft keynote

The original Surface technology has been slow to pick up, but the newest version has already been purchased by some hotels and banks. ((Microsoft))

Touch-sensitive technology continues to find its way onto every product that can support it. In addition to the expected overflow of tablets and smartphones, Microsoft has announced the latest iteration of its large form Surface tables as well as the new Touch Mouse peripheral.

Similar to Apple's Magic Mouse, the top exterior of the mouse allows for simple gesture control like swiping, panning or zooming. Unlike Apple's equivalent, the mouse utilizes BlueTrack technology that Microsoft claims allows you to "track virtually anywhere, anytime."

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer also demonstrated facial recognition technology for the new XBOX Kinect peripheral. However Engadget blogger Paul Miller found that "the actual facial tracking and body tracking worked, but the motions seemed a little minimal."

The press demonstration was still in early development but the update — dubbed Avatar Kinect — will be pushed to XBOX Live Gold subscribers this coming spring.


Ford has been silent regarding its new electric car, but intrigued readers with this image. ((Facebook))

Car manufactures have become a mainstay at the annual show, this year represented most notably by Ford and Audi, along with many others.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally is expected to reveal an all-electric Focus during his keynote presentation today at 2 p.m. PT. The company's Facebook page teased us earlier in the week with a single photo.

Also on-site was luxury electric automaker Tesla with its upcoming release, the Model S. Touting up to a 480-kilometre range on a 45 minute charge, the Model S is rumoured to be for order in 2012 for a relatively reasonable price of around $50,000 US.


3D news was headlined by glasses-free 3D displays, but Sony took a more ironic approach to the issue of bulky, distracting glasses by previewing a prototype 3D headset.

The concept model contains two 720p interior screens and simulated full 5.1-channel surround sound. But any kind of consumer availability remains far in the future.

Nilay Patel, who went hands-on for Engadget, says he "would definitely wear these over 3D glasses any day of the week."

Sony also introduced a line of 3D-centric personal devices including camcorders, cameras, a notebook and an all-in-one portable 3D Blu-ray player and 10-inch display.

Similarly, Lenovo showed off the L2363d, a 23-inch 3D display with an embedded 3D webcam.

Despite under-whelming interest in 3D thus far, the entertainment industry and hardware manufacturers appear persistent in their goal to incorporate the technology into our daily lives.

Convenience and availability has been large obstacle in adoption, so the creative integration seen at CES has been a positive step — but pricing will always be the deal-breaker.

CES 2011 continues through Sunday and with a number of presentations still upcoming, we anticipate a coming reveal that overshadows the rest, fuelling our imaginations until next year.