CES – the Consumer Electronics Show – took place last week in Las Vegas. The idea behind CES is that it’s the place for tech companies to show off their brand new innovations and products.
Ever the tech fans, broadbandchoices kept a close eye on the news to see what was going on over in Nevada. It turned out to not be a year for new innovations and inventions, but more for new applications of emerging technologies, and the next stepping stones in electronics. Oh, and everything was smart.
Here's the stuff that caught our eye - from the good, to the bad, to the weird.
The good: We're all about high definition telly right now. You couldn't move at CES for 4K HDR TV sets - that's incredibly high-res, with new HDR technology that brings out more colours. Netflix and YouTube have been kind enough to announce support for it in their apps too.
The bad: Predictably, 8K screens have popped up as well. 8K is the perfect resolution for, say, a planetarium… but it's really not necessary for your living room.
The weird: Everyone's talking about LG's paper-thin foldable TV screen. It's weird, but in a good way. Companies like Samsung have been working on the tech for years, but LG has beaten them to the punch in creating an actual product. You can roll the screen up, guys!
The good: It's been a good year for VR. A very good year, in fact. HTC showed off its new Vive headset for Steam VR; and Google joined forces with Lenovo to create a pretty cool augmented reality smartphone.
The bad: The price of the Oculus Rift was a bit of a low point. Oculus finally revealed how much its ground-breaking Rift headset will set you back, and it's a whopping $599. So… not particularly consumer-friendly.
The weird: GoPro talked all about the 360-degree VR camera it has in the works, designed to be a mainstream device in the same way its famous action cam is. There are no doubt a lot of very creative filmmakers out there who'll make some amazing stuff with the VR one - but to most of us, the concept seems a little odd.
The good: Gadgets are threatening to completely take over our wrists. Casio's outdoor smart watch proved rather popular, and there are some quite lovely light-up bracelets that teenagers can use to communicate with their friends.
The bad: The thing about smart watches is that they still haven't got the whole fashion thing worked out. Gaming hardware company Razer put out its Nabu Watch: a black and luminous green monstrosity that looks like the ones kids wear in primary school. Huawei, meanwhile, premiered the Jewel and Elegant - the first smartwatches aimed primarily at women. They feature pretty colours and Swarovski crystals around the clock face, and basically no information about their technical specs. Cheers Huawei, no one understands women quite like you do.
The weird: So, so many. Wearables ruled the roost this year and we got some odd ones. There's a smart shoe that measures your footsteps and collects data about your feet; a smart bra that links to your fitness tracker; and a smart… body covering of some kind that gets a little too up close and personal for our taste. Oh, and Samsung's smart 'wellness belt' that monitors your waistline, which is unfortunately named the Welt.
The good: Cars were everywhere at CES, and they're getting smarter. Vehicles abound that drive themselves, talk to you, connect to the 'net, and so much more. The star of the show was a joint effort from Ford and Amazon: a concierge called Alexa who connects your car and your home.
The bad: Changzhou First International Trade got a bit of a shock while it was premiering its funky one-wheeled hoverboards: the exhibition booth was raided by US marshals. A Silicon Valley company had filed a patent infringement claim, saying the hoverboards were made with copycat tech, so all the vehicles got confiscated. Yikes.
The weird: How would you like to go for a ride in a smartphone-controlled human-sized drone? No? All righty then.
Appliances and homeware
The good: The most intriguing homeware gadgets came from some unlikely sources. Turntables for vinyl are seeing a comeback, including a very cool gramophone-style one. And the laundry business won a few points too - there's now a smart washing machine that learns the best way to clean your threads, and a handy one with an extra door to put in laundry you forgot about.
The bad: Samsung has made a smart refrigerator, because of course it has. The Samsung Family Hub has a big screen on its door, cameras inside watching your food go off, and the ability to order groceries. It's kind of asking a lot from a kitchen appliance.
The weird: Again, homeware at CES was a haven of weird. Our particular favourite was the Sensorwake, an "olfactory alarm clock" that wakes you up with a scent of your choice, including croissant, espresso, and a jungle.