Tuesday, January 11, 2011
CES' glimpse into future of gadgetry


The Consumer Electronics Show is an annual geek tradition, as thousands descend upon Las Vegas, Nevada, for a weekend of sweet devices in a city usually known for its vices. It's the Big Kahuna of gadget gatherings, but mostly industry insiders get to go each year. The rest of us must be content with observing from the outside.


We wanted to do something different and fun to involve everyone in CES this year, so we decided to use a special Twitter account, @cnnireportPRJCT, to have a real-time chat and funnel our findings together with CNN's. It was an experiment, and we truly learned a lot from talking to everyone; iReporters and Twitter users had some great analysis. Our tech folks narrowed down five of the convention's big ideas, from 3-D and Android tablets to celebrities and gimmicks. The futurism and creativity really got our imaginations going. So, let's take a look at iReporters' perspectives on consumer electronics:


Mobile phones
We put out the question: What will phones look like in 20 years? Twitter and iReport user Steve Garfield wrote and said "In 20 years there will be no phones." We asked him to explain in greater detail and he said, "I hardly use my iPhone for voice calls. I think devices will have voice capabilities, but they won't be primarily phones for voice." Twitter user @rmpenguino added to this thread, "Voice communication technology will be incorporated into every device as a secondary function." Some of our other iReport friends chimed in via Twitter, like Kathi Cordsen of Fullerton, California, who predicts smaller devices: "It will be as small as a button, something you you could clip on your lapel." Progress, she says. On the other hand, Jason Asselin of Iron Mountain, Michigan, said he has a basic phone and can only imagine what will happen. "What will phones look like 20 years from now? I have a simple prepaid phone, I can only imagine they will be touch screen."


This year, Android devices were some of the most valuable commodities at CES. "I love my Android-powered phone," wrote @czautcke. "Has the apps I find I need to use it for productivity." @EJ1969 said, "I like the Droid OS and am looking for an iPad competitor." He said he was interested in the HTC Scribe and other Android tablets. Android tablets such as the Motorola Xoom were one of the most talked-about things there.


Tablet computing
Tablets are hot, as evidenced by the interest in the iPad. @beyrouti asked about iPad 2 cases that may have been spotted at CES. Our tech reporters were working on a story about the rumors, so it all worked out. iReporter Steve Mussey, a doctor from Fredericksburg, Virginia, said he was looking for a tablet device with pen that he could use in his office. Mussey skewered tablet technology (and 3-D as well) in short cartoons he put together and submitted to CNN iReport. Meanwhile, his son, Andrew, known as @CESLive2011, was on the hunt for Android everything.


Microsoft products
Windows 7's operating system for mobile devices made an appearance, and was promoted by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. From reading the tweets, one gets the feeling that Android and Apple were stealing the show. @AntwoneLopezwrote, "I don't like Microsoft products," and followed up to say, "because they are not attractive for me. Interface, logo, typography. In general, they seem to be products for bored people." @albert80 said, "I love the Xbox and the Kinect, but the Windows phone is not my fave. I use an iPhone. ... Yes I prefer Apple products a little more but I have had a little itch to try the Android phones." @markgimenez listed a bunch of Apple products he owns and said, "Microsoft computers are becoming obsolete."


Three dimensions

3-D technology is a hot topic of conversation, and we wanted to see what people think about it. We aren't sure yet, but there seemed to be some inclinations that people think it's campy and fun, or at least it's being marketed that way. iReporter Jon Regas told us he is a passionate 3-D enthusiast and sent us images of his Viewmaster collection through the years via Twitter. Meanwhile, at the convention, Sony held a keynote presentation about 3-D devices and also some gaming, and brought a lot of attention with an Elvis impersonator for the King's 75th birthday. iReporter Zennie Abraham of Oakland, California, took a look at the Sony Bloggie 3-D camera, which he described as "very impressive." Meanwhile, Chris Morrow of San Diego, California, spotlighted the Elvis impersonator before going on to investigate tablet devices.


Texting (and tweeting) machines

In response to the concept of tweeting and texting appliances that came up several times at CES, we asked what devices people think should or should not be able to send out messages. Creative people answered the call. Twitter user @SonnySteelGrave wrote back, "a phone should be designed for diabetics; should be able to test their sugars with the phone and send their results." iReporter Cordsen joked, "I would NOT want my coffee maker tweeting, why, because then people would know how late I get up in the morning." Twitter user Miguel4000 suggested this power be given to "my (oven), telling me my roast beef is done."


Ye olde personal computer
iReporter Bernardus Stroomer lamented about the complexities of the modern personal computer, and even posted an iReport about it. Twitter user @apple_fangirl cited her HP Touchsmart 300 touchscreen computer as a device that could use improvement. "It's just buggy. Random shutdowns, slowdowns. Love my MacBook Pro, though." Andrew Mussey, the Android enthusiast, said he tracked down a Motorola Atrix 4G phone that converts into a "webtop" by docking into a computer shell.


What do you think?
After reading all this, what do you think about these ideas and predictions? What devices drive you crazy, and what trends would you like to see unfold? Share your vision for the gadget-crazy future in the comments area below.

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