Analysis: Innovation on show in Vegas

E&T finds that the consumer electronics industry has plenty of new products to offer, if only it can sell them.

Every year the consumer technology industry descends on Las Vegas. This year's Consumer Electronics Show, however, was expected to be muted in comparison with previous shows, and indeed there were some notable absences - for example heavy hitters Belkin and Philips.

Despite this, there appeared little evidence that the consumer electronics sector is yet experiencing the effects of the credit crunch and the subsequent belt-tightening measures taken by many consumers in the United States and Europe.

In fact, this year has seen some notable innovations and advances in displays, audio, video, computing, wireless and web connectivity.

Companies such as Samsung, Mitsubishi and Sony all demonstrated 3D technology on LCD displays. Samsung unveiled a 22in, 120Hz 3D monitor compatible with Nvidia's new Geforce 3D Vision graphics card.

"Combining this 3D technology with Samsung's LCD monitor creates an optimal viewing tool - for uses ranging from teaching and using 3D modelling to playing video games," said RA Atanus, vice president of product marketing for Samsung Electronics' Information Technology Division.

Nvidia's 3D Vision is a combination of high-tech wireless glasses, a high-power IR emitter and advanced software that automatically converts over 350 games to stereoscopic 3D without additional patches. It is designed to work with the new pure Samsung and ViewSonic 120Hz LCD monitors, Mitsubishi DLP HDTVs, and Lightspeed Design's DepthQ HD 3D projector.

Active shutter LCD glasses are the key. Compared with passive glasses, they double the resolution per eye (at 60Hz) with ultra-wide viewing angles. They work by alternately opening and closing the left and right liquid crystal, using an infrared transmitter and receiver to synchronise the display with the glasses. Consequently, the left eye only sees the video for the left eye, and the right eye only sees the video for the right eye. The glasses charge through a standard USB port, and can last for a week.

Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, LG and others demonstrated new Blu-ray disc players that would be able to support the upcoming BD-Live upgrade to the format. This requires compliant players to have an Ethernet connection, Java scripting and 1GB of local storage.

As expected, netbook and ultraportable computers featured strongly. The success of the Asus Eee PC has encouraged many companies to release budget and highly portable versions of their own devices for 2009. Most of these have at their core Intel's energy-efficient Atom processor.

Sony introduced its first netbook - albeit at the higher end of the market - in the form of a Vaio portable computer that is small and light enough to be carried in a jacket pocket or handbag.

The Vaio P Series is designed to help Sony realise the popularity of netbooks, which was a huge growth sector in 2008. It weighs 640g, has an 8in screen and includes a wide range of radio technology for communication services. In addition to the common Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, Sony's netbook includes 3G as standard, along with a GPS receiver for satellite navigation.

But what happened to the downturn? It is probable that the scale of CES and the breadth of innovation have not yet felt the effects of the true state of the economy. Many participants would have made their plans at least a year in advance - and therefore spending would have already been allocated. Next year could tell a different story.

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