Love it or hate it, technology is here to stay, and this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is the place to see what will be making your life easier -- or more frustrating -- in coming months.
The annual trade show runs Tuesday through Friday at the Las Vegas Convention Center/Las Vegas Hilton and the Venetian. Exhibits featuring 20,000 products will cover 35 football fields. Some 149,000 people are expected to attend.
Panasonic said it will stream the first two days of the festivities for 8 hours each day from the show floor at www.panasonic.com/CES and allow those online to interact with the broadcast.
What to watch for: Tablets may have been all the rage last year, but this year's darling is the ultrabook -- those super-portable laptops that take the weight out of lugging a computer around. Focus also is expected to be on the cloud -- and especially Shodogg's ability to move video seamlessly between screens.
Corning plans to introduce Gorilla Glass 2, paving the way for thinner tablets and smartphones. And LG Electronics plans to show off its first Google TV. The Korea Times reports LG also will be showing off a new Android smartphone featuring Intel's new Medfield chipset. Boy Genius Report says AT&T may unveil a waterproof tablet, the Pantech Element.
As for cameras, with smartphones and tablets carrying enough pixels for consumer use, the attention is turning to professional gear with Nikon introducing the D4 and Sony unveiling 125 Mbps flash cards that will cut write time, enabling the shooter to take more pictures faster.
Even though the show coincides with the North American Auto Show in Detroit, automakers will have a major presence among the techies.
The Consumer Electronics Association, which owns the show, said six of the Top 10 major automakers -- Audi, Chrysler, Ford, GM/OnStar, Kia and Mercedes -- are participating.
"Car manufacturers are exhibiting at the 2012 CES to unveil their latest models, and aftermarket innovations at the 2012 CES will include tablet integration, Internet radio solutions, in-vehicle apps and driver safety technology," said Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive officer of the association, which predicts factory-installed auto technology will increase by 16 percent this year to nearly $7 billion. Currently about 15 percent of U.S. households own a vehicle equipped with a communication/entertainment system such as OnStar or Ford SYNC.
Electric cars will be of major interest, with new charging solutions for homes, condominiums and public facilities. Auto collision avoidance, lane drift, parking, speed monitoring, hands-free, text-to-voice, drowsiness detection and other systems also will be showcased.
Ford CEO Alan Mullaly will be among the keynote speakers. Also on the roster are AT&T's David Christopher, General Electric's Beth Comstock, Facebook's Carolyn Everson, Walmart's Stephen Quinn, Hyundai's Steve Shannon and Unilever's Keith Weed.
Among the government officials expected to participate is Greg Schaffer, acting undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security, who is scheduled to moderate a panel on mobile computer security Tuesday.
One of the big issues that has surfaced this year is online privacy. Attention focused on the issue following tweaks Facebook made to its Web site and outrage directed against the phone-hacking scandal in Britain. Ari Schwartz, a senior policy adviser at U.S. Commerce Department, is to speak on the issue Wednesday.
A Thursday panel discussion will address how technology innovation can spur economic growth.
The show is divided into more than 25 market-specific TechZones. Four were added this year: Eureka Park for innovative start-ups, G.hn for the telecommunications industry, MEMs for companies driving wireless communications and PMA@CES, featuring digital imaging/photography products and services. Other major sections include the iLounge, Gaming Showcase and Digital Health.