Electronic Design

Hot Tech Happens In Vegas, But It Won't Stay There

Growth in the consumer electronics industry over the past year has been phenomenal. Total 2005 factory sales of consumer electronics products surpassed $125 billion, up 11% from $112 billion in 2004. Future growth looks promising as well. Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) Market Research forecasts a healthy 7% growth in 2006 as consumers continue to embrace the ever-increasing array of ?must-have? products and technologies produced by this dynamic industry.

Five Technologies to Watch, a CEA publication, highlights five up-and-coming technologies that will change our industry and the world: recordable high-definition content, robotics, digital home studios, video gaming, and an army of new visual displays. These technologies and more were on display throughout a record 1.6 million net square feet of exhibit space during the 2006 International CES, the world's largest tradeshow for consumer technology, last week in Las Vegas.

The International CES is the launch pad for many new products and innovations each year. For example, high-definition television (HDTV) debuted at the 1998 show. The past year witnessed significant changes in the analog-to-digital television (DTV) transition, and the coming year will mark another milestone for HDTV. CEA expects HDTVs to outsell traditional analog television sets in 2006. More than 32.5 million DTV products already have been sold in the U.S. since their introduction, marking a consumer investment of more than $45.8 billion.

The country is going digital, and consumers already are delighting at the dazzling array of DTV products, particularly flat-panel displays. Plasma and LCD televisions are flying off the shelves, and prices for these eye-catching sets are taking these products into the mainstream. The HD revolution will extend far beyond television in the future.

As CEA stated in Five Technologies to Watch, ?a new age is about to dawn with the widespread ability to receive and record high-definition content at home.? It should be no surprise that the next generation of recording and playback devices already was in the works when HDTV hit the market. And, consumers soon will have a variety of HD content options to choose from.

First developed by Sony, Blu-ray Disc (BD) is completely compatible with existing DVDs. Several movie studios and broadcast networks officially support it, like Sony Pictures, Disney, Miramax, Touchstone, GM, and ESPN. HD DVD is another option developed by Toshiba and NEC. It's supported by Sanyo, Microsoft, New Line Cinema, Paramount Pictures, Warner Brothers, and Universal Studios. This will be an interesting segment to watch over the year.

The video game console market will be another exciting category to watch in 2006. The launch of new consoles in late 2005 and early 2006 will keep this market front and center throughout the year. Shipment revenues of consoles and portable game platforms are expected to reach $5 billion this year. But next-generation consoles aren't the only market driver. The games themselves contribute to the category's success. Overall, the video game business will be working and playing hard in 2006, much to consumers' delight.

Robotics and portable navigation also are expected to make waves in 2006 and beyond. While both maintain only a small percentage of total consumer electronics dollars, over the next five years they should become a household standard. So what tasks might these robots perform? CEA surveyed consumers to determine their least favorite domestic activities and the amount of time spent doing them.

Surprisingly, the most time-consuming chores weren't the most dreaded. For example, respondents reported spending an average of 2.31 hours cooking meals each week, but cooking ranked ninth on the list of their most dreaded chores. Conversely, consumers reported spending less than one hour per week cleaning the bathroom. But they ranked it as their least favorite household task, with 69% saying they dreaded the chore.

Robots designed to perform such tasks will vary. They might include the ScrubBot, which is a scaled-down version of the robotic arms found assembling cars in automated factories. They also might include the GoferBot. This smaller, more mobile robot uses a less dexterous robotic arm to collect the clutter of the day in a large onboard bin. The possibilities are endless, and it will be a fascinating category to monitor over the next few years.

Countless technologies that improve lives and enhance entertainment possibilities have emerged and are moving into mainstream society. The industry continues to grow and innovate each day, so consumers will shop for products like robots in the years ahead as if they're shopping for any other household staple. It's 2006, and the digital future is brighter than ever.
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