Futuristic tools and toys at world's largest consumer electronics show
AFP, San Francisco
A mind-bending array of futuristic gadgets tailored to the internet and home life will be unveiled this weekend at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
More than 140,000 people from around the world are expected to attend what is billed as the largest trade show of its kind and a launch pad for culture-changing innovations such as the video cassette recorder and the compact disc player.
The "hottest products" from 2,700 exhibitors are to be on display at the 40th annual International Consumer Electronics (CES) show, which runs from Saturday through January 11.
Heralded offerings include televisions that play shows or films from computers as well as handheld and desktop computers that play television programs.
The maker of the SlingBox device that enables people to tune into their favorite television programs no matter where they are has sponsored an "Anytime Anywhere TechArena" at the show for similar technologies.
"This is such a hot and growing trend that this TechArena is sure to be a can't-miss destination at this year's show," said Consumer Electronics Association president Gary Shapiro.
"Sling Media is a prime example of a company pushing the boundaries of on-demand media availability by giving consumers greater flexibility in how and where they view their personal entertainment content."
In what was seen as a confirmation that film distribution is shifting inexorably to the Internet, Walt Disney Company chief executive Robert Iger and CBS president Leslie Moonves will be among the featured speakers at the event.
Digital Hollywood seminars at the show will focus on "how movies, music, advertising, television and more are merging into a powerful new experience" and websites such as YouTube and MySpace are changing how users get entertainment.
US Internet search engine Yahoo is among the exhibitors promising breaking news at the show.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and the heads of Motorola and Dell were also confirmed as CES speakers, emphasizing the influence technology titans have on consumer electronics.
Displays of new devices are to cover as much space as 35 US football fields.
Promised innovations included technology to make remote-controlled and monitored "smart homes," intensify video game play, or operate cars from afar.
Security advances on display will including a device that acts as a credit card that can only be used with a matching fingerprint, and a palm scanner that recognizes a user by the veins in their hands.
Sony Ericsson will present a watch that not only tells time but wirelessly controls mobile devices so a user can discreetly field calls, check messages, or play music.
Sony's handheld Mylo will be shown off as a combined communication and entertainment device that allows people to stay connected at any WiFi hotspot.
Hewlett Packard is presenting a MediaSmart high-density television with wireless Internet connectivity to access songs, videos, films and other online content.
California company New Media Life is presenting "the world's first and smallest" wireless Internet television and podcasting device with satellite reception.
Technology geared to cars will include systems for viewing movies on the road, enhanced navigation, and using cameras to see behind vehicles.
Of course, there will be robots. Most of the robotic offerings were designed to tend to the chore of vacuuming, but Ugobe of California is to present a "designer species" robotic dinosaur pet named Pleo.
Honda of Japan is to return with humanoid robot Asimo made all the more lifelike with a new skill - running in circles.