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CES 2014: Sony refreshes laptop line, shrinks VAIO

Josh Fields, Reviewed.com / USA TODAY 11:18 p.m. EST January 6, 2014 The Sony VAIO Fit 11A | Flip PC(Photo: Sony) LAS VEGAS -- Sony showed off its new 11-inch hybrid PC, the VAIO Fit 11A | Flip PC, at 2014 International CES. The company also annou...
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CES 2014: Garmin jumps Into fitness band market

Tyler Wells Lynch, Reviewed.com / USA TODAY 10:51 p.m. EST January 6, 2014

garmin

Garmin's vívofit fitness band(Photo: Garmin)

Garmin has had its hand in the wearable tech market for years now, particularly with its Forerunner line of GPS-enabled exercise watches and bike computers.

Now the company is expanding into the ever-tightening fitness band space. At CES on Monday, Garmin unveiled its vívofit—a sleek personal exercise assistant that strives to nudge you in the direction of a healthier lifestyle. According to Garmin, it is the only one on the market that automatically greets users with personalized daily goals, tracks that progress, and then enhances exercise regimens over time. For further integration, the vívofit monitors sleep patterns, providing data that can help users improve their overall physical health.

"Garmin has been providing fitness monitoring devices for over a decade, and with vívofit we say hello to the fitness band that knows your potential," said Dan Bartel, Garmin vice president of worldwide sales, in a statement. "Being able to monitor the quality of rest after retiring for the night, being challenged by personalized daily goals and doing so without having to charge it every few days, makes vívofit a fitness band that should be on everyone's wrist."

Basically, the vívofit is a step and sleep monitor. It lets you know how many steps you've taken, the distance you've traveled, how many calories you've burned, and, of course, the time of day. But unlike the popular Fitbit band, which requires users to sync data to their mobile devices for analysis, vívofit data can be viewed on the band itself. Users also have the option of syncing data to Garmin's online fitness community, Connect.

At $129.99, the vívofit is meant to compete directly with the Fitbit Force ($129.95), which offers similar functionality, albeit with mobile synchronization. It will be interesting to see how devices like this merge with the already robust smartwatch market.

Check back all week for more on fitness bands, smartwatches, and other wearable tech at this year's CES.

Latest Technology, Misc. Gadgets
Latest Technology, Misc. Gadgets

CES 2014: Five things we learned on day one

Attendees arrive for 'CES: Unveiled,' the media preview for International CES, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.(Photo: Robyn Beck, AFP/Getty Images) It's only the first day of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las V...
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Vizio unveils one hundred twenty-inch Extremely HD TV

Vizio introduces its new 120-inch 4K Ultra HDTV at CES 2014.

USATODAY 10:08 a.m. EST January 6, 2014

VIZIO RF120

Vizio's 120-inch Ultra HD set.(Photo: USA TODAY)

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LAS VEGAS — You've heard about the new 110-inch Ultra HD 4K TVs in the works from Asian powerhouse Samsung? Well, here at CES 2014, budget TV maker Vizio aims to trump its competitor with a splashy new even larger — at 120 inches.

Vizio won't say when the TV will be in stores or how much it will sell for (Samsung's will be priced at $150,000 when it goes on sale in South Korea) but based on the display here, we can tell you this: It's a stunner.

"Bigger is always better," says James Kittle, a Vizio engineer.

A 120-inch TV will take up much of your wall space. The TV weighs 400 pounds. TV sets in Ultra HD offer HD at four times the resoluation of standard HD,

No matter how many times they were asked, Vizio execs declined to offer any clues to its pricing. They did say to expect that like other Vizio models, the TV will cost way less than competitors.

Beyond the TV, Vizio also unveiled a new line of "smart" audio products, basically a tablet with great speakers. Think of a boombox with an Android tablet in between two speakers. Vizio is showing two models, one with a 4.7 inch screen, the other with a 7-inch screen.

No price or shipping has been announced for this product either -- but the aim is to bring hi-fi audio to the tablet, something that hasn't been done before. Vizio expects most folks to listen to music apps like Pandora and Spotify, or play games like Angry Birds.

Any app that's available on Google Play will work with the new unit.

Follow Jefferson Graham on Twitter for the latest updates from CES 2014.

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LG, Razer among wearable tech converts

Nabu

The Razer Nabu, a new smart band, serves as a cross between a smartwatch and a fitness band.(Photo: Razer)

Story Highlights

  • Wearable technology is not wearing thin
  • Health slice of wearables market is expected to top $8 billion by 2018
  • Razer, LG are among candidates at CES

The wearable technology trend won't likely wear thin in 2014.

More gadget makers are getting in on the action with wearable health and wellness product revenues expected to rise from $3.3 billion in 2013 to $8 billion in 2018, as estimated by research firm Parks Associates and the Consumer Electronics Association.

New heart rate monitoring headphones and a fitness-tracking wrist band with an OLED touch screen from TV and appliance giant LG Electronics are among the hundreds of new products to be unveiled this week in Las Vegas at the International Consumer Electronics Show.

Another unlikely entrant is PC gaming company Razer with its own Nabu smart band, which tracks activity and delivers text messages and calls. "We are calling it a cross between a smartwatch and a fitness band," Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan says. "It's a wearable device focused on helping you live smarter."

The Nabu, which Razer is now making available for $49 to app developers, will track activity, sleep and location, as well as deliver texts and email alerts. A public screen will show alerts and you can shake your wrist to make the alert go away. Flip your wrist open and you see more private data such as details about texts, emails and activity.

With an estimated seven to 10 days of battery life, the Nabu sports the black and hot green color scheme found on Razer's gaming laptop computers and peripherals.

Two Nabu wearers can share data via handshake, too. Existing popular apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and RunKeeper are expected to become available for Nabu, which is expected to be in stores by the end of March, says Tan, who expects the retail price to be slightly higher than $49.

"Smartphones have become indispensable gadgets," he says. "Now everyone wants to take a step even further. They are comfortable wearing technology and incorporating into their daily lives."

That's also the premise behind LG's new products, which are due in stores this spring. The LifeBand Touch (no price announced) has an OLED touchscreen display that turns on automatically when you rotate your forearm to check the time, distance and speed of your run or walk, as well as calories burned.

The Bluetooth-enabled band can alert you of calls and texts, control music and transmit data to your smartphone for tracking long-term exercise patterns. LG is working with popular fitness app makers so the LifeBand Touch data can be used with apps such as MyFitnessPal and RunKeeper.

The LG LifeBand Touch "is a physical activity-tracking wristband designed to monitor and collect fitness data during exercise or just everyday life," says Tim Alessi, LG Electronics USA's director of new product development.

Also expected to be available this spring (no price announced) are LG's Heart-Rate Monitor Earphones that — beyond music and phone calls — can stream heart rate data via Bluetooth to the LifeBand Touch's display or to LG's fitness app.

Consumers bought more than 40 million connected health and wellness devices in 2013, according to the Parks-CEA study, which estimates that the market will surpass 70 million products sold annually by 2018.

"The wrist is the next logical place. It's prime real estate," says Richard Doherty of tech consulting firm The Envisioneering Group.

With the advent of fitness bands such as the Fitbit, Jawbone Up and Nike FuelBand, "there are way more health and wellness devices out there than informational (ones) so far," Doherty says. "But it is going to grow and I think we are going to see some novel things."

Latest Technology, Misc. Gadgets

Tech stocks: Twitter plunges, CES kicks off

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Latest Technology, Misc. Gadgets
Latest Technology, Misc. Gadgets

Camera tech you should watch at CES 2014

George Levines, Reviewed.com / USA TODAY 12:30 a.m. EST January 6, 2014 The NX30 is another DSLR-styled mirrorless camera, following in the footsteps of the NX20.(Photo: Samsung) We've landed in sunny Las Vegas for the International CES 2014, set ...
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What’s cool @CES2014: Robots, headbands & bulbs

Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY 3:23 a.m. EST January 6, 2014

Rydis

The Rydis vacuum cleaner with built-in mop will sell for $499(Photo: Sean Fujiwara)

Story Highlights

  • Three fun new products touted @CES2014
  • A robot vacuum cleaner that also mops
  • A battery operated bulb?

LAS VEGAS — We roamed the previews at #CES2014 Sunday night to get a glimpse at some cool new tech products.

Here are some of the new gizmos that got our interest:

— A robot vacuum cleaner is wonderful, but how about one that doubles as a wet and dry mop? We saw the folks at Moneual test it out. They drew on a table and spilled wine as well, and the unit picked both of them up. The Moneual Rydis H68-Pro device is priced at $499 and is expected to be in stores by June.

— Headphones that you wear as a headband. The "RunPhones" start at $39.99 with a wire, or sell for over $100 with a wireless version.

— The battery powered LED lightbulb. There are lots of new LED lightbulbs here at CES that run via apps, and that's cool. But how about a battery powered bulb that promises to still shine — for as long as 4 hours — in the event of a power outage?

Now that's really cool.

The Smart Charge LED bulb, expected in stores this summer, will sell for $29.99 each. "You will never see a power outage," says Shailendra Suman, here at CES to promote his product.

Look for more What's Cool roundups from CES all this week from USA TODAY.

Follow Jefferson Graham on Twitter for the latest updates from #CES2014.

Latest Technology, Misc. Gadgets

CES 2014: A wearable camera that broadcasts too

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Tech companies take on the ‘connected home’

Andre Mouton, Minyanville 1:31 p.m. EST January 6, 2014

samsung logo

A visitor walks past a logo of Samsung Electronics at the company's headquarters in Seoul on November 22, 2013.(Photo: AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JEJUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

Samsung isn't known for its kitchen gadgets, but the Korean conglomerate is trying to change that. "There's a lot of room for innovation in home appliances," co-CEO Boo-Keun Yoon told Fortune magazine earlier this year. The Samsung smart refrigerator is one such innovation. It runs Android and boasts an 8-inch touchscreen, embedded just above the water dispenser. The idea of a Youtube-enabled fridge has, at times, been met with ridicule, but Amazon reviewers seem to like the functionality. What they don't like are busted icemakers and broken doors; Samsung's appliance has been pilloried for mechanical issues.

Nest Labs has a similar problem. Founded by a pair of former Apple engineers, this startup made a name for itself several years ago with the Learning Thermostat, a smart climate controller. The device looks like something designed in Cupertino: It's simple, beautiful, and intuitive, in the best tradition of consumer tech. It also goes berserk on occasion, turning houses into ovens or iceboxes. In fairness, most buyers never experience this problem – but it's still remarkable, in this day and age, for a thermostat to fail so completely.

The connected home can be a tough environment for technology-focused companies, who typically like to "move fast and break things." The reality is that most homeowners aren't risk-takers. When we buy appliances, we expect them to last. When we install thermostats, we expect them to function. When we sign up for home security, we expect it to be reliable. The costs of failure can be huge, so above all, things need to work.

In other words, there are advantages to taking a conservative approach – but tech firms don't always like to slow their roll. The Nest Protect smoke alarm, for example, will speak to you, interpret your arm motions, and even act as a night-light. But because it lacks an ionization sensor, it's less effective at detecting fires than devices that run a fraction of the price. Canary might be "the world's first smart home security device for everyone," but it breaks the mold in other ways, too. The video camera/motion sensor lacks a backup battery – a common feature in traditional security systems – and is so visually inconspicuous that would-be intruders are unlikely to notice, much less be scared off by it.

And because many of these appliances are intended to be Next Big Things, you can be sure that they'll demand your attention whenever possible. With the Ecobee smart thermostat, "it's never been easier (or more fun) to monitor your home's energy consumption." Bitponics will formulate a Grow Plan for your household plants, and alert you when they need water. Lockitron can shoot you a notification "when your child unlocks the door using their phone or key." If LG has its way, washing machines and robotic vacuums will soon be sending you texts. These ideas might all have merit, individually, but throw them together and you're looking at more noise and self-adulation than a Facebook News Feed.

The rising stars of the smart home may well be "dumb" companies like Honeywell, which has been in the thermostat business for a century. The Honeywell smart thermostat isn't as sexy as Nest's product, or as smart as Ecobee's, but it is reliable. Nor does it require so much pampering; Honeywell has partnerships with home automation systems like AT&T's Digital Life, giving its devices the ability to blend smoothly into the grand scheme of things. That could be important, if connected devices proliferate and homeowners no longer have the time (or patience) to deal with them piecemeal. Despite being late to the game, Honeywell now holds a commanding lead in smart thermostats, according to Navigant Research.

In the end, Samsung is probably right. There is room for innovation in household appliances. What there may not be room for is disruption. Success in the connected home will mean learning – and appreciating – the difference between the two.

This story originally appeared on Minyanville.

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