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Few game-changing electronics in ’13 CES

Product upgrades to fill consumer show

Liquid Imaging will offer miniature filming devices with Wi-Fi for the active crowd, including bikers, car racers, and scuba divers.Mike Stotts

LAS VEGAS — Coming soon: A 3-D television that does away with those ugly 3-D glasses. Cellphones that will run for a couple of days on a single battery charge. And a refrigerator that will tell you when to buy more milk.

The 2013 Consumer Electronics Show doesn’t officially kick off until Tuesday. But Monday is media day, when major technology companies go public with the products they’ll push in the coming year.

The first day’s announcements were full of significant product upgrades, but light on game-changing breakthroughs. “I think this is one of those years of expecting more incremental change than anything dramatic,” said Stuart Lipoff, an independent technology consultant based in Newton.


For instance, 3-D television is not new, nor very popular in American homes. But Stream TV Networks of Philadelphia hopes to change that with a new technology that displays 3-D images to the naked eye. The set must be viewed from at least 10 feet away to get the full effect, but it produces clear, sharp images that could appeal to consumers who have been turned off by 3-D glasses.

Stream TV is working with Hisense, an electronics manufacturer owned by the Chinese government, to bring the new 3-D sets to consumers. Stream TV has also developed a set-top box that will display existing TV programs in 3-D on the company’s TV sets.

Meanwhile, LG Electronics of South Korea is doubling down on its campaign to build digital networking into home appliances as well as phones, TVs, and computers. The company’s new Smart Home System will let users swap data wirelessly among devices. Someone with an LG smartphone or tablet could simply tap it against his LG television to share photos or videos. An LG washer or dryer could send a wireless message announcing that the laundry was finished. A TV viewer could use the remote control to turn off an LG oven. And the refrigerator would keep an inventory of its own contents — homeowners could check a smartphone app to know which groceries to buy.


Intel vice president Kirk Skaugen said Ultrabooks on sale this year will have much longer battery life.JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images

LG didn’t say when its Smart Home products will come to market. But Richard Doherty, director of the Envisioneering Group, a Seaford, N.Y., technology consulting firm, said the concept shows that consumer electronics companies are eager to better integrate the many digital devices found in homes and businesses.

“We’re going to see a lot of things like that, things that are a lot easier and play together well,” said Doherty.

Sharp Electronics of Japan said it has developed a new kind of flat-panel video screen that is intended to produce clearer pictures than existing ones, while consuming much less power. Called IGZO, the new screen features much smaller pixels for finer-grained images. In addition, the smaller pixels need less electricity. Sharp said that it sells an IGZO-based smartphone in Japan with a battery life of two to three days in normal use, as well as an IGZO tablet that gets twice the battery life of the company’s standard tablet. Sharp did not say when IGZO screens would appear on phones and tablets in the United States.

Software giant Microsoft Corp. raised eyebrows by its decision to skip CES. But its longtime hardware ally, chipmaker Intel Corp., is still a major presence. Intel has long dominated the market for laptop and desktop processor chips, but the company’s Atom chip line for tablets and smartphones has struggled to compete against rival chips from companies such as Qualcomm Corp.


Intel said that its upcoming Atom processor, due out in time for the 2013 holiday season, will be twice as powerful as its current model. In addition, Intel announced new Core chips with more processing power than its Atom chips, but power consumption low enough that they can be used in tablet computers. While most tablets today run stripped-down software apps, a Core-powered tablet could run the same Windows programs used by desktop or laptop computers.

Intel also heralded a new generation of Ultrabooks — light, slim laptop computers. Since they debuted in 2011, Ultrabooks have posted disappointing sales. But Intel vice president Kirk Skaugen said that upcoming machines will offer dramatic new capabilities at a lower price.

Skaugen said that Ultrabooks on sale this year will have much longer battery life, allowing them to boot up Windows software almost instantly, for example, and will feature touch-sensitive screens. The computers will also update incoming Internet feeds even when the computer is asleep. When users wake up the machine, new e-mail and other messages will be waiting.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached ay