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PAINTER: Many gadgets to look forward to in 2017

• Jan 9, 2017 at 1:00 PM

We’re going to be “smarter” this year.

That’s the news coming from the annual consumers electronic show held last week in Las Vegas. Each January, the Consumer Technology Association hosts the show in which the latest computerized gadgets are introduced. The show isn’t open to the public; it’s for companies to display their latest products.

And, believe me, there were plenty of them, including some unusual gadgets. Highlighting this year’s show were self-driving cars, the latest in big screen TVs, drones and gadgets that are useful in the home.

Even though I consider myself technologically challenged, I’m fascinated with gadgets. For example, one item that caught my attention was a smart dog collar which enables dog owners to electronically track their dog if it gets lost. By the way, the collar is listed at $149. There is also a $7 monthly fee to use the device.

I also like the toaster and coffee maker that are connected so that your toast and coffee are ready at the same time.

While some of these gadgets aren’t new, they have upgraded our ability to use them. In 2016, one of the main attractions was virtual reality headsets which are used with computer games and other applications. They were back at the 2017 show with even more innovations. Merchants are hopeful the devices take off in 2017.

What does intrigue me are devices that respond to voice commands. I’m sure you’ve seen the commercials for the Amazon Echo and Google Home devices. These devices are also not new, but they are also expected to gain in popularity in 2017. Amazon and Google are the major players with these devices, and both are trying to capture the market. According to Kim Kimando of kimando.com, the two companies are in a virtual standoff.

The devices, as shown on the TV commercials, respond to voice commands. For example, you could ask them for the time or ask them about the weather. I could see these devices being useful for journalists, who often need information rather quickly. I could even use the device to write my columns.

But there appears to a downside to the voice-activated devices. Some watchdog experts fear that such devices as Amazon’s Echo creates privacy issues because the device must be turned on all the time.

The big attractions at this year’s show were driverless cars and big-screen, high-resolution TVs.

While driverless cars won’t be in our garages anytime soon, they are capturing much attention. Toyota introduced a concept car in which self-driving technology automatically takes over if it senses you are tired, according to an article by David Nield for the Gadget website. He also said the car recognizes you as you approach the car and adjusts the seat and mirror to suit your preference. Now, that’s a car I would like to own.

Other automakers revealed similar models.

While many new gadgets were introduced, the TV market was in full swing with new models. Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic and other TV manufacturers introduced TVs with much higher resolutions. The companies are pushing ultra-HD TVs as more networks and cable stations offer programs capable of handling higher resolutions. They are also expected to come down in price.

We have much to look forward to in 2017. Those attending the CTA show were treated to several new gadgets that could be popular in 2017. For example, a hair brush has been developed that can monitor the quality of your hair. There is also a wearable tracker that enables diabetics to measure in real time their blood glucose without the need to extract blood.

While many of these gadgets don’t seem necessary, it is fun to see what is being developed for consumers. I know I’m looking forward to seeing some of them. Happy New Year.

— By Len Painter, Tribune community columnist

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