Convergence is the name of the game

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Electronic gadgets are combining diverse technologies and crossing the boundaries of work and play. Anna Ryland reports.

Modern consumer works and plays surrounded by gadgets which morph into increasingly amazing and bizarre forms. The annual Gadget Show Live held at Birmingham’s NEC, and expected to attract some 120,000 visitors, is a clear reflection of this trend. Among some 270 exhibitors displaying their latest CE products, gaming equipment and software, fitness and sport gear and a vast selection of geeky gizmos, I tried to focus on the offers which could find their place in the independent retailers’ stores.

What drives consumer electronic developments in to the realms which were considered unthinkable only a decade ago? Almost limitless connectivity and the desire to share every possible type of experience with friends and family stimulates the growth of modern mobile devices, said Cliff Jones of Trusted Reviews chairing the conference during the show that explored the trends in this market.

“Convergence is the name of the game in the gadget world,” he argued using the examples of three types of hot gadgets that are fast gaining consumer following. There were tablets, which are fast reaching the two-devices-per-household penetration, mobile phone/tablet hybrids such as the new Samsung Galaxy S Note, and smart watches, such as these recently launched by Motorola and Sony. Sony’s smart watch, connected to Bluetooth (and running Android 2.1) can answer calls and keep the owner updated on developments on social networks, as well as be used as  media player to stream music.

In addition to Samsung S Note, Samsung Galaxy S2 smartphone, and a selection of speakers incorporating the vacuum tube technology, the smart ‘gadget’ offer from the manufacturer included Samsung’s ES8000 LED dual-core Smart TV. It features Smart Interaction, which gives the users intuitive control of the product via speech or gestures. They can also access a wide world of content, apps and web browsing through the Smart Hub. The manufacturer has also future-proofed it as it can be connected to its Smart Evolution Kit to improve picture and performance as well as deliver the latest features as they come onto the market. It incorporates three Samsung’s ‘signature’ apps including the Family Story which allows sharing photographs within a close community of friends and family – some of which may live abroad. Another Samsung app is Fitness which can be attached to other fitness devices such as scales (sold as an accessory), and gives a split screen appearance – allowing for ‘a trainer’ or a mirror. The Kids software allows for smart interactions including hand gestures and voice control, and even a sticker book to award children for various achievements.

On the Philips stand, next to the iconic Fidelio Docks and the Android Dock, there was a complete line up of the latest Philips coffee machines. Undoubtedly, the top of the range  Philips Saeco, Xelesis, that allows personalization of coffee preferences by six different users selected through finger print recognition, was well at home at the Gadget Show.

Meanwhile Sony’s gadget story focused on its Personal 3D Viewer, the PSVita and its Tablet S. Sony Personal 3D Viewer is a unique proposition on the market that offers an immersive visual and audio experience for the gamers. It was demonstrated to the general public for the first time at the Gadget Show.  At present, the £799 device is available only on pre-order.

The underlying message of Sony’s PSVita is “connecting the world”, explained Paul McCaffrey, assistant store manger of Sony Centre in Lincoln. The device features Cross Play which means that two people can play each other in two distant locations. “The power of the machine is immense and graphically the device is almost as good as PS3. Importantly, it is not only a consol; PSVita can be used as a web browser, so it is a tablet at the same time. The current £250 offer includes the consol, the game and £40-worth of game vouchers.”

Sony Tablet S was one of the most powerful Android-operated tablets on the market. With its unique design, that of a folded page, it is built to feel like a book in the user’s hand. It is equipped with DNLA functionality enabling the user to ‘throw’ (stream) a film onto a TV screen within seconds. “At £300, it is a very accessible tablet to the wider audience,” argued Paul McCaffrey.

LG’s key offer at the Gadget Show, aimed at gamers, was Dual Play. It is available on LG Cinema 3D televisions, which constitute 60% of the manufacturer’s TV line-up for 2012. “Dual Play is a technology which converts a split screen game – vertically or horizontally – with the help of 3D Dual Play glasses –  into a full screen 3D gaming experience,” explained George Mead, head of consumer marketing at LG. “With a touch of a 3D button, player A doesn’t see player B and gets the full screen experience of the same game. The gaming market is huge and LG wished to ensure that gaming on its televisions is in top class picture quality and delivers the best overall experience.”

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