IFA 2014 Presents the Latest Consumer Electronics Trends - Elegant, Razor-Sharp, Smart and Wearable
IFA, the world’s leading consumer electronics show, features the all products that will have the biggest impact on market activities duri...
IFA, the world’s leading consumer electronics show, features the all products that will have the biggest impact on market activities during the most important sales season of the year. Large TV sets with elegantly curved screens, Ultra HD for amazingly sharp images, smart TVs with high performance operating systems, wearables offering a universe of new applications, 3D printers with amazing capabilities, audio streaming on many different types of devices – IFA 2014 presents the latest trends from all areas of the industry.
Curved shape and Cinemascope format
The latest generation of television sets presents elegantly curved screens, a silhouette that emphasizes a completely new approach to design. Concave screens were already being displayed by a number of manufacturers last year. Within just a few months these experiments with the new screen shape have developed into a significant and innovative trend. One particularly interesting technical aspect is that this trend not only encompasses very thin OLED screens made of flexible materials but also the more complex LCD models with LED backlighting. The novel shape can also influence the visual impact in a highly effective way: the curved screen often gives scenes an additional depth and plasticity.
This is particularly the case with one of the most impressive innovations at IFA, the large screens with an ultra-wide aspect ratio of 21 by 9, which is roughly the same as the Cinemascope format. As a result, viewers feel drawn into the scene. Also very interesting: IFA will show screen prototypes which can transform a completely flat surface into a curved shape and vice versa. By pressing the remote control a motor is activated to move the screen into the required shape.
Sharp, sharper, Ultra HD
Ultra HD screen resolution also has an important role to play at IFA 2014. Ultra HD TV sets show images made up of more than eight million pixels, giving a resolution four times as high compared to standard HDTV sets. These numbers represent a generation of sets with an entirely new and thoroughly impressive picture definition. Until now size was everything for Ultra HD screens, which could cover an entire wall, with 55 inches (140 centimetres) being the very minimum last year. At IFA 2014, however, smaller screen formats offering Ultra-HD will be available for the first time.
Demo videos that have been shot for screening on Ultra HD TV sets are simply breathtaking. From short viewing distance the improvement in definition is as dramatic as that achieved with HDTV when compared to standard resolution. Media companies and organizations, network operators and the electronics industry are already heavily involved with this new technical development. Numerous forums and technical demonstrations at IFA will be dealing with the production and distribution of ultra HD content, while international video-on- demand platforms are getting ready to offer movies in Ultra HD.
Today, consumers can already create their own holiday videos in Ultra HD quality. High quality SLR cameras are now available that are capable of shooting Ultra HD videos. IFA 2014 will be presenting a number of other Ultzra HD recording devices, from action cameras and traditional camcorders with Ultra HD capability to compact system cameras. And of course, any slide show of one’s own digital photos is so much more impressive when viewed on a large Ultra HD screen, revealing all the previously hidden detail.
Android and WebOS on Smart TV
Smart TVs can not only receive conventional television programmes but can also access content and services from the internet, for example broadcasters’ media libraries, internet video rental outlets, programme recommendations, online games, social networks and information portals. The number of apps available on smart TVs for accessing these services and sites is growing at a remarkable rate, and there is also a corresponding need for improved interfaces that can provide a clearer overview and help users to find what they are searching for. At this year’s IFA all the major set manufacturers are presenting new types of controls to help viewers make the most of what is being offered on the web and on TV. Many of these new solutions also enable users to design the start pages and app overviews on the screen to meet their own individual requirements.
Another interesting trend is emerging in the smart TV sector, where many of the manufacturers have joined a “Smart TV Alliance“, which defines specifications for accessing the internet using smart TV sets. The advantages are obvious: Providers who want their content to be available on sets from a number of different makers then only have to rely on one technical platform. Joint support of open standards such as HTML5 ensures comprehensive functionality. Furthermore, test procedures that are available to all manufacturers help to continually improve the technical quality of Internet services.
Operating systems from the world of mobile digital devices are starting to become an established feature of TV sets too. IFA will present the first smart TVs running Android or WebOS, thereby increasing the range of available apps dramatically. The latest generation of smart TVs also offers impressive computing capabilities: Equipped with multicore processors and powerful graphics chips, they provide rapid access to web pages, smooth controls and jerk-free videos from the web.
Voice and hand movement commands
Remote controls have been with us for a long time, but now, due to the many new functions available with the latest generation of smart TVs, they are reaching the limits of their capabilities. Consequently all the leading manufacturers are working to develop new types of controls, for example remote controls with keypads on their backs or touchpad for wiping movement. Some infra red transmitters also operate like pointers. You can move them to control a cursor on the screen.
The latest television sets can even recognize gestures such as hand movements. Voice recognition is another modern method for controlling devices, and can now operate in an increasing number of ways. Only one year ago television sets that could respond to special verbal commands were seen as state of the art, but since then the voice recognition vocabulary has expanded considerably. Some sets can now even recognize words that are not from a strictly defined vocabulary.
“Wearables” that read the pulse and measure walking pace
Another prominent trend at IFA 2014 features smart watches and other wearable devices, equipped with sensors and displays and worn on the wrist. They interact with cellphones, measure bodily functions, movements and ambient variables, and transmit data for subsequent evaluation. IFA will present a whole range of new smart watches whose built-in sensors can for example count the number of paces taken or measure the heart rate, as a means of monitoring a keep fit programme. Electronic wristbands can perform fitness tracking functions as well. Some models can even monitor sleep patterns. For those who like to hear musik during their workouts there is no need to even to wrap a band around the wrist. All they need are specialized earphones with built-in heart rate sensors for sporting activities. The trend towards more intelligent wearables applies not only to sports and pleasure activities but in future will also be used to support telemedical applications, thereby enabling older people to continue living in familiar surroundings for longer.
3D objects from printer nozzles
Another device that is certain to attract a lot of attention at IFA 2014 has only just begun to reach a wider public: the 3D printer, and even the compact sized table top units can conjure up amazingly delicate objects from their nozzles. These include cogwheels, toys and highly decorated shoes. Some can even be used to process foodstuffs, including chocolate and sugar, instead of plastic, as a way of creating original and tasty delicacies. It is already apparent that an exciting market for the future is emerging.
Eyes, ears and other senses for computers
Notebooks and other portable computers are now acquiring natural, human-like senses, making them even easier to interact with. They are being designed to adapt increasingly to human communication. For example, among the exhibits at IFA is the first notebook series with built-in 3-D cameras capable of registering spatial depth, enabling them to recognize an almost unlimited range of gestures.
Another trend among notebooks is an increasing number of them equipped with Ultra HD resolution displays, which are invaluable, for example, for editing videos that have been shot with the new superfine pixel format.
Wireless sound, and the trend towards hi-res audio
Loudspeakers that use W-LAN or Bluetooth to maintain a radio contact with their playback units for producing outstanding sound are among the latest trends at IFA. It is almost impossible to list all the different versions: some rely solely on a wireless system, while others also have additional docking stations for mobile playback units. Among the sound sources available for wireless connectivity are NAS drives, computers, tablet PCs, mobile sound systems and smart phones.
The trend for enjoying music while on the move has also boosted the demand for headphones. For MP3 players, video players, smart phones and tablet PCs alike, headphones are almost indispensable, and they are now available in a vast range of different types and specifications, from basic “ear plugs“ to high tech headphones. In-ear phones can be adapted individually to fit the user’s ear. Some of the high end units even operate using a number of built-in transducers, specially designed for different frequency ranges, in a similar way to hifi loudspeakers. Extra lightweight headphones can be used for several hours without exerting unnecessary pressure, and the designers have ensured that even the smallest product is a work of art.
In addition to excellent sound reproduction, noise cancellation functions are becoming more and more popular. They can suppress ambient noise efficiently, in the in-ear phones as well as in the larger hifi models. An interesting trend is becoming apparent in the case of the larger headphones. In the past they were almost exclusively accessories to hifi systems in the living room, but now they can be found on the streets too. The manufacturers have designed almost all the new hifi headphones with electrical values that enable them to produce a powerful sound on mobile music players, smart phones and tablets too.
High End sound quality will also be an important factor at IFA 2014, with an increasing number of devices supporting high definition sound formats capable of playing recorded music that has been coded at very high bit rates. Special online outlets now make music available for downloading that has a definition many times better than that of CDs. The result: totally uncompromising listening pleasure.
The connected home – an ongoing trend
Interconnected CE devices and their connection to home appliances, the heating system or the lights are another trend that is set to acquire even greater importance in the coming years.
PCs, notebooks and network hard drives can already store enormous archives of digital media – images, music and videos. The home network makes them available to mobile and stationary terminals, such as smart phones and tablet PCs as well as to Smart TVs. Media traffic is facilitated by standards such as UPnP and DLNA: the relevant devices can automatically recognize one another and exchange digital content via the home network. An increasing number of cameras and camcorders can also transmit their recorded material directly via W-LAN to the home network, either in order to make it available on the internet or to relay it to a TV screen.
The trend towards networked media usage has also had a lasting impact on the hifi world. Nowadays a vast range of music components and surround-sound systems can be linked to the home network, either wired or wirelessly, in order to access and play back centrally stored collections of music. Most audio devices linked to the home network can also receive internet radio broadcasts. In this way the web is currently evolving into one of the most important digital distribution channels for radio broadcasting.
Users can access their home networks while on the move, for example, in order to retrieve data that has been stored on the network, or to set a timer for recording a TV programme. Interconnected CE devices and home appliances open up possibilities for many other applications too. Networking supports a more economical use of energy and also improves security within the home. With its many products, solutions and demonstrations, IFA 2014 provides ideal opportunities for visitors to experience all this for themselves.