Tech heavyweights kick off the year at CES

The economy may be sliding but innovation at Asia's tech giants is alive and well.

Sony's VAIO P.

Sony's VAIO P.

The economy may be sliding but innovation at Asia's tech giants is alive and well, if gadgets on show at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show are anything to go by.

Sony joined the small laptop crowd with its Vaio P -- an interesting widescreen design that allows for a larger keyboard than on competing netbooks -- and impressed with a flexible OLED screen. Samsung showed off a thin TV, while Panasonic debuted a portable Blu-ray Disc player, and perhaps the most futuristic of the gadgets we saw was a watch-phone from LG.

Sony Vaio P

After several weeks of leaks and teasers Sony took the wraps off its anticipated Vaio P-series mini-laptop at CES. It has a widescreen 8-inch display and measures 24 centimeters wide by 11 cm deep and 2 cm thick, giving it a form factor that, according to Sony, allows it to be slipped into a jacket pocket or handbag. An advantage of the wide form-factor is that the keyboard can be made slightly larger. The key pitch on the Vaio P (the distance from the center of one key to the center of the next) is 16.5 millimeters, considerably more than on keyboards used on some of the small form-factor netbooks currently available. It's based on the Intel Atom processor and will be available in North America from February for around US$900.

LG watch-phone

One of the most futuristic gadgets at CES could be one of the quickest to hit the market. LG Electronics' watch-phone is a complete 3G cellular phone in a wristwatch-style form factor. The LG-GD910 phone has a 1.4-inch touchscreen display and is based on the WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) mobile network standard. It packs the latest 7.2Mb-per-second HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) data system, so downloads should be fast. It can also make video calls via a small camera above the top right corner of the screen. Other features include Bluetooth, an MP3 player, a speakerphone and a text-to-speech function. The watch-phone is also waterproof. It's scheduled to go on sale in the second half of 2009 in Europe. Pricing and plans for other markets were not announced.

Gesture-controlled TV

The remote control has relieved generations of couch potatoes from the hassle of getting up to change channels, but is there an even easier way? Toshiba and Hitachi both showed prototype gesture-controlled TVs at CES. A small infrared camera watches the viewer's hand movements and translates them into action. Wave at your TV to switch it on, control the volume with circular motions or navigate a large number of video files in three dimensions with your hands. Look for it in TVs in the next two to three years.

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Martyn Williams

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