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Consumer electronics get more connected, but do we need everything to be interactive?

January 9, 2015 at 6:15 PM EDT
The Consumer Electronics Show, the world’s largest annual technology exhibition, is a launching pad for groundbreaking products, but this year, many of the innovations on display focus on improving the connectivity and interactivity of everyday consumer products, from a 3D printing pen to a GPS dog tracking device. Special correspondent Steve Goldbloom reports.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, it’s been a big week for the latest advances in tech. A major gathering in Las Vegas is closely watched each year for a preview of the practical, the fanciful, the inspirational, and the sometimes puzzling devices heading to market. But there’s a big change afoot in that world.

Special correspondent Steve Goldbloom explains.

STEVE GOLDBLOOM: You may have noticed #CES2015 trending this week on Twitter. That’s the Consumer Electronics Show, and it’s more or less taken over Las Vegas. Over 150,000 people from more than 140 countries are here to participate in the world’s largest tech gathering.

For nearly 50 years, CES has served as a launching pad for the tech industry, unveiling everything from the VCR and DVD to the Xbox and Blu-ray. But things are a little different this year.

The conference is still a platform for major announcements, like innovations in driverless cars. However, the headline this year is how everyday products are becoming more and more connected.

Chris Anderson is the CEO of 3D Robotics. They make easy-to-use drones for recreational use. He’s also the former editor in chief of “Wired” magazine and a veteran CES attendee.

CHRIS ANDERSON, 3D Robotics: You know, once consumer electronics were a dedicated category. Sony made a camera or a stereo or something. And then, as more and more of those functions moved into the smartphone and more and more smartphone components moved out into wearables and the smart homes and robotics, we saw this sort of explosion.

And now consumer electronics is essentially everything. Anything in your life or your home has sensors and computers and is connected to the Internet, and it all comes here.

STEVE GOLDBLOOM: It’s known as the Internet of things, a sweeping theme here at CES. Here on the showroom floor, companies have set up shop for the week to demo their products.

In keeping with Vegas tradition, it’s not exactly low-key. Apparently, this has something to do with health and technology. With more than 3,000 exhibitors on hand, we couldn’t talk to everyone, but they were eager to chat with us.

Here’s our whirlwind tour of the latest connected gadgets ready to hit the market.

DANIEL SHAW, Fitbit: My name is Daniel Shaw. I’m a product marketing manager for Fitbit. So, everything you expect from Fitbit, all the activity tracking, the heart rate. And now we’re add in GPS, so you can see your splits and you can see how you’re running throughout the day.

WOMAN: My name is Ellen Pareye. I work for Spin Master. The difference from this robot, from any other robot you’re going to see here in the show is that our robot can be easily programmed.

We recognize your points, and, as you move, he moves together with you. And you can record his movements and his voice as well.

ROBOT VOICE: Watch the PBS NewsHour.

BEN ARTIS, Whirlpool Corporation: My name is Ben Artis. I’m the senior category manager for smart homes at Whirlpool Corporation.

This is our interactive kitchen of the future. Not only does it have a cooktop that can recognize your cookwear, but it also has a backsplash. You can have your mom up on the screen helping you walk through that favorite pasta recipe.

SCOTT NEUBERGER, Tagg: My name is Scott Neuberger. I’m the CEO of Tagg. Tagg GPS is an all-in-one solution to protect your pet. It offers GPS tracking, so if your dog ever escapes from your house, you will immediately know.

DANIEL COWEN, 3Doodler: I’m Daniel Cowen, one of the co-founders of 3Doodler, first 3-D printing pen. We think people are using it in fashion, education, architecture, engineering. There’s even two designers in Hong Kong who made a full-scale dress with it.

MAN: My name is Mark. I’m with Double Robotics.

And this is our telepresence office robot Double. What you do is, you can put this robot in your office and you can drive around as if you were actually there, even though you can’t make it one day.

STEVE GOLDBLOOM: Most of the products here at CES share one thing in common. They’re designed with connectivity in mind for the average consumer. From wearable health trackers, dog trackers, to a stove that gives you some virtual face-time with mom, it’s all supposed to make our lives easier.

Still, it’s a lot to process.

Once again, here’s Chris Anderson:

CHRIS ANDERSON: We have spent 20 years recording our clicks and typing, and now it’s time to record the rest of our existence. wearables track our own physical body, smart homes, smart cars, et cetera. We’re digitizing the world.

And the question is, what do we do with that data?  How do we manage the world better now that we can digitize it?

MAN: So, you could actually send this robot out to CES, and you wouldn’t even have to come here anymore.

STEVE GOLDBLOOM: I wouldn’t need to be here. Is that what you’re saying?

MAN: Exactly. If you take this, you don’t ever have to come to CES ever again. Just take this iPad.

STEVE GOLDBLOOM: What if I wanted to be here, though?

Reporting from CES for the “PBS NewsHour” in Las Vegas, I’m Steve Goldbloom.

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