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DT Daily special edition: CES 2015 sneak peek

For geeks around the world, the annual Consumer Electronics Show is like Christmas wrapped up in a present and given to you a few weeks after Christmas. Miles and miles of gadgets, an early look at stuff that won’t be available for months, a taste of tech to come. It’s an overwhelmingly awesome experience, and here’s what we expect to make headlines at this year’s show.

CES is always dominated by televisions, with enormous displays from Panasonic and Sony and Samsung and LG and Vizio and on, and on. This year they’ll all be featuring their 4K, a new spec for sets that have 8.2 million pixels, versus the 2 million or so in ordinary HDTVs. That’s just a ton of pixels. So what do all those extra pixels mean for picture quality? They make sharper lines, smoother curves and lots more detail. But it also means that you can sit closer to your TV without seeing the little pixels, and you can get a really large TV that looks just as sharp as a smaller one. And good news for consumers, expect to see prices on 4K TV’s to drop throughout the year as the technology becomes mainstream. Beyond the sets themselves, expect to see a slew of announcements from content providers and distributors about their plans to support this new format.

Another new TV technology we’re expecting to hear a lot about is Quantum Dots. “Quantum what?!” you say. Sadly, it’s a bad name for a great piece of technology. Quantum dots take LED/LCD televisions and make the colors you see more accurate and vibrant. We’ll save you the 500 level science class on how this works, and instead just say that Quantum dots promise a color gamut that approaches what OLED televisions produce.

Every major TV manufacturer will be using quantum dots going forward, and we expect them all to unveil their quantum dot panels at this year’s CES.

By far the biggest transformation at CES 2015 will be the sheer number of ordinary household items that will be smartened – and hopefully improved. The Internet of Things has exploded over the past year, and CES promises to showcase even more things like coffee pots you can check remotely, smart sprinkler systems that detect rainfall, and lightbulbs that talk to your garage door opener. Your entire house will be online before you know it, but compatibility is the key to making this all work. A variety of companies are leading the charge, but none has yet proven to be on top. Lowes, Belkin, Zigbee, Nest, and Alljoyn will each shout from the rooftops about the benefits of their respective ecosystems. Will any of them pull ahead of the pack this year? Check back with us for the answer next week.

Was 2014 the year of the wearable? The barrage of stories about wearable this and smartwatch that is enough to put anyone to sleep. We expect this category of product to become 100 percent more useful over the course of the upcoming year — and we’ll hear all about it at CES.

For one thing, expect to see dramatically smarter devices. The Microsoft Band is the first of a next-generation class of wrist-worn wearables, with more sensors than it knows what to with. Beyond the wrist stuff, look for wearables in a host of other categories. Think about it: When you talk about things you wear, does a watch come to mind first? Or a shirt, or a hat, or shoes? All of those are smartening, notably attire for athletes. Companies like Athos and Hexoskin are at the forefront of huge transformation here. Like it or not, I bet you’re wearing some piece of tech next summer.

CES has gadgets galore, but a huge portion of the show is always dedicated to cars, notably the tech that turns our ordinary rides into awesome ones. So what’s on the docket this year?

Apple and Google are jockeying to own the center console, with the CarPlay system, and Android Auto. We won’t hear from Apple at CES of course but I’d be surprised if Google didn’t say something about its platform. But it’s the news from the car manufacturers themselves that offers a tantalizing glimpse of where the technology is really going. They call it “automation” or “driver-assist” technology; you and I call it “self-driving cars.” And this technology isn’t down the road, but available now. Watch for news about cars that park themselves, warn you about other drivers, and more.

The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show runs January 6 to 9 in Las Vegas – and Digital Trends will be there in force. We’ll highlight the best of the best for you in our annual Top Tech awards. So stay tuned.