5 Products of the Future Dazzle at CES

Philips Soundbar Fidelio HTL9100 - H 2013

Philips Soundbar Fidelio HTL9100 - H 2013

From a 100" laser projector to a self-driving car, CES continues to showcase the potential future of technology.

Every year CES provides us with a few sparkling "future" moments when we believe if just for a second, that all is right with the world and technology will solve all our problems. These were the first five products to blow my hair back at this year's tech confab.

LG's 100" Ultra Short Throw projector
LG's latest projector showpiece uses laser-based technology to toss up a 100" image when placed just 22" from the screen (mounted either on a table or the ceiling. It's built to be easy to set up, and thanks to a built-in speaker it can work either as part of a larger home theater setup or as a self-contained solution. Out this March in the U.S. for $10,000.

Audi's self-driving car
Yes, you read that right. This is a car that can drive itself out of a parking garage to meet you. It only works under controlled circumstances, at slow speeds over short distances, and most importantly, only in places outfitted with a specialized set of sensors. So this is most definitely a prototype and we're unlikely to see it as a real product this year or next. Still, as proof-of-concepts go, they don't get much sexier than a car akin to the Batmobile.

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Philips Fidelio SoundBar HTL9100
This $800 soundbar does a very neat trick, both ends of the bar can detach to become battery-powered wireless rear speakers. When attached, the speakers charge themselves and act in concert with the middle section to function as a soundbar. When detached, the middle section becomes a center and front right and left channels, while rear sound is pushed to the detachables. Philips claims 10 hours of battery life. The lack of wires is very appealing. This will work best for people who don't require surround for watching sports or The Daily Show, but want to up the ante for movie sound.

Sony's Xperia Z phone
With a 5-inch 1080p screen, quad-core processor and 13 megapixel camera, the Android-based Z is already a technology showpiece, but there's another feature that has me even more excited. It's waterproof. If that sounds like a minor detail, you have never had your phone's warranty or insurance voided because you tried to text in the rain. Not that I'm bitter.

Panasonic 20" 4K tablet
Panasonic is not revealing granular specs yet, but the important ones are there. This is a 20" tablet (the same size at Sony's Tap 20 hybrid tablet/desktop) that offers 4K resolution. Running Windows 8, it's entirely possible this is a "because we can" tech demo that won't make it to market, but we can imagine a set of graphics professionals (photographers come to mind) that would find a device like this indispensable for mobile work.