Technology changes fast, and nowhere faster than at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This is where gadget makers unveil the devices they hope will be finding their way into our living rooms, cars and pockets over the year ahead. The hugest flat panel TVs, the tiniest mobile phones, the craziest gizmos vying to become the next big thing – they're all on display for four days only. Here's our crystal ball predictions for the ten new gadgets that should still look cool, this time next year...
Our global village just got a little safer, thanks to this smart outdoors gadget. Attach it to your belt when you're out hiking or sailing, and it can track your exact position using satellite navigation. So far, so 2006. But if you get into trouble, a single button push will beam your location back to friends, family or the emergency services, using another set of satellites. Because it communicates directly with the satellites, it works almost anywhere on Earth (above ground!), giving you the piece of mind to explore, knowing that you're never out of touch. It's on sale in the US now, costing $170 (£90) for the Spot, plus $100 (£55) a year for service.
Don't be put off by this zapper's distinctive styling, its design is anything but loopy. Hillcrest has redesigned the remote control from the ground up, fitting The Loop with motion sensors so you can simply hold it in mid-air, tilting to select functions from an on-screen menu. The loop grip is incredibly comfortable, putting no strain on your wrist, and has tremor compensation for even the wobbliest hands. Its three-dimensional interface makes navigating complex menus – like browsing digital photos or music – feel completely natural. Expect The Loop to come round on high-end TVs in a year or so.
When it comes to televisions, size is everything. But while most TVs are growing ever larger (Panasonic boasted a world record 150-inch screen at CES), some companies are starting to think thin. Pioneer's new Kuro plasma telly combines a full fat 50-inch display with a super-skinny 9mm waistline – that's thinner than an Apple iPhone. The size zero supermodel looks great too, delivering amazing contrast and stunning colours. If you can't wait until its 2009 release date, Sony, Hitachi and Samsung are also planning slimline TVs that are nearly (but not quite) as slender.
iRobot ConnectR Virtual Visiting Robot
Enjoy spending time with the Jones's, but can't stand their food? Why not send your robot instead? This high-tech cyborg lets you spend time with family and friends, anywhere in the world, without leaving home. You control the wireless, wheeled robot from your computer, seeing what's going on via a built-in video camera and holding conversations over its speakerphone. The price of being in two places at the same time? Under $500 (£270) when it's launched this autumn.
Now that Blu-ray looks to have beaten HD-DVD in the High Definition format war, it's finally safe to invest in advanced video goodies. The BD7H is the world's first Blu-ray camcorder, recording top quality HD video to miniature Blu-ray discs, or to a 30Gb hard drive. It has a 10x zoom lens and a generous 2.7-inch fold-out screen, and you can even edit your masterpieces in the camcorder itself – no PC required.
Yoggie Gatekeeper Pico
Keeping your computer secure can be a real headache. If you want the freedom to surf, shop and bank online without having to install and maintain complicated software, check out Yoggie 's miniature security server. Simply plug it in to a spare USB port and, er, that's it. The Gatekeeeper automatically protects against viruses, spam, spyware and identity theft, without slowing your computer down or asking confusing questions. It includes parental control software, and can be swapped between computers in moments.
There were hundreds of iPod docks on show at CES, but none reached the heights of this elegant unit from British audio experts Bowers & Wilkins. While they quote detailed acoustical reasons why the Zeppelin's oval shape delivers such deep bass and crisp treble, we suspect they actually started with the funky design and squeezed in speakers to fit. The Zeppelin partners best with an Apple iPod, which slips easily into the front mount, but other MP3 players can also enjoy the gutsy 50W of amplification on offer. At last, an iPod dock that's more than just hot air...
Dolby Volume Control
Tomorrow's TVs won't just look better, they'll sound better, too. Dolby has invented a system that eliminates the annoying shifts in volume you get when you switch channels or the adverts come on. Volume Control lets you select a sound level you're happy with, then automatically adjusts the TV to give exactly the same loudness, whether you're watching a documentary about tip-toeing mice or a screaming heavy metal gig. Dolby Volume Control should start appearing in televisions and other home cinema kit early next year.
Put the world in your pocket with the first ever portable internet radio. The Daisy can tune into over 6000 online radio stations from around the globe, letting you catch up with news from Nairobi, sports from Sydney or tunes from Tennessee. It works with any home wireless network (plus some free Wi-Fi networks) and has a rechargeable battery with a 20 hour life. If your wireless hotspot's not a good spot, it can also receive good old FM stations. Listen out for it in April, for around £150.
For instant, clean energy, just add water! As unlikely as it sounds, a Chinese company has developed a water-activated power system for camping and emergencies. The HydroPak uses chemical cartridges that react with plain tap water to make hydrogen, which is then converted into energy by a tiny fuel cell. It can supply 25W of power (enough for lights and radios, or to charge portable devices) for up to 12 hours from a single canister. Each canister costs just $20 (£11) – water not included.