CES 2012: The Future Will Be Like The Present, Only With Fewer Buttons

In the future, everything will be a computer, and those computers will have fewer buttons. That’s the takeaway from a speech by Shawn DuBravac of the Consumer Electronics Association.

As the consumer electronics industry’s focus has shifted from computers to computing functions delivered by devices such as smart TVs, manufacturers are making those products easier to use — though they’re not quite there yet, said DuBravac, chief economist and director of research for the CEA. “Anyone who’s ever tried to check their email on a 55 inch TV knows it’s a very unpleasant experience,” he said in a speech at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

About 50 percent of new TVs will be Internet-ready in 2012, up from just 12 percent two years ago. Newer devices will have more touch- and gesture-based controls, and fewer physical buttons. Technology will be invisible, and instead of turning into a high-tech lab, “the home of the future will look much like the home of the past.”

DuBravac also expects manufacturers to continue to add features that make devices such as smartphones more easily personalized and customized. He likened the current era to the early days of the auto industry, when Henry Ford famously said you could get a Model T in any color “as long as it’s black.”

Other trends on the horizon include continued growth in cloud-based devices, which let users access their information from anywhere, and a new range of health and fitness devices.

One technology not likely to take over the world in 2012: 3D TVs. While 3D isn’t going away, DuBravac suggests that it could be a while before it gains widespread acceptance. After all, he pointed out, it took nearly a decade for digital TV to reach a point where most consumers could afford them and there was enough content available to make it worthwhile to buy a digital set.

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  1. gman863 says:

    Newer devices will have more touch- and gesture-based controls, and fewer physical buttons.

    Does this mean virtual-reality porn will soon be reality?

  2. DrPizza says:

    Jaws 3D came out in the early 1980’s. 3D isn’t popular; it’s simply gimmicky. And, there’s that one nagging issue with 3-D televisions – convergence and focus of the eyes. 10’s of thousands of years of evolution has never needed us to focus at one distance and converge at another. A lot of people don’t find it comfortable.

  3. Cat says:

    Will this help avert buttonitis in 2062??

  4. nugatory says:

    “Newer devices will have more touch- and gesture-based controls, and fewer physical buttons.”

    This doesn’t bode well for gaining an edit button.

  5. raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

    So … the Jetsons were wrong? Buttons were everything!

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    And people made fun of Star Trek for having the one-button computer. HA!

    It’s true! It’s all coming true!

  7. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    “Anyone who’s ever tried to check their email on a 55 inch TV knows it’s a very unpleasant experience,”

    You know why it’s an unpleasant experience? BECAUSE THERE’S FEWER BUTTONS. I.e. probably trying to use a regularish TV remote to somehow interact with an on-screen keyboard.

    On the other hand, if you actually have, you know, a *keyboard* – like with a HTPC, or even one of those things in a hotel room, checking your email (or whatever else) on your big-screen TV is every bit as easy and enjoyable as doing it on a regular computer.

    The goal of “reducing the number of buttons” is one driven by vapid adherence to some kind of mantra that states that buttons are passe…somehow it’s just simply necessary for “new” or “advanced” technology to do away with “old-fashioned” buttons. The problem being that buttons, in this case a keyboard, happen to be just about the best possible tool for the job. Getting rid of said buttons doesn’t make technology easier to use…it makes it considerably less effective and convenient than it used to be.

    Automobile over horse-and-buggy? You bet. Modern refrigerator over icebox? Sure thing. Spray-on pants that never have to be laundered – “just wash ‘em off in the shower!” – that are so much cooler than old-fashioned jeans and slacks that only old people wear now? No thanks. Some problems were solved in the best possible way a really long time ago.

  8. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I’m looking forward to my new internet ready TV at the end of this year (I’m saving for it now). I wonder about the gesture based controls, though – I tend to talk with my hands, and this could prove interesting.

    • scoosdad says:

      Ugh. My Panasonic plasma communicates with my Panasonic network home security cameras and allows me to see them on my screen when I want to. Somehow the motion sensor in one of them got turned on, and last night I kept seeing “CAM 4 DETECTING MOTION” superimposed over a TV program everytime I stretched or moved until I dug into the settings and shut it off. Camera 4 is the one watching my living room. Be careful what you wish for….

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        I am laughing now – I have a dog and two cats, and they actually move around once in a while. This would definitely not work for me :)

  9. MaytagRepairman says:

    “Anyone who’s ever tried to check their email on a 55 inch TV knows it’s a very unpleasant experience,”

    Particularly when the rest of the family is in the same room watching.