Instead of tearing the homes down, city officials are selling them for $1, as part of the "Urban Homestead Program."
Curved high-definition televisions, wearable computers, internet-connected cars, water bottles and tennis rackets are just some of the thousands of gadgets on display at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Jason Bellini of The Wall Street Journal is at the CES and tells Here & Now’s Robin Young that smart TVs and improved smartphones are among the hottest trends at the show, as tech companies respond to consumer demand for more connectivity.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
It's HERE AND NOW.
And today, the week-long Consumer Electronic Show opened to the public in Las Vegas, representing technology's promise and its failures, as when film director Michael Bay - he of "Transformers" fame - strode in to introduce Samsung's new curved screen TV yesterday with the spokesman, two industry insiders, and promptly got lost in his teleprompter script.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
MICHAEL BAY: And what I try to do as a director, is I try to - the type if all off. Sorry. But I'll just wing this.
JOE STINZIANO: Tell us what you think.
BAY: Yeah. We'll just - we'll wing it right now. I take - I tried to take people on an emotional ride and...
STINZIANO: The curve? How is it - how do you think it's going to impact how viewers experience your movies?
BAY: Excuse me. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
STINZIANO: OK. Ladies and gentlemen, let's thank Michael Bay for joining us.
YOUNG: As Michael Bay exited stage left, brought down by old technology as he tried to introduce new, Jason Bellini of The Wall Street Journal is in Las Vegas. Jason, we understand this is the buzz today.
JASON BELLINI: Oh, indeed. There were plenty of tweets that came out right at that event. This was the Samsung event, where they were unveiling their 105-inch curved, ultra-high-definition television. But the show went on, and Samsung was very excited to dramatically unveil this TV that has curve to it. When you push a remote, it actually sort of curves in what they're calling an immersive, IMAX-like experience at the home. And Ultra HD is really a hot topic here, and people are very excited to get in and see what all the companies are offering, including LG. They also have a curved model that they're going to be competing with Samsung with.
YOUNG: OK. So, these ultra high definition TVs, the one that Michael Bay was trying to introduce, as well, some - you know, I was seeing what happened to him as sort of a metaphor for even some of the hype about this technology. Because don't we understand that the UHD TVs, ultra high definition, are so high definition, that most people wouldn't be able to see the difference, because our eyes can't detect the pixels?
BELLINI: That's the critique, but most people haven't seen it in person yet. I had the chance to see it myself last night, the Samsung television. And I have to say, it's pretty dramatic. The biggest thing holding back is the lack of content. There are very few ways that exist currently for you to watch ultra-high-definition content, also there was 4K TV. But that's also changing.
Netflix has announced that they're going to have "House of Cards" available for play specifically on Sony's Bravia TV. So there's deals being hashed right now to try to get some of this content out there, and those deals being made between the content creators and the manufacturers.
YOUNG: Well, I mean, you have to have the cash, because these are going to be expensive, but also the room, we understand, because they're huge.
BELLINI: They are huge. In fact, the LG one is 77 inches. The one that Samsung's showing, 105 inches. So you don't need just a place over the mantel. You need a wall for one of these things.
YOUNG: Well, so, that's the big thing that people are talking about at the show, but we understand there's lots of little things. We heard about the HAPIfork last week, which is - it tracks how long you're taking to chew your food. And there's apparently a basketball that will talk about the arc of the ball. But some people are saying that it's the little things that might add up to the next big thing, that that's how these shows work, that you have a lot of little things, and then the next thing you know, you have an iPhone.
BELLINI: It's funny. Everyone wants to define what this year's CES is about, and there are two competing ideas. One is the Internet of things, meaning that we're going to be wiring up everything in our homes, everything in our lives. And lots of little things, like the ones you mentioned, like that fork. I saw that. That's really bizarre, but I guess it could help train you. Another thing would be for training your dog with Wi-Fi equipped dog collars. Tons of surveillance cameras we're going to be seeing on the floor.
CISCO is estimating that the number of devices connected to the Internet is going to swell from around 10 billion today to 50 billion by 2020. So just about everything we have is going to be connected in some way. And the next big thing - many of these analysts predict - is that these devices are going to be talking to one another. What could possibly go wrong?
YOUNG: And MIT's Neil Gershenfeld has talked a lot about the Internet of things. So that's playing out on the floor there. Also, a lot of buzz about wearables. Tell us about that.
BELLINI: Well, it's an interesting thing, because many people are wondering: Are we going to be wearing wristwatches again? And wristwatches that are like those sci-fi films where you can speak on a speakerphone, and where you'll be looking at your wrist. And actually, some speakerphone watches are coming out. So there's going to be a whole range of watches and other wearable devices. The early models were mostly for sports enthusiasts, fitness enthusiasts, to help them track their walking pace and other biometrics. But the idea is that you'll discover all kinds of needs for these that you didn't know you had. Just like we didn't know what we're going to do with our smartphones, we don't know what we may be doing with our watches in the future.
YOUNG: Is there something - is there anything new about smartphones?
BELLINI: In the smartphone area, it's about what you can do with your smartphone, what you can control with your smartphone, physical objects. And there are a lot of really fun objects. Parrot makes these quadrotor drones, and they've got a new generation of them that you control with your iPhone and you can fly it around your house and do it pretty easily. I saw some race car games where you actually have little race cars that you control with your iPhone.
You can actually fire weapons like it was a real video game but you're actually, you know, have them old school Matchbox cars that are racing around the track. Many of those kinds of things where there's that interaction between physical objects and your digital world, and it's all centered on your iPhone or your smartphone device.
YOUNG: Oh, joy, because the future that may hold may mean your neighbor firing a drone at you with their smartphone.
BELLINI: Yes, perhaps. The sky is the limit when it comes to your smartphone and what you can do with it, the damage that can be done.
YOUNG: The damage that can be done. Jason Bellini of The Wall Street Journal who is seeing some of the future of technology at the Consumer Electronics Show which opens to the public today in Las Vegas. Jason, thanks so much.
BELLINI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.