The New Year brings with it new ideas, innovations and technology, and many of the best and brightest gadgets will be on show next week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Sprawled over 1.8 million square feet of exhibition space across the famous Vegas strip, CES boasts more than 2,500 companies showing off their latest gadgets to more than 100,000 journalists, bloggers, analysts and senior industry executives. This year promises to be the "greenest" show ever, with plenty of eco-friendly gadgets on display and the Consumer Electronics Association, which runs the show, buying carbon offsets and donating $50,000 to the Las Vegas police department to invest in electric vehicles.
Exhibitor numbers are expected to be slightly down on last year, and the Association admits that a lot of companies left it until late in the year to reserve stand space. This "new frugality", says its chief economist, Shawn DuBravac, is "here to stay".
Nonetheless, CES remains the most significant event in the technology calendar; many of the biggest innovations in consumer electronics have made their debut at the show, including VCRs, CD players, high-definition televisions and Microsoft's Xbox games console.
"Lots of companies are focusing on new product development," says Karen Chupka, a senior vice president at the Consumer Electronics Association. "They want to be ahead of their competitors. There is optimism about coming out with something new, something beneficial to the consumer."
This year is likely to be dominated once again by 3D TV. It was the big story at the 2009 show, but the key difference this time around is that the likes of Sony and Panasonic will be showing off the 3D television sets that ordinary consumers will be able to buy later in the year.
Indeed, televisions are always one of the main attractions at CES. Korean manufacturer LG will show off the world's thinnest LCD television, which measures just 2.6mm thick – 1.3mm thinner than the previous 'record holder', made by arch rivals Samsung.
Manufacturers will also be showing off the latest ways to stream internet content to your television. Boxee, which makes software that allows you to view hours of excellent web-based TV shows and clips on your living room television, is unveiling a set-top box that will make the process even easier. It also builds in social elements, enabling users to send Facebook or Twitter messages to friends as they watch a show.
It will also be interesting to see whether any of the big TV makers finally make it easy to access services such as the BBC iPlayer through a television without needing a degree in electrical engineering. A small British company, Cello, pipped everyone to the post last month when it launched the iViewer TV, with integrated iPlayer and YouTube access.
Smaller-screened devices are also set to be big news at the show. Dozens of companies are expected to unveil ebook readers that could challenge Amazon's Kindle. Asus, best known for its range of cheap and user-friendly netbook computers, will take the wraps off a dual-screen ebook reader, while another manufacturer, Entourage, is expected to combine an easy-on-the-eye eInk display and Android-based tablet computer in its dual-screen device. And the Que, from Plastic Logic, is targeted at mobile professionals, combining a compact form factor with a user interface that it promises will be "as intuitive as paper and ink".
Lots of companies will also be launching a new kind of computer that falls somewhere between a smartphone and a netbook in terms of design and usability. This new category of wafer-thin devices will offer integrated 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, batteries that can last a whole day without needing to be charged, and instant-on start-up, so you can get working straight away. Many will run mobile operating systems, with Lenovo expected to show off a super-skinny device that uses Google's Android mobile phone operating system.
The shadow of Android looms large over this year's CES, even though Google will have only the most minimal presence at the show. The search giant is expected to launch its first own-brand Android phone, the Nexus One, on Jan 5 in California, just as the show gets under way.
And it's not just mobile phones that run Android – a new generation of tablet computers will also be making good use of the platform. While Apple remains tight-lipped about rumours it will be launching its own tablet computer later this year, other manufacturers are forging ahead with similar devices. Dell is expected to unveil an Android-based tablet computer, as is ICD with its Ultra. But it's the anticipated tablet computer from a company called Notion Ink that has got gadget fans salivating: it's thought to feature a 10in hybrid LCD/eInk screen, boast integrated GPS, a digital compass, an accelerometer and a camera that can record video. Add to that full high-definition movie playback and what is expected to be a tantalisingly low price, and you have an early contender for star of the show.
Video game fans will be hoping that Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive, uses his keynote presentation to reveal a launch date for Project Natal, Microsoft's innovative controller-free motion-sensitive gaming system. Sources close to the software giant have indicated that Microsoft is hoping to have the device in shops in time for next Christmas, and at the very least, Ballmer is expected to use the opportunity to show off this crowd-pleasing games system to the assembled audience.
Of course, some of the best gadgets are CES are the wild and wacky products; the £30,000 gaming chairs, the home cinema systems that can recreate the thundering hooves of the chariot race in Ben Hur in your living room, and the dancing robots, television watches and novelty slippers that play music as you shuffle around the house.
Evolution rather than revolution will be the theme of this year's show, but expect a few surprises along the way.