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The Next Big Thing At CES 2014

Consumer Electronics Show

Consumer Electronics Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The nation's biggest consumer electronics show may not be a household name for most Americans, but it is nevertheless the likely site of the next high-tech craze to hit the scene. But what exactly will that craze be focused around? Not even the regular attendants of CES 2014 can know for sure.

That does not mean that experts, aficionados, and enthusiasts do not have their opinions about the next new great gadget. The next phase of innovations is upcoming, promises Steve Koenig, the director of industry analysis at the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association), but knowing in what kind of technology it will manifest is up in the air. Now that thousands of everyday devices, like kitchen appliances and toothbrushes, are being manufactured with digital technology, many companies under the umbrella of CES aspire to create an "Internet of things," a world in which even mundane objects are built with the capacity to take pictures, track users, and download apps.

Other thinkers have been able to get more specific about what they thing the next big thing is going to be. The 3-D printing machine has been getting a lot of press lately. This device allows users to build their own toys and tools, direct from a digital blueprint. At their inception, they were worth millions of dollars. Just as computers have become more affordable over the years, so have 3-D printers; these days, they retail at just a few thousand dollars, and can be found in high school classes, suburban garages, and small business. To respond to this growth, CES has a special area to showcase the newest in 3-D printing gear.

Whatever the next big thing is, it will be met with a surfeit of excitement and energy - unless it isn't. Some analysts don't think the next big thing is even on the horizon.