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Consumer Electronics Show kicks off in Las Vegas

In a buzzing Las Vegas showroom, people are controlling computer screens with their eyes. They’re driving radio-controlled cars with their iPhones. And they’re listening to Bob Marley through the speakers of 2012’s equivalent of the ghetto blaster: a light, high-end stereo built into an over-the-shoulder canvas tote dubbed the Bag of Rhythm.

Yes, the play button has been pressed on this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

One of the largest trade shows in the world, CES kicked off Sunday with a media preview of coming trends in circuitry and software, with dozens of firms large and small hosting booths competing to win oohs and ahs for their latest innovations.

Heard of gaze interaction? That’s a new technology that tracks a user’s eye movements, enabling them to scroll through documents, play video games and navigate the Web using just their eyes and without ever touching a mouse. The technology tracks the precise spots on the screen where users are looking, and enables them to perform tasks depending on how long their gaze lingers there.

At the booth of Sweden’s Tobii Technology, which makes the eye-tracking software, a conference-goer played a souped-up version of the classic spaceship video game Asteroids.

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“Just look at the asteroid and your ship will shoot at it,” said Sara Hyleén, a marketing manager for Tobii.

A visitor to the booth did as instructed, and a split second later, space rocks on the screen exploded into fiery smithereens.

This year, more companies are marketing the idea of an intelligent home, in which residents can connect their thermostats, garage doors and appliances to the Internet to automate energy use. Once your home is online, the firms will track your domestic habits, such as when you use the heat and air conditioning, when you shower and turn on lights, to help you waste as little energy as possible.

Allure Energy Inc. is marketing a “wireless energy network” that enables your mobile phone to communicate with your house, letting it know how close you are so your house can be toasty when you arrive and cool off when you’re gone.

The room also contained creations from the quirky side.

For music acolytes, Ion Audio is offering specialized guitars and pianos with built-in Apple Inc. iPads, the better to display instructional videos that show students where to place their fingers.

At the firm’s booth, an excited piano novice was pounding out a few notes of “Happy Birthday,” helped by the iPad video where sheet music might usually be.

At the Dexim Inc. display, a crowd gathered to check out a radio-controlled truck that can be maneuvered by an iPhone. The AppSpeed Monster Truck links to the iPhone via a free app that enables the hobbyist to control the truck from as far away as 50 feet.

Larger firms such as Lenovo, Sony Electronics Inc. and LG Electronics showed off new televisions, smartphones and tablet computers Sunday, a few of the hundreds of such devices that are expected to be announced this week by the show’s 2,700 exhibitors.

CES acts as a kind of anchor for the rapidly growing global consumer electronics industry, which for the first time is expected to pull in $1 trillion this year, thanks largely to the growing appetite for gadgets in Asia, Latin America and other emerging economies.

“When you’re talking about a market of 3 1/2 billion people that all want TVs, that all want phones, that’s a huge market opportunity,” said Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis at the Consumer Electronics Assn., which puts on CES.

david.sarno@latimes.com

Times staff writer Andrea Chang contributed to this report.


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