Jan. 10, 2013 at 11:08 PM ET
Every January, reporters on the tech beat kiss their families goodbye and surrender a week of their lives to the concrete fauxtopia of Las Vegas, in exchange for knowledge of the things to come.
This year, at that Consumer Electronics Show of which I speak, we saw forks that track what you eat, robots that cling to windows, chairs that block out unwanted noise, and other wonders. We also learned that your next TV may well have four times the resolution of your current one, and that "smart TV" may not be so dumb after all.
We might not have been to every corner of the 1.4 million square feet of show floor (though our feet sure feel like they've walked it all) but we used our reporting powers to seek out the best inventions and evolutions of CES 2013, and here they are:
Ultra high definition TV - The next wave of TVs will be UHD, with four times the resolution of "full" 1080p high def. You can't see the pixels from three feet away, and since TVs keep getting bigger, it almost just makes sense. Samsung put out a 110-inch model that will ship to very rich people later this year, but even those among us without suites in the Burj Al Dubai will probably be able to afford a smaller UHD TV within a year or two.
Sony Xperia Z smartphone - What's better than a beautiful 5-inch 1080p phone with tempered glass on the front and back? How about a 13-megapixel camera and "intelligent auto" shooting? And what if it were water- and dust-resistant? That's the Xperia Z.
Silentium Quiet Bubble prototype chair - You can take a load off of your ears when you sit in this chair. It's flanked with noise-canceling speakers much like what you might find in popular travel headphones, and can cut down loud annoying ambient sounds.
LG laser projector - The best way to get a 100-inch picture right now is not to email Samsung and beg for their huge TV. No, it's to use LG's Laser TV, a projection system that can sit right as close as 22 inches from the specially designed screen and blast a picture so bright you can watch it in the daytime.
Evado Filip Vivoplay kid watch - A cellphone embedded in this small kids' watch means that you can use GPS, Wi-Fi and cellular towers to track the little ones, but if they do get lost or run into trouble, they push the little red button: The watch starts calling family members until one picks up.
Winbot window cleaner - Roomba got nothing on Winbot, the cleaning robot that has enough suction to stick to windows as it cleans. You still have to move it from window to window, and the version we saw doesn't have a battery, but the concept is bound to take off ... er, to stick.
WheeMe massage robot - What do you do while one robot is cleaning the house? Enjoy a relaxing massage from another robot. This semi-autonomous vibrating car thingy that drives all over your back is surprisingly comforting, though it's so lightweight, a deep-tissue rubdown is out of the question.
Pebble smartwatch - Smartwatches are all the rage at CES 2013, which is a bit surprising because they look as chunky as ever. But we can see the allure in the Pebble, with e-paper screen and the ability to pair with iPhones and Android phones via Bluetooth to tell you who's calling or texting you.
iPotty from CTA Digital - Show this to any parent who's recently endured their toddler's potty training, and we bet they'll say, "I'll take it!" Pairing a training toilet with an iPad case is about the best innovation in potty training since the Potty Watch.
ZBoard electric skateboard - Once fearless NBC News reporter Rosa Golijan mastered the basics of this sturdy machine, she proved its ease of use by wearing 4-inch heels. Don't try that at home, but it is a great alternative to the car; the skateboard can take you up to 10 miles on a charge.
Samsung and Panasonic smart TVs - Everybody has smart TVs now, but we liked Samsung's redesign, based on five separate intuitive screens. Panasonic won us over because its new smart TVs will have home screens you can customize with your favorite apps and content.
Lenovo table PC - No, don't call it a tablet PC, the IdeaCentre Horizon is a table PC, one that is meant to sit flat so that, in group settings, more than one person can multitouch at the same time. We're not sure who's going to use it, and for what, but it's definitely an eyebrow-raising innovation.
Hapifork digital utensil - How many times do you stab a bit of chicken and suddenly wonder — in the split second before it goes into your mouth — how much it weighs? No longer will this plague you, thanks to the Hapilabs smart fork, intended for geeks on diets.
Nvidia Project Shield gaming console - CES isn't really a gaming show, so Nvidia's announcement of an Android-based handheld gaming console came as a surprise. But what better way to launch its smokin' fast Tegra 4 processor?
Whirlpool Fireplace concept - In the not too distant future, we'll be cooking with light. At least that's what Whirlpool researchers in Italy are working on as part of their attempt to rethink the traditional hearth. After all, in many homes, cooking and socializing have become one and the same.
Canon PowerShot N camera - A cute square point-and-shoot meant to feed the Instagram craze, the PowerShot N has Wi-Fi and a touchscreen, and only a few buttons. Take a shot by pressing on the bezel around the lens, and it instantly creates a bevy of shots with all kinds of crops and filters.
TrackingPoint rifle - A hunting rifle gets the "Top Gun" makeover with a heads-up display and smart trigger. Once you've picked your target, the system calculates the best trajectory based on wind, humidity and other factors. Squeeze the trigger, but the gun won't fire until you're in perfect position.
Wilson Rothman is the Technology & Science editor at NBC News Digital. He's been at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas all week so his feet are sore. Feel free to tweet him up at @wjrothman, and join our conversation on Facebook.