For the tech world, the new year only truly begins when the industry pitches up in Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which this year took place between January 6th and 9th. But apart from the bright lights of Sin City and the fact it's the first major show of the year, what really makes this special is its 'anything goes' atmosphere, where developers show up with a huge selection of random and sometimes bizarre designs that showcase just what's possible with the latest technology.
Sure, there's the usual array of flash new TVs, tablets, 3D printers and in-car connectivity, but wandering around the show's two million square feet of floor space, you're just as likely to find gadgets such as a Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush or a bed that promises to cure your snoring problem. One thing attracting attention at this year's show was a massive Bluetooth speaker in the shape of a life-size Dalek (not compatible with stairs).
Many of these will probably never see the light of day in a store, but they do show the inventiveness and innovation of the tech industry – and some of the connectivity and mobile gadgets on display ought to get you excited about what you might be able to do in a couple of years.
So therefore, here's our pick of some of the best, biggest and oddest trends on display at CES 2014.
Everything online – the Internet of Things
The idea of hooking up your fridge to the internet so it can order more milk for you when you run out isn't exactly new, but this year saw the Internet of Things take off in a big way, boosted by better wireless connectivity technology and advanced smartphones that let you control the world from the palm of your hand.
Aside from the Bluetooth toothbrush, which apparently helps you keep track of your dental health via a smartphone app, there were connected thermostats, door locks, kitchen appliances and even cars on show at CES. In fact, if it has space for a computer chip, you can bet it was connected to the internet.
Senior vice-president and chief marketing officer at Cisco Blair Christie explained: "The Internet of Everything [creates] unprecedented opportunities for organisations, individuals, communities and countries to realise dramatically greater value from networked connections between people, processes, data and things."
What's that on your face? Wearable technology
If this year's CES is anything to go by, Google Glass and smartwatches are just the tip of the iceberg for a new generation of wearable technology – and the whole selection was on display, from the practical to the ridiculous.
A range of celebrities were on hand to convince us that items like the Google Glass can look cool – with varying degrees of success. However, there were some genuinely impressive smartwatches on display, such as the Pebble Steel, which looks like it has finally cracked the problem of dodgy design with a stylish wristwatch you might actually want to wear.
What does that phone do? Anything you want
A huge variety of apps and additional hardware to transform your smartphone into something else were also on show. For instance, there were health gadgets that can use your phone to monitor signs such as heart rate, body temperature and breathing rates that were likened to Star Trek's tricorder.
Or how about thermal imaging technology, or enhanced camera lens, or pressure sensors that let you control your phone by touching its back. There was even an accessory on show that turns your phone into a 650,000-volt stun-gun – though we don't recommend that, as it would be illegal in the UK.
New vision – next-gen display tech
One thing that's clear is 1080p TVs are now painfully old-hat – and even the sharp new devices such as 4K displays are losing their wow factor. This year, the big innovation in display technology was curved screen TVs, which are claimed to offer a more immersive viewing environment.
Both Samsung and LG had gadgets on show, though Samsung's launch was rather overshadowed when its celebrity guest, Transformers director Michael Bay, walked off stage after an autocue malfunction.
This may have been for the best for Samsung, however, as the reaction to the curved displays has been distinctly underwhelming, with many analysts describing it as gimmicky and a technology that no-one really needs.