The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) trade group recently released its 2006 Five Technologies to Watch. The annual publication examines prominent technology trends poised to influence the consumer electronics industry in the year ahead.

First, cheaper HDTV sets and more HD programming will spur demand for such recordable high-definition devices as Blu-Ray Disc, HD-DVD and HD-DVR. About 10% of American homes have digital video recorders and that number is expected to climb next year as more cable and satellite providers offer HDVR service. Blu-Ray Disc and HD-DVD both have the ability to record and transport HD content. But it remains unclear which format will become the industry "standard." Copy protection and video-on-demand may also undermine growth of recordable HD devices.

Robots have yet to duplicate human flexibility, mobility, and dexterity. But specialized, single-purpose robots are beginning to have an impact. For example, half a million American homes have robotic vacuums. And domestic robots that can sort laundry or scrub the kitchen floor are not far off. But to appeal to mass markets, future robots must be relatively inexpensive, reliable, and effective.

Consumers creating their own digital home studios will spend about $14 billion this year on digital cameras, camcorders, audio players, software, and printers.

Sales of electronic-game consoles and portable platforms are expected to rise 18% to $3.7 billion this year. In addition, PC-based gaming has developed into a multibillion dollar industry of its own and spawned new segments such as PDA and cell-phone gaming. Next-generation consoles from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo set to launch late this year and in early 2006 could underpin the digital home. Such consoles incorporate high-definition movie playback, online game play, digital-camera and camcorder connectivity, as well as provide access to computer files stored on a PC. On the console and PC-gaming front, plans are in the works for on-demand game services offered through cable, satellite, and IPTV. Mobile gaming also continues to grow and is expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2008.

Finally, with the transition to digital well underway, flat-panel displays such as plasma, LCD, and DLP have become increasingly popular. Sales will continue to grow even as the average wholesale TV price rises from $323 to $533, according to CEA forecasts. Still on the horizon are even thinner display technologies such as surfaceconduction electron emitter and organic light-emitting diodes. These could succeed today's flat-panel displays and become the next upgrade TVs.

CEA represents more than 2,000 corporate members involved in the design, development, manufacturing, distribution, and integration of audio, video, mobile electronics, wireless, and landline communications, information technology, home networking, multimedia, and accessory products, as well as related services that are sold through consumer channels. Combined, CEA members account for more than $121 billion in sales annually.