CES Report, January 2006
The Big Picture: more connectivity, fewer wires, smaller.
The Big News: no Apple.
The most interesting stuff was, of course, technology that won't be out for a few years. Flat panel displays of all types were looking VERY good, and the prices are plummeting.
It seemed like all the biggest displays - and most of them anyway - were from Asia. Forgive me if this is old news, but this was my first CES. I know that Korea has been trying to best Japan for a while, and anything made by US companies has been made there for a while, but this show drove the point home like never before. Korean companies are striking out large under their own brand names.
Samsung seemed to be the place to be this year. The technologies they were showing for future flat panel displays promised the kind of viewing experience we've always expected: you could watch them like almost like a TV, from any angle and with picture quality that makes you forget it's an LCD/DLP.
Samsung's SPVA & LED-BLU technologies go a long way to eliminating the 'viewing angle' and 'motion blur' discussions around LCD's. They are, of course, not available for at least a year according to the person I talked to, and probably longer.
Samsung & AKAI were both touting the First LED DLP display. Apparently they developed it jointly. The benefit is that LED's basically don't burn out. They have a lifetime longer than we do, which means that all our bad decisions will live on after us. OK, actually they give a lifetime of about 2.5 years in some circles, but that seems very short for an LED. We can likely expect more.
Here is the actual display. It looked good.
Better than that was the SED display, from a CANON/TOSHIBA partnership. This looked really great, at least in the small dark theater where they let you see it. Even so, I think this has great promise. It offers REAL black, great contrast, rich color and smooth motion, giving an image that looks as close to a CRT as I've ever seen o a flatpanel.
Toshiba was also showing “Engineering Samples” of glasses-free 3D displays. You had to be in the sweet spot, but the 2 displays they had were pretty cool. They seemed to be based on technology similar to lenticular 3D postcards, where you have different images on either side of a ridge, but the engineers at the kiosk couldn’t shed any more light it. Think Jesus winking at you as you turn the postcard from side to side. The photo I took didn’t turn out, which is why I didn’t include it. Without the 3D effect, there was nothing interesting about it.
Another interesting Samsung product was what I found out is referred to as their 'digital picture frame'. It was all over their display area as a digital sign, but no specs were to be had. It has ethernet connections, is about 7" diagonal, and I can think of a zillion uses. I want some. Front & rear views below.
TV on cell phones was also a big trend in the upper echelons (lower echelons had a gazillion tiny music and/or video players, of varying usefulness - this was the 'smaller' part of the show). Again, Samsung had the coolest floor samples of phones, available only in Asia for now, that get wide screen 'TV' of a sort.
Samsung TV phone. The screen rotates.
The woman from MediaFlo (the technology behind this) that talked to me about it took me off the Samsung floor to show me her personal LG phone, which she prefers. We still can't get it yet, but it's an intersting look at what's next: people on the bus, talking to their friends about the TV show they are both watching. Personally, I can't wait. She said MediaFlo is partnering with the cell network providers, and that getting the local channels - wherever you are - is a big deal for both of them. No word about whether they will be offering local Public Access channels yet.
A very attractive idea - except for the price - was from Akira, known by other names in other parts of the world. While Samsung offered a one-piece 82" LCD screen, Akira offered an 84" plasma display built with a 2x2 plasma stack and software. The processor for each screen to be intelligent is in the screen building block, so the software just talks to them. You can buy as many of these plasma blocks as you want, in effect building a jumbotron if you have enough. Bad news: about $40,000 for the 4 section 84" starter set and $10K for each additional block, which of course will need to be acquired in varying multiples to maintain your aspect ratio. But the price will certainly come down, and the idea of this almost-borderless (1/8”) plasma building block is a good one. The color discrepancies you see below are due to the fact that the show unit they were going to bring got sold, and this was all back room development stock. I asked.
They have software for a PC that lets you configure your modules any way you want, program in changes, etc. Since the processor is on each display module, any PC with USB can run it.
The company that had this on the floor was actually rep'ping this Taiwan manufacturer. They go by the name Trivision in Asia and Akira in Europe & the US. Their flat displays were among the best looking and *cheapest* I saw, at about 1/2 the cost of many others. How about a 37" LCD display for under $1000, that looks great? I'm talking to these folks, and will pass around pricing info when I get it. If it’s as good as it seemed, I’ll try to get some demos in house, too.
Another very cool product was an automatic book scanner, “BookDrive”, by a company called Atiz (www.atiz.com - the video clip is worth looking at, although I missed seeing the electronic fabric. The segment on this device is about 1/3 in). You put a book in it, and it turns each page with a 'sticky' finger, makes sure it all happened right, and then scans pretty well, too. The scanning arm is very thin, and does an OK (but not perfect) job of riding the curve of a page into and across the gutter. Pretty slick, as you can put a book in it and it does the rest, page by page. They said that a number of colleges had been very interested in their product, and I could see why.
HD-DVD and Blu-Ray were all over the place - as demos. We should see affordable recorders within the year. You can bid on this one now, though: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=5827037196&category=71581
Apparently Sony is making some of these available at a premium price.
Toshiba is selling a player now at just under $500.
FYI, here is the HD-DVD Family tree. I can send the hi-res file if anyone wants it.
Cool displays were not as abundant as I thought they would be, but here are a few:
There were actually 2 of these little ‘theaters’.
There was one thing that made for some head-turning encounters in the lobbies, at least until we figured out what was going on. Apparently we were sharing space with the Adult Entertainment Expo.
Philips had some very cool stuff, including this electronic version of the old fashioned family board game.
And this UNBELEIVABLE rolling display. I want one:
Miscellaneous cool stuff:
HDMI – DVI 360 deg. Swivel adaptor (http://www.qvs.com- look in the top right corner of the page)
I brought back a sample if you want to see it.
“Bluetooth Pen Shaped Device” (I have no idea what it did)
Exercise while playing Video Games!
Motorola embedded headphones & cell phones:
Philips also had some cool programmable remotes that used an LCD touch screen to emulate your familiar remotes, and could be programmed with macros to accomplish tasks like “watch DVD” that would do all the powering up and switching needed.
Algolith(.com) has these nifty standalone video noise reduction units, that did a very good job on noisy MPEG2 clips. # models: Flea, Mosquito, and Dragonfly, with varying levels of sophistication. I expect I’ll pick one up, and then let you know.
WalletFlash was kind of cool: a credit card size/style USB memory stick. (http://www.walletex.com).
And there was http://www.green-house.co.jp, that had a bunch of cool stuff, in particular a stacking speaker set for the Mac Mini. But hteir product that told me I wasn’t in Kansas anymore was the “Anti-Earthquake Gel Cushion”, to keep your flat panel monitor from keeling over during the next big one.
There was a lot more, and if anything surfaces that I’ve missed I’ll pass it on. Feel free to ask me about anything you are particularly interested in.
The most intriguing part for me, though, was the International Marketplace in the Hilton. Somehow I managed to get out of CES without a single photo of the place, but it was captivating: think Art Fair, as in a bunch of 10 x 10 cubicles, but inside and all set up in these endless rows. Great names: "Tons-a-Million Importing", "Billion Ton Importing" (not to be outdone), and every other imaginable name that inspires one to think of great volume, great power, and great success. And of course, the de rigeur infusion of signs that had never seen an English speaker until they arrived in Las Vegas.
But these were the vendors that had the most irresistible products: ladybug earbuds, great LED desk lamps, remote control padlocks, and "Taiwan Quality at China Prices".
The point of most of this was to find clients for Asian manufacturing concerns, but seeing the array of things that I *really wanted* gives me pause. Nothing I saw on the main floors excited the same response from me. Where are the cool products from the mainstream companies? Ok, so they're busy inventing and implementing the new infrastructures and embedded technologies that our lives will be founded on, but I want all those cool fiddley-bits!