Another CES has come and gone. And, much like in the past, there’s some cool things that you can’t wait to see hit the market. There’s also some things you don’t want to see hit the market. There were a number of “wow” factors as well as some “scratch your head in wonder” factors. Some may never see the light of day and some are already there. One of the most interesting elements was the tracking of progression from one year to the next – both in the show itself and the technologies it showcases. The show itself is now covering even more square footage. So, with the feet showing more wear and tear, what follows is a collection of thoughts and tidbits.
Microsoft’s Huge Cost Savings
Before getting into what was actually on the floor, there was a lot of press was devoted to Microsoft’s pulling out of CES – no booth and no keynote. Kudos to them on still making a huge Keynote splash by crashing Qualcomm’s Keynote with Steve Ballmer walking on stage and presenting Windows Mobile 8. Who knows how much they saved in sponsorship fees, Keynote production costs and the actual cost of the booth.
Starting At Innovation
In years past, I’ve made it a habit to start the show at the main hall, but switched it up this year and began at the Innovation Hall in the Venetian. What used to be a showcase of the Innovation “Best In Shows” on the convention center’s main lobby floor has expanded – even if it’s not so close to the main floor. The great thing about the Innovation Hall is that it provides a quick overview of what’s new and cool. You can’t interact with most of the things, but it easily provides the opportunity to determine what booths you don’t want to miss on the exhibition floors.
What has made it even more interesting is the grouping of small, up and coming companies in the hall around the “Best of” displays. These are the budding companies who may have a cool idea but don’t really have the strongest marketing and certainly don’t have the market share (yet) to be on the main floor. There are probably more misses than hits, but its always fun to find the hidden jewels.
Future Home – Whirlpool
Though not a start-up by any means, Whirlpool used this space to show off possible future tech. In the image above, they considered this to be a futuristic fireplace – where people could sit around a table with weird lighting from the table and above and have the food kept warm by the lighting. My takeaway was that it could work on the Gallactica or in Buck Rogers, but it will be interesting to see if this becomes a common feature in the next 20 years…
While there was only one 3D printer in this hall last year, the ones presented this year made last year’s seem like it was from the stone ages. The precision printing of objects directly from digital files is very cool to see in person. In the top image, you can even see a guitar made from a 3D printer. While still somewhat rudimentary, you can really see some true future benefits from the development of this technology.
Autos and Accessories
Moving on to the Convention Center, we restrained ourselves from going into the Main Hall and went into the North Hall instead – where mobile accessories and Auto products reign. After a while in this hall (and the entire show for that matter) you feel like you never want to see an accessory again.
One thing that I found funny in the accessories was this product from Pure Gear that adds an analog game to the iPhone. Made me laugh because you would assume there’s an app for that. Perhaps they figured they’d pass on the charging cover and just provide something to do for when your battery dies out.
Audi has been on the floor in this hall for a few years and their booths are quite spectacular. With Lexus joining the fray and promoting their future self-driving car, they provided some communication competition for Audi, but the Germans still mastered booth mystique. Even with the lack of clarity in terms of what Audi was selling, their booth was hands down the winner.
And, just in case you were wondering about the safety of texting and driving in Los Angeles – or anywhere for that matter – consider the computing power found within the newest LAPD cars…
On the upper floor of the South Hall, the heavy hitters were all about connectivity and processing. Verizon was showing off every use of mobile under the sun, Qualcomm was highlighting everything that uses their chips/processors (plus providing their usual coffee stand) and Alcatel Lucent was demoing all the ngConnect stuff. The connected displays we worked on were well received by numerous entities coming through – from Telcos salivating over the opportunity for transactional revenue to mall and other large-scale public venue corporations excitedly discovering how their locations can be reinvigorated through dynamic, connected signage.
There was a bunch of other stuff to see on the floor that was interesting for about a minute and then you moved on.
Sadly, I didn’t get much time on the bottom floor of the South Hall, but I did see a few things of interest. The first was a robot window cleaner to complete your collection of the Rhoomba and the Mint. I wish I could find more, but the company member who was there wasn’t too open with information. One thing of note about that lower hall was that there was much more breathing room. There was an opportunity to have some fun with your booth design – which one company selling bluetooth enabled outdoor active speakers did.
The Main Event – Main Floor
This year, I entered the main hall in a way that I hadn’t before. In addition to not being the first hall I entered, I only spent a short period in there on the first day and then didn’t go back in until the middle of the second day.
When we first went in, we just went into the LG booth because it has the best entrance – with the huge 3D wall. This year, what really caught my eye (and was my most memorable technology from the show)was the Ultra HD 84″ screen that was just beyond the wall.
Obviously, it can’t be seen here, but what makes it spectacular is the fact that LG has seemingly mastered 3D over the past year. Their glasses have always been great, but their 3D was only good for things coming out of the screen toward the viewer. This monitor caught my eye because of the addition of a great depth-of-field.
Regardless of how blown away I was by the Ultra HD, I had to laugh when I got to a nearby screen for 3D gaming. The screen looked great, but they highlighted the use of a mobile phone to control the gameplay. When I tried to play the game using it, I had to constantly look down at the controller – which wasn’t in 3D. A cool concept, but with its flat screen, mobile devices as controllers just don’t make sense.
On the way out of the hall, I stopped at the Intel booth which seems to have literally blossomed without Microsoft being so close. I sadly don’t have any images, but built an interactive Ultrabook display that looked like a tree.
The next day was the accidental discovery that was my favorite content of the show as well as led me to my favorite audio piece at the show – both of which were at the DTS booth.
My favorite content was the interview by Nic Harcourt with the engineer for most of the Beatles’ albums – Geoff Emerick. Geoff’s frankness and stories from those days were fascinating in how they would create effects in an analog world that still hold their own in a digital one.
After the interview, we were able to sample a new DTS product called Headphone.X that effectively can turn any set of decent headphones into an 11.1 sound system. Their demo did a great job showcasing this new technology. But, as with many things shown at CES, it will take a while to even cycle the newer processors that can handle the technology into the market. When I asked, I was told that Qualcomm is the only one providing a processor that can handle it – and then the audio still needs to be build in 11.1. So who knows when we will actually be able to enjoy.
As for the rest of the main hall, it was even more about lights and action and overwhelming stuff. The biggest players are Samsung, Sony and Panasonic. Sony’s area was huge and provided a lot of room to walk around and see their version of the largest OLED.
Panasonic was throwing everything out there from screens to beauty products to a first-class cabin on Air Singapore. They even had their own version of the largest OLED. Their booth was somewhat easy to move around, but the presentation was dry and I am still trying to figure out who would want the 20″ tablet they were showing off.
I will say this for Panasonic: they did a very good job of conveying how their technology makes it into people’s lives – both in the home and in business. One example is their presentation of POS solutions through tablets. They drew people in with their organic menu and allowed the technology presentation to get people over their disappointment that there wasn’t actually healthy food available on the floor.
Finally, the booth that exemplifies all that is CES can be found in the middle of the main hall – Samsung.
Samsung has usually had the coolest things to show and have always generated the largest crowds. Sadly, their booth design is an assault on the senses. It is so overwhelming that you don’t know what to look at, where to go or why to care. Taken in doses, the content is more palatable, but that controlled dose pattern is very hard to pull off. Without a doubt, there were many great items that were missed due to the hubbub.
But, I guess in the end, that’s what CES is all about – and what drives people to come back – the exploration for that next great thing.