Tag Archives: CES

The X Factor Of Being Heard

 

Sometimes, you see a technology that is extremely cool and can’t wait for it to hit the market. And sometimes, you see something like Headphone:X from DTS that feels more like a pipe-dream that leads you to imagine where it might make the most sense. Could this X-Factor ever really be heard by more than a select few? Which got me thinking that DTS and Headphone:X is a prime technology candidate for marketing and experiential sampling.

HeadphoneX

We first experienced Headphone:X at CES 2013 and blogged about it in the recap. They put people in a room with 11 speakers placed about and did a white noise cycle.  Then they asked everyone to put their headphones on and seemingly repeated except they did not use the speakers, all the directionality was via the headsets alone.  They then went on to showcase a bunch more music and sound effects and challenged you to take the headphones off to kill your disbelief.

 

Needless to say, it sounded amazing – but the questions were:
–          What content was engineered in 11.1, and
–          Was a new receiver required or was it backwards compatible with existing DTS receivers.

 

The immediate response on site was that you would need new hardware…

 

To me, its an incredible sounding gimmick that might never really find real momentum, just like 7.1 is hard to come by because very few elements are engineered for it, nor do most consumers have the required 7 speakers in their music room. Headphone:X is a great solution as you can use most any set of headsets, but that processing and source engineering poses some release challenges.

 

Now, if we’re talking about experiential environments that can truly transport someone through audio alone, there’s a huge opportunity – but you’ve got to find the client or content creator with a need and wherewithal for such a thing. Creating that environment that truly tickles the senses in a way people aren’t accustomed to is much stronger than just re-purposing video or an experience the consumer could easily have elsewhere.  With the right utilization, Headphone:X could be the X-Factor that differentiates your message being heard rather than ignored.

 

When World Mobile Congress Drops The Gavel, Scarlet Strategic Is There

Though I don’t believe the Mobile World Congress actually drops the gavel, when it does “fall” next week in Barcelona, Scarlet Strategic/Scarlet Terrier Productions will be there. Continuing with the success from CES, the Mall Wall and Cloud-Connected Table that is presented as part of the ngConnect program will be shown in Alcatel-Lucent’s booth. Even in the short time since CES 2013, the systems have been strengthened even further and truly showcase how connectivity can add another dimension to interactivity and digital signage.

Connected

From the 25th through the 28th of February, these products can be seen in Hall 3, booth 114. If you can’t make it to Barcelona, you can get a very basic sense of the Mall Wall and Cloud-Connected Table by clicking on either – certainly not the same as being there, but…

With the double offering of better connectivity in public spaces and heightened interactivity with content via NFC, these products are perfectly positioned for generating even more interest on the Mobile World Congress floors.

CES 2013 Show Recap and Technology Tidbits

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

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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…

3D Printing

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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.

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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.

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Lexus

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Audi

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…

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Connectivity

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Scarlet Strategic At CES 2013 – Showcasing Cloud Based Connectivity Innovation

The buzz surrounding next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is about many things – from the replacement of Microsoft as the Keynote to connected home solutions to the introduction of even larger TVs that may still take a while to make it to market. Scarlet Strategic and Scarlet Terrier Productions are proud to be part of CES through their participation as a contributing member in the ng Connect program.  Of the 12 demos being shown, Scarlet Strategic is involved in two of them that bring connectivity, information and entertainment to public spaces – and best of all, they can be deployed right away.

ngConnect

The ng Connect Program – founded by Alcatel-Lucent – is a multi-industry ‘ecosystem’ dedicated to the creation of the next-generation user experience for connected consumers. The program is comprised of more than 190 member companies, of either Contributing or Associate membership levels, and including leading network, application and content providers and consumer electronics manufacturers.

In Alcatel-Lucent’s booth, South Hall Booth 31412, the demonstration of 12 new cloud-based service concepts created by the ng Connect Program aimed at stimulating application innovation as consumers seek ever more exciting experiences from connected devices like smartphones and tablets.

The two Demos featuring Scarlet Strategic involvement are:

  • MALL WALL – Showcased on the Video Wall
    A large format digital sign that is placed in a mall or public setting. It takes digital signage to the next level of interactivity, allowing shoppers to interact with the sign from their mobile phones. Shoppers can use their NFC enabled phones to scan NFC tags and initiate a session with the Mall Wall. No custom application is needed on the phone, as all phone screens are implemented as HTML5 mobile web pages. The screens can vary in size from what people may be accustomed to for mall maps to huge 120 foot long bilboards (or more) with multiple points of interactivity.  The scope and dynamic scale provided by this offering is what makes it truly stand out.ng Connect Collaborating member(s): Brass Monkey, Scarlet Strategic/Scarlet Terrier Productions, wCities

    Alcatel-Lucent Highlighted Products:  CloudBand, Velocix, Optism, LTE

  • CLOUD CONNECTED TABLES
    These fully interactive surfaces serve advertising, entertainment, and media in transitional waiting spaces.  They provide a delivery and consumption platform for digital media.  They also provide interactivity via a multitouch screen and smartphones. The tables offer flexible 4G/LTE or wired connectivity.ng Connect Collaborating member(s): Brass Monkey, iGoLogic, wCities, IntuiLab, Scarlet Strategic/Scarlet Terrier Productions

    Alcatel-Lucent Highlighted Products:  DMS, CloudBand, Velocix, Wi-Fi Offload Products

The partnership opportunities generated by the ng Connect program have been phenomenal in that we are able to bring reality-based connective media platforms to market quickly and effectively.  In the case of both items being demoed, the infrastructure is already in place to enable deployment to high-trafficked venues and the integration of media opportunities that Scarlet Strategic’s clients are actively looking for.

Scarlet Strategic’s involvement in the program and CES 2013 makes perfect sense as we move into an age of connectivity that could have only been dreamed of in the past.

International CES Recap – Tidbits of the Future

International CES 2012 brought on a bunch of questions about relevancy.  If you sell electronics, it must be invaluable.  If you are looking at what’s coming out to help with communications, information and entertainment – its always a mixed bag. With how much there was to see, I’m sure I missed a few goodies, but here’s some tidbits looking into our near and distant future – and some other things we hope will change:

  • One of my favorite sections was the Innovations Hall that was moved from the central lobby of the convention center to within a hall at the Venetian.  It ended up being worth the trip to see some of the cool products that are not only coming up, but are already available.  In a sad way, it was also fun to comment on the descriptions and set-ups as it seemed that whomever typed them and placed products was doing it at the end of a very long day. With fabulous typos, products being placed upside down and items such as a remote for one item being placed with another item it added some gamesmanship and humor in trying to find the next mistake – there were easily more than a dozen to be found.
  • LG had the most mind-blowing large presentation with a wall of screens cycling through phenomenal 3-D content as you walked from the main lobby into their showcase.  Their passive 3D glasses (like those RealD 3D glasses are certainly the most comfortable.  It became quickly clear, though, that the passive 3D experience does not have as great of depth as active 3D glasses.
  • Samsung, Sharp and others touted 4X screens that showed phenomenal resolution 4X that of 1080P, but it just highlighted the fact that we are probably years away from enough content being made in this resolution to make these sets even reasonably worthwhile.
  • Panasonic did a nice job of highlighting the technology advancements they are making via re-engineering refresh-rate technology and plasma technology in general.  The split screens showcased the differences beautifully and it was too bad that there was only a couple of people paying attention to this section as the crowds were elsewhere in the Panasonic exhibit.
  • Sony unveiled a tablet that has two 5.5″ screens that enable users to fold them in half for placement in a coat pocket or purse.  Seems pretty cool from a portability standpoint.  I would just be worried about the extra wear and tear. 
  • Huge convention center rooms diminish the scale of large TVs.  The 80″+ screens looked great, but the way they were placed made them look relatively like my 65″ at home.
  • I was impressed and excited to see a grouping of eco-minded companies represented in the hall adjacent to the Innovations hall in the Venetian that dealt with power sources, recycling and more green electronics solutions.  While their impact might not be big, it was good to see them as I had not seen them at the conference before.
  • Too many staffers have too little knowledge about the products they are presenting.  One example is a staffer in the Microsoft area whose response to a man’s question about the benefits of some laptops and she just told him that they were just the newest models.  She had no idea that the wall of laptops were on display to highlight all of the Ultrabooks that have come out as a PC answer to Apple’s Macbook Air.  If this was Intel and Microsoft’s big push for this show, it’s a shame the staff wasn’t better informed.
  • Every year, I hit the Qualcomm section at just the right time to get the perfect coffee drink that they always provide as freebies…
  • Samsung Mobile also offered free coffee, but their big buzz in the central lobby was the Samsung Note – what they refer to as a smartphone tablet hybrid.  Their hook was having caricaturists draw attendees directly on the devices.  They were only slightly larger than smartphones, so it will be interesting to see how sales go.  Also interesting to see an incorporated stylus in a new product.
  • Samsung presented TV sets that were lightweight and wireless so you can move them from room-to-room as needed.  Interesting concept that might not find many people who care…
  • Dolby set up a theatre to highlight the Dolby 7.1 surround sound on the forthcoming extreme snowboarding film, THE ART OF FLIGHT.  It sounded phenomenal, but its a shame that most people will not be able to hear it in this fashion.

All in, it was a lot of ground to cover in one day.  In some ways I wish I had more time to cover it, but I’m mostly happy that I wasn’t there longer than a day.  Without a doubt, the best showcases were ones that had well-educated staff working the product – regardless of how big or small the brand was. When looking at CES as a barometer of what’s next, it was relatively ho-hum.  When looking at it as a concept vehicle where some parts will be thrown away, there was a bit of promise but we still have a long way to go – and that’s exciting…

International CES Recap – Still a While To Go To Really Get Connected

The organizers of CES claim to cover what amounts to 37 football fields for the annual conference and my feet are complaining enough that it seems like it was even more.  There were certainly enough eye-popping presentations in the main hall – where all the heavy-hitters were – but a lot of solid elements were found in the secondary halls.  As promised, I did try to get deeper into the steps manufacturers and other players were taking to strengthen interfacing with content and what I found was neither good nor bad – it was just a little ho-hum.  Where I thought many television manufacturers would be advancing their smart or connected screens further than last year – or adding further interactivity options with second-screens, I really didn’t see much.  In the case of Panasonic, they almost acted like an entire kiosk from last year didn’t even exist.  Specific interfaces to control what shows up on the screen have advanced in small ways. But, from what was shown on the floor, the interfacing with and connecting to vast forms and formats of content still have a while before it becomes reality.

Starting with Panasonic, the exciting use of tablets shown last year to select and share content from your tablet on the big screen was greatly minimized.  Their showcase element of this type of connectivity was a limited example of interfacing with MySpace.  With the program in development, the canned presentation did not excite.  Sharp touted some connected screens, but didn’t go into specifics and their biggest interactivity showcase of the event as their Aquos workscreen meant to take the place of conference room white-boards.  Its direct incorporation of video conferencing, touch screen manipulation of images, documents and spreadsheets on a huge scale were nice, but certainly not consumer-facing.  Samsung relied much less this year on showing how Samsung mobile phones can act as controllers for their TVs and focused much more on their new voice and gesture-based controlling of the screens.  Some speculated this feature is an opening salvo to the reported functionality of the yet-to-be-seen Apple TV, but we’ll see how it plays in the long run against the offering of XBox360 and Kinect controls that would do the same on any TV it is attached to – regardless of manufacturer.

There were a couple of social connectability offerings shown by companies other than TV or mobile manufacturers.  The one that looked promising to me – if not completely there yet – was by a company named Copia.  They allow users to share notes in the margins of books as you read them on your tablet.  It seemed that the possibility to expand the mechanic to other forms of entertainment consumption on their platform was promising.  Cisco announced the incorporation of Cloud technology to its floundering Videoscape product that allows all forms of connectivity and interaction via set-top boxes and mobile by way of ActiveVideo. 

In a much less satisfying form of connectivity, but interesting all the same in what it could be with the incorporation of a Cloud is what Intel was showing off for instant sharing.  The problem with the product as it now stands is that it is only within your Wi-Fi network.  Imagine if you were able to take a picture and share it immediately with pre-determined friends and family around the world without having to compress and send through SMS, email or other.  The mechanics they showed within network would be astounding if they could be controlled through the Cloud for instant sharing.  Perhaps that’s something that could be integrated with Google+ and it circles – yet with expanding beyond the internet and onto TVs and mobile phones…

So, in the end, I couldn’t get much more insight into interfaces other than just the idea of tapping into apps as they are and not APIs.  While we will be connected, it will take a while to really get there.

Come back tomorrow to check out some other general observations of CES 2012…

International CES 2012 Buzz About Connectivity – Should Be About Interfaces

Leading into CES 2012 in Las Vegas where the exhibits open this morning, the buzz has been varied.  Last year, it was about 3D televisions.  but just like 3D has cooled off a little in terms of excitement theatrically, it has done the same in consumer electronics.  Everyone will be scrambling through the acres of exhibits for that next big bit of consumer electronics.

From an entertainment perspective, it seems like a bit of buzz has swelled about connectivity – whether through connected televisions or mobile/tablets that act as second screen iterations.  Last year, Panasonic and Samsung showed off some kernels of possibility, but it was early in development and even their staff was ill-prepared to talk about the products.  much like other years, there seems to be more buzz about who is not there – Apple.  With rumors about an Apple TV coming out and the fizzle of Google TV still fresh in everyone’s minds, it would be surprising to see anything mind-blowing on a large-scale.  I fully expect to see some interesting technology that only hints at its possibility as I scour the floors today.  And I expect to see a lot of connected devices – televisions, tablets, phones, refrigerators and who knows what else.  When all is said and done, content is still going to be required and that is why I feel that 2012 should really be about interfaces.

When referring to interfaces, I mean simple connections between these connected devices and the places they want to pull content from.  People can explore the web to find whatever content they want, but the demand for content and the ways that connected devices are set up mean there needs to be more accessibility and logic to retrieve that content quickly. 

We’ve already seen mobile apps that rely on content and then seemingly dry up when those content providers change rules or the interfaces change.  We’ve also seen demand for technology wain when there’s not enough content or features to play with. In the case of connected televisions or second-screen devices, there is usually either too little content or it is too expensive to provide the same quality of content across the board – effectively causing barriers to entry for front-end providers and adoption by consumers.  In the case of BD-Live, consumers just didn’t care when they found that the offerings were extremely limited.  The same kind of apathy would be quite damaging to connected devices across the board.  In a way, its the old question of what comes first – the chicken or the egg.  Consumers are aware that the next big thing is right around the corner, so the offering has to be extremely special to engage them to make a purchase now.

We’re not just limiting ourselves to products unveiled at CES as specifically needing those plentiful interfaces.  There just don’t seem to be enough open APIs to feed the succesful launch of the next generation of killer apps that will grow exponentially once they are more readily available.

Until then, we’ll have to rely on what’s available and the limits they present.  With that in mind, I’ll be searching out what content interface solutions the players are using and will report on what I find tomorrow.