CES 2010.

I went to CES 2010 in Las Vegas in early January and initially I was planning to write an extensive report with a lot of details, photographs and in-depth commentary. However, I quickly gave up on this idea and these are just some random bits and pieces that I found interesting at CES.

This was my very first time to attend CES and it turned out that show was much more commercial then I had expected. There was almost no prototypes or “futuristic” proposals, and if there were any – they were mostly demonstrated behind the scenes. At the show itself there were only commercial products ready to hit market.

3D TVs and 3D content were everywhere. Every major and not-so-major consumer electronics company demonstrated 3D TVs, 3D Blue-ray players and a variety of 3D content. The quality of content was actually very impressive. I do think that we will see a lot of stereoscopic 3D tech in coming years.

Another major trend at CES was LED TVs. The term is a bit confusing: LED TVs are not some new display technology, these are  same good old LCD displays but with LED backlight. If I am not mistaken, the first LED TV was released a few years ago by Sony as part of Qualia product line. Of course, if you have OLED TV you do not need backlight at all but, unfortunately, there were almost no OLED displays shown at CES except for the one from LG shown below.

Electronic books and electronic paper had a significant presence at CES. It seems everyone is making e-books or e-paper in a variety of sizes and configurations. Most of them look very similar, though there were some interesting diversions. The enTourage eDGe e-book below had e-paper on one side and LCD display on the other, which seemed to defy the whole purpose of having e-book in the first place.

Plastic Logic has shown a e-reader where all driving electronics is built out of plastic transistors. Potentially, it would allow to make the device completely flexible, which they did not do for some unknown reason.

Sony booth featured their new motto “make.believe” and I suddenly realized that I can not remember what was the old one. At the booth I ran into old colleague of mine who was demonstrating camera-based interactions with new Sony Bravia TV. This new Bravia had built in camera and could use positions and locations of human faces to control the TV, e.g. it could automatically switch it off if no one is watching it. They are using the same software as in Sony “smile shutter” cameras.

There was very little of Augmented Reality at CES. One was EyePet game developed by Sony UK studios, which allowed users to control virtual pet superimposed on the physical world using physical markers. Surprisingly, they were not using classic CyberCode AR tracking library developed in Sony CSL, but rather software that looks very much like AR Toolkit. Apparently, they reimplemented tracking software themselves.

Other interesting gadgets were a Sony low-cost video cameras with a small 360 degrees lens that allows to capture panoramic images and Experia phone from Sony Ericsson that had half transparent screen, which looked very nice, designy and conceptual.

Candella is an artificial candle that uses an LED, a couple of magnets and small piece of cloth to create very believable physical simulation of candlelight. In fact, it was licensed from Disney and it is exactly the same technology that is used in Haunted Mansion attraction in Disney parks. Another interesting gadget was Pocket Radar: a small handheld device that can measure speed of objects moving very fast. A must have for any baseball fanatic.

Thermal FLIR cameras really came down in price: a simple thermal camera is about $2000 today. An interesting property of thermal images is that since heat dissipates rather slow, a human touch creates temporary “thermal marks”. For example you can see that an image of my hand in a pocket stayed there even after I took my hand out. Note that “FLIR” is a trademark, not a generic term for these cameras.

There was a plethora of devices that would take an old iconic device, such as ghetto bluster, and stick iPod in them. Who is buying these things?

A few input devices caught my eye at CES. One is a musical interfaces consisted of a bunch of red laser emitters and sensors. The device would react to the user breaking a beam and it was supposed to be used for a musical performance. Another one was a Peregrine data glove with electrical contacts sewn into the glove: these are the lines on fingers and pads on thumb and on the hand. When the user folded his or her fingers and contacts on fingers touch contacts on the thumb on and the hand, the glove would recognize hand configuration and do something. That looked awfully similar to the good old pinch glove.

There was not much in term of haptic interfaces at CES, but I did experience the ButtKicker for the first time. ButtKicker is  basically a powerful motor attached to a small platform. You put it under the chair, so that one leg of the chair is standing on the platform, plug it into the sub-woofer of sound system and the motor will ramble your chair according to whatever is coming from the sub-woofer. I need to get one for myself.

And of course CES would not be CES without some  wacky stuff. My favorite one was this hat where you put your iPhone inside and then watch movies in privacy of your hat and with no sunlight to bother you. That was awesome. And logo was quite nice. My second most favorite wacky product were these creepy stuffed animals that would shake along with music playing from the iPod that you stick in them. I have seen dancing Santa and singing fish, but shaking frogs and pandas with iPods in them, are taking this concept on the whole new level.

And that concludes my notes on CES 2010.

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