I try to go to CES about every other year if I can. Consumer electronics, and actually consumer behavior in general drives the US economy. The reason internet advertising is so huge in the US and quite nascent in other companies is for just this reason.
I love 'stuff' and specially electronics. I'm not quite the early adopter (that's adopter, not adaptor like I hear people say all the time) because as I've become older I really value stuff to just work all the time. I have a lot less patience with stuff that works sometimes, or most of the time.
Supporting the Home Team, The machines are taking over
One of the reasons I wanted to go to CES this year was that Orbotix was exhibiting their robot ball. They had two booths at the show that were always packed with ball drivers. Right before the show they launched a few more apps for Sphero.
Paul did a great job of rejiggering their location on the floor and by my count the show is going to do very well for them. I visited the AR Drone booth as well and they seemed to be having similar success. Each year there are more robots, often rip offs of last year's most innovative robots. I think I saw 5 different Roomba vacuum type rip offs this year. International shows like this are interesting because with the exception of TV's, cool stuff gets invented in the US and then, 're-invented' elsewhere in the world.
The TV Update
The fun part about going to CES with some regularity is you track the trends. For instance when I was there two years ago all mainstream TV's were backlit LCD and the new thing was LED.
One company as I recall was showing an OLED prototype but that was the state of affairs. Now LED is general place and OLED is getting closer. Next year is probably the mainstream OLED year. Interestingly however I think the major players (Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sony) are now concentrating more on the electronics again than the screen. I think screen size and quality are just about played out.
Interesting demos I saw were the coming screens that are employing up scaling to take 1080i signals to 4K or 8K. This is probably out of necessity as all the major guys are showing 60, 70, and 80 screens as the norm now. 1080i starts to look a little jinky above 70 inches so I suppose that's driving the research. I was quite impressed with a side-by-side demo at the Sharp booth of 1080i and 4K.. The picture was much clearer, which kind of surprised me as there isn't more data in the signal.
3D is where the innovation is
Another major difference was the much more widespread 3D adoption. I considered upgrading my main screen this year (a 60 inch Plasma) but im glad I didn't. 3D really requires a much larger screen to be really cool and I probably would have done something in the 65 inch range before watching a lot of TV's at CES. As a result I would now be tempted to look at 70 inch screens or perhaps wait a year of two for 75 or 80. Sounds big, but the image looks much smaller in 3D. This combined with up scaling says wait another year to me.
Another thing I noticed at one of the booths (Samsung I think) was a demo comparing 3D images at different screen refresh rates. In previous years the side-by-side demos of refresh rate frankly weren't that compellingly different, but clearly with 3D it makes a much larger difference. I think it's because each eye is only seeing half the refresh rate and time difference between those frames jacks with your brain and the image quality. Probably NOT the year to go 3D until everyone is turning out fast images.
Sony was showing technology that computes harder on foreground images in 3D. Seems cool but probably just a stopgap as processor speeds increase and they just do that for entire image.
If your waiting for 3D with no glasses, it going to be a while
Saw a few demos of 'no glasses' 3D. The paint is pretty wet on that technology and frankly may never really get there. It will probably work well in 5 years on laptops but not sure how it's going to scale into multi-viewer situations. The problem is that screen has 'see' the viewer and modify the image based on the location of the viewer. Not sure how that works with multiple viewers. In any case don't wait for that to get perfected; it's going to be a long time.
Headphones are where it's at
If you own a brand that in any way is now or has ever been associated with sound, you are now big in the headphone market. Bob Marley was dancing around his booth wearing giant headphones, Marshall the iconic Amp guys, have line of headphones. The older guys like Sennheiser and Audio Technica, everyone has huge headphones. What surprised me is how bad most of them sound. The current trend (which I predicted over a year ago) is for huge headphones. Pretty sure it all spun up when Beats by Dr Dre came on the scene. I'm a fan of larger headphones as all ear buds universally suck for sound quality. Most I tried sounded really poor and I have to conclude based on reasonable experimentation that the headphone thing is currently 100% marketing rather than technology. For my ears the Audio-Technica stuff sounded the best.
If you are worried about you product line, add iphone cases
Humorously it seems every company, with a brand or not, in the entertainment space or not, serving the mobile market or not, has added a line of iphone cases. Can't believe Starbucks doesn't have any. They must literally be the only at business at CES that didn't have a line of iphone cases.
Love the Asian manufacturing companies
There is always a floor at the show that is inhabited by the Asian manufacturing companies that frankly are building the stuff for everyone else anyway. What I love about them is the way they market. If Steve Jobs is the most successful technology marketer in the world, the Asians as a group are the worst. I took this photo because it just made me laugh.
The company's product is "Smart TV Box". I'm sure they debated to even include 'Smart' in the name. I love these companies, they products are simply horrible. They always have 10 times the features of the products they copied but have literally no positive ergonomics. It's very interesting.
Here is a monster cable rip off at one of these booths. I can't fault them for their strategy. Americans like their soft drinks large and their cables larger. I picked up this little beauty as I'm sure it will make my surround sound system sound thumpin!
On the same theme it is staggering over the years how the real Monster Cable booth has grown larger and larger – seemingly to Monstrous proportions. No idea how that company does but my guess based on booth size is they have figured out how to convince people that the digital signal 'they transfer' between your components sound and look better than the exact same ones-and-zeros that radio shack transfers.
And yes, they have a line of headphones J