DAY 4 @ CES
12.06PM: CES is winding its way extravagantly to its conclusion and by now most of the big products or prototypes have been revealed. The CNet Awards are always a good indicator of the products that have not only captured the imaginations of conference goers, but are destined to make it to market.
Some highlights among the winners for me include:
Fitbit Flex – the latest device from the company that lets you track how many paces you make in the course of a day and therefore how many calories your burn and also keeps an eye on your sleeping patterns. The Flex moves the Fitbit’s form factor on a great deal – its a rubberised wristband with a tiny device in it that monitors your movement. It is Bluetooth-capable so can wirelessly transmit to a smart phone or tablet, giving you all your fitness and sleeping data in one easy to view interface. A great little device designed to make you think that little bit extra about how much physical activity you are doing, and push you to do more. it is also waterproof, though at this stage isn’t able to count how many lengths you do in the pool – but just wait, it can’t be far off.
YotaPhone – With Google rumoured to working on a high-end Android-based smart phone designed to better what is currently available from Samsung and HTC, it certainly seems like the rivals in the iPhone camp will be upping their game this year. Seemingly out of nowhere comes YotaPhone to join them. The Android-based phone is a similar form factor to the Samsung Galaxy S3, but has an additional screen on the back of the phone. This is an e-ink screen, similar to the Amazon kindle – so grey scale, but very power efficient. The idea is that you use the front-side LCD for all the rich web browsing you enjoy, then flip the phone over to read articles and books or to save power when you are running low on battery. This is genius in my book. YotaPhone also looks to be doing some clever stuff with gesture recognition as a way of navigating the phone. This is just what we need to shape up the Android market.
CubeX 3D printer – Between 3D Systems and Makerbot, 3D printing was well represented at CES with new devices from both companies that increase the options for people looking to design and print their own objects. The key thing is that these companies are putting some pretty sophisticated capability in the hands of everyday users at realistic prices – the new CubeX 3D printer will sell priced from US$3,249.
My top picks
Also on my list for the best technologies out of the show – the iRobot Remote Presence Robot mentioned below, Sony’s new water-resistant Xperia Z smartphone, Dish’s Hopper pay TV service that lets you easily shift recorded programmes to smart phones and tablets, Samsung’s revamped SmartTV interface – which will make it to New Zealand, LG’s laser TV, which gives you a 100 inch high-definition image without having to create space in the lounge for a TV screen.
The most visually spectacular technology on display had to be Samsung’s 110 inch Ultra HD display and Panasonic’s 20 inch Ultra HD Windows 8 tablet. Who knows why you’d need a 20 inch tablet, but it sure looks stunning.
DAY 3 @ CES
7AM: Nice curves – Korean TV makers LG and Samsung surprised CES visitors with prototype OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TV screens that are curved. The 55 inch screens were arrayed three in a row at CES, forming a gently curving TV wall around the viewer. The set-up buts the viewer the optimal distance away from the screen in every direction, so is the ultimate in home theatre viewing. The engineering that goes into developing such a curved screen is impressive, but this is very much a prototype, with no plans as yet for a commercial release of curved large-screen TVs.
Elsewhere, Sony showed off more conventional but ready for market Bravia sets in 55 and 65 inch versions. Both X Series sets are ready for Ultra HD – no pricing has been released yet. The 84 inch model which Sony unveiled last year now retails in New Zealand for $34,995.
Make or break – 3D printer pioneer Makerbot created a scene at CES when so many people crowded around its booth on the show floor that at least two people fell over in the melee. What were we all there to see? The Replicator 2X is a new 3D printer that allows a home user to create their own 3D objects using graphic designs, using a printer that layers polymers and sculpts them to your specifications in a printer that sells for US$2,799.
MakerBot has wowed crowds at CES before with the 2X’s predecessor – the new printer can print in two colours and use materials of varying densities.
Remote robot – It made its name selling robot vacuum cleaners that roam around your house sucking up dust while you are at work. But iRobot has diversified into healthcare, using CES to show off its recently approved Remote Presence Robot. The video here gives you a very clear idea of how the technology works. Basically it is a roving robot armed with cameras and sensors that trundles around hospital wards checking on the status of patients. A doctor armed with an iPad or computer and sitting somewhere remotely can talk to the patient via teleconferencing and check vital signs via a dashboard of graphs. It has big implications for healthcare, as a doctor thousands of kilometres away could be keeping tabs on your recovery – with the help of a robotic sidekick.
DAY 2 @ CES
9.41AM: Flexible screens have popped up at tech shows over the years, but never seem to make it through to become marketable products. Plastic Logic returns to CES, with its new flexible screen technology, PaperTab. Intel is a partner on the technology, so there’s a good chance the giant chip maker could adopt it for a new wave of flexible computers. Still, it is early days and while PaperTab pages are editable, the amount of information and number of applications that can be displayed on a single page is limited, something that may frustrate tablet users.
9.27AM: Just checked out the Digital Health pavilion at CES – this is a category that has expanded rapidly in the last couple of years. Fitbit is here with a new fitness-tracking wristband that improves greatly on the current models – I just wish they’d go the whole hog and build a digital watch into it as well. The tiny device tracks how many steps you take each day and therefore how many calories you’ve burned. It also keeps tabs on your sleeping pattern and has the obligatory smart phone app to check out all your vital statistics.
Right next door is Fitbug, Fitbit’s competitor which has a similar pedometer gadget out in the market but also Fitbug Wow a set of Bluetooth-enabled scales. Track your weigh-ins over time as the data is passed to a smartphone app wirelessly. See Withings’ Smart Body Analyzer which does exactly the same thing.
9.15AM: Okay, so I’ve had a fairly good look around the major exhibitors’ stands at CES – the likes of Samsung, Panasonic and Sony. Ultra HD TV sets dominate with TV makers really pushing the high-resolution format in the 55 inch category and above. Actually, the new sweet spot for the industry seems to be 85 inches. Currently, sets that size sell for US$20,000 plus, but prices are set to drop sharply in the next year or two. The Samsung 110 inch ultra HD set looks stunning. So we are likely to be buying bigger TV sets in, those of us who have lounges big enough to accommodate them anyway.
Home cinema projectors seem to be a format on the wane, but LG has an impressive new laser projector here at CES. It’s real selling point is that it can display a 100 inch projection from just 22 inches away from the surface it is projecting to. So no need to rearrange the furniture or shell out for an expensive projector mount. The Hecto will debut in Korea later in the year – no pricing details yet.
4.30AM: Kids born today represent “Gen-M”
Given the prevalence of mobile phones these days, its probably appropriate that one of the key players in mobile technology filled the official keynote slot at CES this year. Qualcomm makes the chipsets and processors that go into around 500 different models of smartphones. The company’s CEO Paul Jacobs gave some interesting statistics outlining the scale of the mobile revolution:
– Around one million smartphones are sold every day.
– 5 billion smart phones will be sold between 2012 and 2016.
– 84% of people surveyed say they can’t go a day without checking their smartphone for updates.
Jacobs says the kids of today are “born mobile” and in future, many will access the internet primarily through smart phones and similar devices, foregoing conventional computers entirely.
Some reports on the Qualcomm keynote:
ZD Net: Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon chips
DAY 1 @ CES
2.21PM: Take the wheel
Lexus joins the ranks of car makers working on taking the driver out of the equation, with a prototype of its driver-less car set-up on show at CES.
Google has led the way in this space, with a fleet of driver-less cars having racked up thousands of miles of incident-free driving. But Lexus appears more conservative in its ambitions for the technology, pitching the Advanced Active Safety Research Vehicle as more of an intelligent co-pilot than a robotic chauffeur. For now, anyway.
1.12PM: Droning on…
The best iPhone controlled “toy” just got better, with the latest upgrade of the AR Drone allowing you to set pre-determined course for the hovering craft to take, guided by GPS. the new battery lasts a claimed 50 per cent longer and there’s a new app to control recording video from the AR Drone’s video cameras. This is still probably the most innovative drone-type device to hit the consumer market.
I met the New Zealand distributor of the AR Drone a couple of years ago (the year i spun one out of control, crashing it) and he was gearing up to take the AR Drone to the New Zealand market. But I’ve never seen a single one in use, which is a shame. If I can lighten the case somehow, I’m bringing one of these home.
1.04PM: Multiple views
Samsung had an action packed press conference today, dominated by large screen TVs, including a 55 inch OLED screen that employs technology that allows two people to watch different channels on the same TV.
The technology has been about for a while, but hasn’t really taken off. However, the set up, which requires users to wear glasses and listen to an individual speaker seems much more streamlined and user-friendly in its latest incarnation. It’s still to be seen whether the “multi view” movement comes to anything, but the TV set alone looks great.
Just to show off, Samsung unveiled an 85 inch ultra high-definition TV – these sets have four times the resolution of the HD displays currently on the market. The Samsung T-9000 fridge has garnered much attention.
The main stand-out feature is a LCD display on the front of the massive fridge door that communicates with your Galaxy Mobile. So you can create a shopping list in the Evernote cloud-based note taking app and sync it with your phone, so an up to date shopping list is always with you. Expect more apps to appear for these types of intelligent fridges letting you keep tabs everything from your calorie intake to the food at the back of the fridge that is reaching its use-by date.
Sharp – which has all but withdrawn from the TV market in New Zealand, is still pioneering technology in the category in its R&D labs in Japan and at CES is showing off an 8K (7680 x 4320 pixel) display. That’s double the resolution the other manufacturers are achieving in the ready for market TV sets on show this week in Las vegas.
Sharp also gets scientific with a new feature for its tv sets which replicates features of a moth’s eye. Apparently a coating on the TV display mimics moths’ ability to minimize glare off their eye lenses – so as to avoid giving themselves away to predators with a gleam in their eye.the idea is that the technology reduces glare on the TV set, making it ideal for daytime TV viewing.