Concept cars, 3D and robots dominated the massive, weeklong technology confab that was the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show.
Rubbing awkward elbows with the 2011 Adult Expo just around the corner, thousands of developers, tech fans, reporters and executives flooded into the massive convention as it filled the Las Vegas COnvention Center, the adjacent Hilton Hotel and Casino, the Venetian, Caesar’s Palace, etc. The sheer size of the event rivals, if not surpasses, the annual Comic-Con insanity in San Diego.
Every day brought a new major announcement. The biggest buzzes came from the premiere of Star Wars on Blu-ray, Verizon’s decision to sell the iPhone and iPad or AT&T’s less than timely development of its own 4G network. But there were larger trends setting the tone.
Rolling Over Attendees
Once a peripheral element of CES, automobiles and accessories made a huge dent all week long. From the entirely chromed Tron car out on display to overstuffed custom cars that been basically transformed into massive speaker delivery systems, automakers filled half of the north convention hall.
Predictably, “green” cars were a hot topic – with Ford unveiling the new, electric Ford Focus. Able to drive 100 miles on a charge, the fully equipped Focus offers an urban, stop and go driving alternative. Ford also unveiled a new App package for new models, including in-car access to Pandora and other smartphone favorites.
Even Taser is getting into the car security business. No, you can’t buy an electric zapper that “tases a bro” who tries to break into your ride. This isn’t a James Bond movie. Instead, the security company’s new automotive security system is more in the parental Big Brother vein. With an easily installed sensor, a computer or cellphone can remotely track a car to see if it violates electronic fences (like a school campus or city), drives over the speed limit or stops too suddenly. The owner gets an updated report of violations and can shut the car down once stopped and prevent restart.
From the big screen to TVs to cellphones, 3D was once again a dominant theme throughout the weekend. And the clear trend has the 3D screens getting both bigger and smaller.
It’s becoming clear that 3D engineers can make the current technology work glasses free best on smaller screens. Thanks to developers like MasterImage 3D, the next evolution in smart phones will include real-time 3D screens that work with the naked eye. Like the delayed Nintendo 3DS, a small screen with high resolution can pac enough visual information to trick the eye into effective 3D. Such an advance means a new generation of online menu systems using 3D depth to arrange desktop items, etc.
On the consumer TV side, the very big splash came from Mitsubishi with the addition of a 92-inch 3D TV to their product line. Large enough to give shelter to a family of four, the Home Cinema TV requires active 3D glasses and an airplane hangar-sized living room. Mitsubishi also unveiled a 1080p full HD 3D home theater front projection system.
If you needed special or personalized 3D glasses to watch any of the 3D TVs and computer displays in attendance, there more accessory and secondary manufacturers on hand than there were escort service flyers on the sidewalks outside the Hilton.
Netflix, Apple TV, Hulu, Roku and various other emerging on-demand TV services already have cable and network TV executives sweating. CES brought out new contenders to the market, including the new LG Smart TV Upgrader. The little black box provides TV access to Netflix, Vudu, Pandora, YouTube, CinemaNow and other services. Upgrades includes Hulu Plus, Amazon VOD, NHL GameCenter, NBA Game Live and MLB.TV.
Unlike some streaming online TV services, the Smart TV Upgrader acts as a home media server and can stream music, photos and videos from a connected PC. Users will be able to control the unit with an iPhone or Android app. LG also announced the opening of its own app store for the Smart TV.
While MP3 players abounded, live instrument technology was also on hand with companies like Gibson, Kitaro and Orange introducing new instruments and computer assisted mixing systems. Sanyo featured the Sanyo Pedal Juice – a power source for electric guitar amps and effects pedals that’s entirely shock and water proof. Why you’d want to play your electric guitar under water is your business.
In a music and smart phone cross over, Motorola introduced the Atrix 4G. At first glance, it looks like another follow-up to the iPhone and Evo. But, with a built-in port to allow docking with a laptop PC or high-def television, the Atrix becomes a powerful multimedia server.
Not everything at the CES needed to be revolutionary and pushing the frontiers of science. There was plenty of diversionary advancements to be found. Even Trojan had a booth, but what we need with electric condoms escapes me.
One of the biggest surprise hits of the weekend was the Sphero from Orbotix. Essentially a glowing, robotic ball, the Sphero is controlled by a related app on your iPhone or Android. The user steers the ball by tilting and the smart phone.
While it’s fun enough just to drive the little guy around for a bit, the real fun will arrive later this year when Orbotix release a series of video games linked in to Sphero. For example, players will be able to drive the ball in the real world and any number of virtual worlds where Sphero could destroy buildings or race that holy grail of everything consumer or electronic – the one final advancement we’re all waiting for – flying cars.