(Reprinted from The Metro Spirit, 1/19/2012)
When most people think of January, thoughts generally turn to cold weather and football championships. The college basketball season is heading into conference play. Those that rent their house during Master’s week are finalizing arrangements. But the true geeks among us are listening for different news. January is the month of International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This show is the tech industry’s premier event to show-off the latest and coolest gadgets on the planet. Past CES events introduced products and technologies such as the camcorder, the DVD, HDTV, Plasma TV, Blu-ray, and more recently, 3D HDTV at CES 2009. This year’s CES finished up last week, and by all indications, televisions are the big winners.
This year, LG and Samsung both premiered ready-for-prime-time 55” Organic LED (OLED) televisions. OLED technology has been around for a few years. An OLED display works without a backlight, so it can display deep black levels and can be thinner and lighter than a LCD. In low ambient light conditions an OLED screen can achieve a higher contrast ratio than an LCD. Translations, OLEDs are widely recognized as being capable of producing one tremendous, kick butt picture. The problem has been scale. OLEDs are regularly used in handheld devices, but no one has been able to create a large screen display. Until now. Look for the general release of these products later this year with a price point around $10,000.
Also this year, Smart TVs have established their position in the marketplace. Many of the featured TVs contained dual-core processors providing equivalent computer power to the typical desktop PC. Why is all this compute power needed? Televisions have become scaled-up smart phones with their own network connectivity and application ecosystem. TV manufacturers are positioning for a market where viewers will select programming by clicking Apps instead of surfing channels. In addition, television makers are integrating video cameras and microphones, allowing for consumers to do anything from video conferencing to changing channel through a Kinect-style interface. Televisions will no longer be dumb devices, but rather, they are active participants on the Internet providing the consumer a richer experience, whether watching live content, downloaded media or interacting with others.
In another example of how apps dominate our technology experience, a company called BlueStacks demonstrated software that allows Android apps to run on Windows 8. In all seriousness, this should boost the adoption of Windows 8. The Metro UI is widely regarded as a great interface, but Windows lacks the app support of Android or Apple. BlueStacks accomplishes the integration by creating tiles for Android apps that look and feel like they’re Metro apps. The software effectively brings the entire Android library into the Windows 8 ecosystem.
3D printing was a hot item at CES. I have only recently become familiar with 3D printing, mostly through my fledgling robot army from MyRobotNation.com. However, I might need to readjust by plans given the demonstration of MakerBot’s Replicator. The Replicator prints 3D objects as large as 8.9 inches by 5.7 inches by 5.9 inches. My own in-house manufacturing facility for world domination…
And there was so much more this year. For example, there are several new Ultrabooks (think MacBook Air for Windows), new concepts in gaming controllers like the Razer Concept Fiona, home theater devices such as Simple.TV, and some very cool automobile tech by QNX and others. Check out your regular tech sites for a more complete run down of the products at CES. Until next time, I’ll see you on the internet! @gregory_a_baker L8R.