The annual CES in Las Vegas continues to get bigger & more unwieldy with every passing year, making it harder than ever to get through the more than 170,000 attendees & 3,800 exhibitors at the show. Rather than trying to comprehensively summarize this massive event covering 2.47 million square feet of exhibit space, I?ll simply describe the 10 most impressive takeaways that I had from the show:
1. It?s not a good time to be buying the latest in video display technologies. Every manufacturer is pushing 4K & Ultra-HD, but there simply isn?t enough 4K programming currently available to justify buying it. Even the new models on display aren?t guaranteed to be completely compliant with all of the new broadcast & streaming parameters being proposed to deliver brighter images & an expanded color range, with competing systems being backed by Samsung, LG & Sony (HDR10) & Vizio (Dolby Vision). With the prices on 4K sets already falling dramatically, you can now find excellent-quality 1080p HDTVs (that can display anything available from broadcast TV or Blu-Ray perfectly) selling now at prices that have never been lower.
2. Virtual Reality is an interesting technology in search of compelling content, which made the release at CES of ?The Martian VR Experience? by 20th Century Fox quite significant. Based on the Ridley Scott film, it?s somewhere between passive movie viewing & active video-game playing, consisting of a set of episodic first-person experiences taken from the film that offer limited interactivity. Thus, this 25-minute film will allow viewers to customize it somewhat to their liking, as well as providing VR?s 360-degree immersive perspective that must be experienced to be appreciated, so it?s a historic first step for Hollywood to marry movie-making with this cutting edge display technology. Meanwhile, Universal Music Group announced a partnership with iHeartMedia to produce & distribute one VR performance experience by a UMG artist at 6 major iHeartMedia concert events during 2016, as well as full shows from 4 individual artists that will be shot & distributed in VR. Each represents an important step allowing VR to grow beyond gaming into telling stories or offering the experience of a live performance.
3. Avegant was showing its Glyph mediawear, offering audio only when worn like headphones, but providing video from any wired HDMI source when the headband is slipped down & worn over the eyes. The display itself is screenless, using 2 million microscopic mirrors to project images directly to the eyes. Priced at $699, it?s currently shipping only to the U.S. or China.
4. French company Parrot provided a very entertaining demonstration of its mini-drones performing maneuvers in perfect unison, as well as introducing the first fixed-wing drone, the Disco, which will offer 45 minutes of flying time & a front nose-mounted 1080p HD camera when it is becomes available sometime later this year.
5. Weboost displayed its ego cellular signal booster, which differs from most home-based boosters by not requiring an external antenna. It?s comprised of 2 units, one a receiver that should be placed near an outside window & the other a transmitter covering up to 1,200 square feet that should be placed where the best inside reception is desired. It works will all carriers, supports multiple users simultaneously & will go sale at the end of March for $349.
6. Although smaller, less expensive units are available from other manufacturers, Polaroid?s stylish new 3D printer combines maximum size & creative capability with a reasonable price. The ModelSmart 250S is launching now in Europe at ?2099.99 & prints on filaments of plastic or wood that cost ?97.99 per 750g reel. It?s expected to be on sale in the U.S. by the end of this year.
7. From a decorator?s standpoint, LED Bluetooth light bulb speakers, which can screw into any standard light socket & stream music wirelessly from any Bluetooth-enabled device, make it easy to add music to any room invisibly. Units were on display from Sony (going on sale later this summer), Vivitar (offering 7 different LED colors controllable by a downloadable app) & Reiko (selling now for around $50 each).
8. Mini PC HDMI dongles are devices that can connect to any display with an HDMI port & convert it into a working PC. Available from manufacturers including Intel & Lenovo, they are small (typically 4? x 1.5? x 0.5?) & run Windows 8, upgradable to Windows 10. At a price range of $130-$150, they can provide entry-level computing (but don?t try graphics-heavy gaming!) on a screen larger than a laptop. By adding a Bluetooth keyboard & mouse, it should be possible for road-warriors to avoid carrying a laptop for basic work in hotel rooms.
9. ZTE?s Spro 500 combines an Android tablet, a Wi-Fi hotspot & a video projector into a small unit that?s only 5.3? x 5.2? x 1.2?. It can supply Wi-Fi for up to 10 devices, projects images up to 120? in size & includes a 5? display with 720p resolution. There?s currently a special deal available only at AT&T stores selling the unit now for $399, which is $100 less than its usual price.
10. The cutest product on display was undoubtedly the BB-8 drone from the latest Star Wars movie that is being sold by Sphero. It?s 4? high, looks exactly like the droid from the movie, is controlled by an app downloadable to any smartphone or tablet & is for sale now for $149.99.
Pollack Music & Media Group