2013 Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show High­lights

Ex­plor­ing the Lat­est Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Trends and Prod­ucts in Las Ve­gas

NOVO - - PRODUCT NEWS - Jeremy Phan

The Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show has wrapped up once again and while the prod­ucts from this year’s show weren’t as ashy or out of this world as pre­vi­ous years, there were still many prod­ucts that con­sumers ev­ery­where will be open­ing up their wal­lets for. With­out a doubt, this year’s show was all about “Ul­tra HD”, the new moniker that the in­dus­try has de­cided on for 4K HDTVs, and big screen OLED TVs. The au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try also made some ex­cit­ing tech­nol­ogy an­nounce­ments and a plethora of new con­nected de­vices were scat­tered through­out the show oor.

As I wrote in the “4K Res­o­lu­tion: The Next Evo­lu­tion of Video” ar­ti­cle last year (now found in the Video Features sec­tion on www.canadahi .com), 4K res­o­lu­tion is the next step in high de ni­tion, of­fer­ing 4 times the res­o­lu­tion of cur­rent 1080p con­sumer HDTVs. It must be noted that 4K refers to ver­ti­cal lines of res­o­lu­tion, not hor­i­zon­tal, as 1080p does. This change was made to ad­just for the var­i­ous (ul­tra­w­ide) as­pect ra­tios that stu­dios re­lease their lms in so that in­stead of count­ing empty black hor­i­zon­tal lines, ver­ti­cal lines, all of which are used re­gard­less of as­pect ra­tio, are counted.

While Ul­tra HD TVs are still priced out of range for most con­sumers (all start above $12,000), as with all tech­nol­ogy, the price will come down as the tech­nol­ogy im­proves and man­u­fac­tur­ing yields in­crease. Sec­ond tier man­u­fac­tur­ers such as Vizio and West­ing­house are also poised to re­lease more “af­ford­able” Ul­tra HD sets in 2013, al­beit at smaller sizes than the gi­gan­tic sets dis­cussed later in this ar­ti­cle.

With Ul­tra HDTVs, the in­crease in res­o­lu­tion is in turn ac­com­pa­nied by a jump in screen size. Most Ul­tra HDTVs demon­strated on the show oor ranged from 55” to 85” sets. Sam­sung has even promised 95” and 110” sets in the near fu­ture. With the in­crease in res­o­lu­tion, a smaller TV re­quires (or al­lows, de­pend­ing on your per­spec­tive) the viewer to sit closer to the TV to be able to dis­cern the higher res­o­lu­tion. If you have a large seat­ing area that is fur­ther from the TV, you’ll need a larger set to be able to see all those pix­els. Un­for­tu­nately this also means that larger Ul­tra HD sets will be pro­por­tion­ately more ex­pen­sive. HDTVs above 55” are al­ready pro­por­tion­ately more ex­pen­sive than smaller sets due to the higher costs of man­u­fac­tur­ing larger pan­els. Add in the 6 mil­lion ad­di­tional pix­els of Ul­tra HD and prices jump even fur­ther; if just a sin­gle pixel out of 8+ mil­lion is bad dur­ing the man­u­fac­tur­ing process, the en­tire panel is un­us­able.

Back in Novem­ber 2012, Sony re­leased its 84-inch XBR-84X900 ($25,000) Ul­tra HDTV and now LG is also ship­ping its 84inch 84LM9600 ($17,000) in North Amer­ica. LG re­leased sales data say­ing that the com­pany has al­ready sold 300 units in Korea. Sam­sung showed off an 85” set that is mounted in­side what looks like a chalk­board easel, dubbed as the “Time­less Gallery” stand, and pledged even larger 95” and 110” sets – how­ever no pric­ing or ship­ping de­tails were re­leased ex­cept to say that they’d be avail­able this year.

Vizio, a man­u­fac­turer known for pro­duc- ing qual­ity HDTVs at lower price points, also showed off its Ul­tra HD of­fer­ings in 55”, 65”, and 70” sizes. Again, pric­ing and avail­abil­ity have not been an­nounced. Ab­sent from the Ul­tra HD of­fer­ings was both Pana­sonic (ex­cept for the OLED pro­to­type) and Sharp, who is known for its large Aquos sets as well as the Elite se­ries of LCDs. Pana­sonic did how­ever show off a 9mm thin Win­dows 8 tablet fea­tur­ing a 20” IPS Ul­tra HD LCD. It weighs in at 5.2 lbs. which is com­pa­ra­ble to a medi­um­sized lap­top, and features an In­tel Core i5 1.8 Ghz pro­ces­sor, Nvidia dis­crete graph­ics, and sty­lus sup­port. It is aimed at graph­ics pro­fes­sion­als and pho­tog­ra­phers.

With th­ese Ul­tra HD sets hit­ting the mar­ket this year, the chicken/egg prob­lem once again rears its head. While all th­ese new TVs have built-in up-scal­ing from 1080p to 4K, na­tive con­tent is still hard to come by. Sony pack­ages a hard drive-based me­dia server with its $25,000 TV and has promised a down­load-based ser­vice this year. It also showed off 1080p Blu-rays that have been re­mas­tered for 4K (but are not true 4K con­tent) on new 4K-com­pat­i­ble/up­scal­ing Blu-ray play­ers.

Given the gar­gan­tuan amount of data re­quired for 4K con­tent, it will most likely come through phys­i­cal me­dia given the cur­rent con­straints of most In­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity op­tions. The Blu-ray stan­dard, which sup­ports up to 128 GB per disc, will likely be up­dated to sup­port 4K streams with the as­so­ci­a­tion stat­ing that they’re cur­rently in­ves­ti­gat­ing it. Much of the con­tent pro­duced in the past few years is al­ready mas­tered in 4K (most dig­i­tal cinemas al­ready na­tively project 4K con­tent) so get ready, once again, to pur­chase new ver­sions of your favourite movies once 4K be­comes more main­stream.

One of the other features of Ul­tra HD is what it brings to 3D, which has seen lack­lus­ter adop­tion due to a va­ri­ety of fac­tors: cost, con­tent, and most of all, the glasses (whether they’re ac­tive or pas­sive). With the jump in res­o­lu­tion, 3D is able to shift from heavy, bat­tery­pow­ered ac­tive-shut­ter glasses to cheap, light­weight, pas­sive glasses sim­i­lar to those used by movie the­atres. Pas­sive 3D tech­nol­ogy works by us­ing half the ver­ti­cal res­o­lu­tion for each eye and with 1080p, that meant the viewer was only get­ting 960 ver­ti­cal lines of res­o­lu­tion. Now with Ul­tra HD, full 1080p HD is once again avail­able but with the added ad­van­tage of us­ing pas­sive glasses. The other ad­van­tage of Ul­tra HD is the abil­ity to “simul-cast” sep­a­rate, full 1080p HD im­ages to each viewer, when wear­ing pas­sive 3D glasses. For gam­ing, this elim­i­nates the split-screen, in­stead show­ing each player a full screen 1080p that only they can see. LG al­ready features this in its pas­sive 3D HDTVs. Sam­sung goes a step fur­ther and al­lows two sep­a­rate in­puts to be viewed si­mul­ta­ne­ously with one viewer watch­ing one con­tent stream, while a sec­ond watches a dif­fer­ent con­tent stream, both in full screen 1080p HD. The glasses have built in au­dio so each viewer hears au­dio as­so­ci­ated with their own con­tent. On the glasses-free 3D front, Vizio demon­strated a 55” pro­to­type that pro­vides full 1080p im­ages to the viewer. Dolby Labs is also work­ing on glasses-free 3D uti­liz­ing Ul­tra HD to pro­vide full 1080p res­o­lu­tion im­ages. Once im­ple­mented and cost-ef­fec­tive, it’ll make 3D at home much more palat­able.

2013 will also nally see the in­tro­duc­tion of large 55” OLED 1080p HDTVs by Sam­sung and LG, both of which will be avail­able for pur­chase this spring. Sony pre­vi­ously sold an 11” OLED TV but its ex­treme price and size made it more a show­case prod­uct than an ac­tual TV. Sony and Pana­sonic also showed off pro­to­type 56” Ul­tra HD OLED TVs at CES 2013. All of th­ese OLED TVs use or­ganic LEDs which di­rectly emit light, negat­ing the need for a back­light as in stan­dard LCD HDTVs (which use full-ar­ray or edge-lit LEDs or CCFL back­lights). This in turn gives them a wider colour gamut, higher con­trast lev­els (elim­i­nat­ing bloom­ing, ghost­ing, and other is­sues caused by a back­light), near-per­fect blacks (since each in­di­vid­ual OLED pixel can be com­pletely shut off), wider view­ing an­gles, lower power con-

sump­tion, and prac­ti­cally in­stan­ta­neous re­sponse time to name just a few of the bene ts. The LG 55EM9600 (ap­prox­i­mately $11,999 US) is a mere 4mm thick and weighs only 7.5 kg. Pre-or­ders have al­ready started and will be­gin ship­ping in the US at the end of the rst quar­ter. LG es­ti­mates that as early as 2016, the man­u­fac­tur­ing cost of OLED will match con­ven­tional LCDs. Sam­sung has yet to an­nounce pric­ing or ship­ping dates for its 55” OLED set. Both Sam­sung and LG also showed off unique curved 55” OLED sets at this year’s CES. The curved panel en­hances view­ing by mak­ing the dis­tance from the viewer to the TV equal from edge-to-edge. On a stan­dard TV, the dis­tance is slightly fur­ther, the fur­ther left or right you look at the screen. Both man­u­fac­tur­ers claim this pro­duces a more im­mer­sive view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and likens it to IMAX, which lls your en­tire eld of view. On a smaller scale, Sam­sung showed off a ex­i­ble 5.5” OLED screen that could even­tu­ally make its way into its smart­phones.

While Ul­tra HD and OLED may have stolen the show at this year’s CES, there were also a va­ri­ety of no­table non-TV prod­ucts and ser­vices. 2013 will see a plethora of smart, watch-style de­vices – the most fa­mous be­ing the “Peb­ble” watch which was solely pub­licly crowd-funded on Kick­starter.com and raised over $10M. Th­ese de­vices typ­i­cally con­nect over Blue­tooth to a smart­phone and al­low the user to ac­cess their noti cations/email/ texts, track their ex­er­cise reg­i­men (run­ning, jog­ging, pe­dome­ter, etc.), and other func­tions. The Mar­tian Watch turns its wear­ers into Dick Tracy: it al­lows the wearer to is­sue voice com­mands (to Google Now or iOS’s Siri) as well as take calls with its built-in speak­er­phone.

Health was also a prom­i­nent theme this year with mul­ti­ple man­u­fac­tur­ers re­leas­ing wrist­band de­vices that al­low users to track their ex­er­cise reg­i­mens (with built-in GPS, pe­dome­ters, and other sen­sors). Smart scales are also get­ting smarter, mea­sur­ing not only body weight and BMI but also heart rate and am­bi­ent car­bon diox­ide lev­els, all of which can be tracked on­line through the built-in WiFi con­nec­tion. HapiLabs in­tro­duced the rst “dig­i­tal, con­nected” uten­sils which help mod­er­ate food con­sump­tion by sens­ing move­ment. If the user is eat­ing too quickly, the fork vi­brates to let the user know. Eat­ing too quickly leads to poor di­ges­tion and sub­se­quently, weight gain. The fork wire­lessly con­nects to a smart­phone and up­loads its data to an on- line dash­board to help track eat­ing habits.

Con­nec­tiv­ity also con­tin­ues to be added to ev­ery de­vice un­der the sun: ev­ery­thing from con­nected ther­mostats (really con­ve­nient since it al­lows for off-site re­mote tem­per­a­ture con­trol), to the Par­rot Flower Power sen­sor which sends an alert when the pot­ted plant is in need of wa­ter­ing (sur­pris­ingly, from the same com­pany that makes re­mote con­trol ying drones).

On the au­to­mo­tive front, au­tomak­ers, which have been adding Blue­tooth, live traf c, and other features in their in­fo­tain­ment sys­tems for the past few years, have now opened up those sys­tems to al­low for out­side de­vel­op­ers to cre­ate na­tive apps for the sys­tems (GM through its MyLink SDK and Ford with SYNC Ap­pLink). As a re­sult, we can ex­pect to see a lot more cur­rent and more in­ter­est­ing apps on the dash­board of our ve­hi­cles in the near fu­ture. This year’s CES really showed that the lead time be­tween demon­stra­tions and store shelves is con­tin­u­ing to shrink, while the ever in­creas­ing pace of tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing ef cien­cies is con­tin­u­ally push­ing prices down. Ul­tra HD is truly beau­ti­ful (visit a Sony store to see the 84” set if you have a chance) and in a few short years, OLED will re­place con­ven­tional LCDs. While this year’s CES may not have been as fan­tas­ti­cal as pre­vi­ous years, the prod­ucts show­cased con­tinue to en­able a more con­nected, im­mer­sive life.

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