Thursday, January 12, 2012

CES 2012 - A great start

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is back in town this week.  Lots of cool product to let you know about.
To start with, how about some mind games….literally a game controlled by your mind.  Oooh very SyFi.
Haier – Showed a game station that uses your brain waves to move the characters.  There is a device you wear like a head set that goes across your forehead. The headset looks like something from Star Trek. It captures your thoughts to do simple commands.  Some of the commands I saw work on the screen were, Up, Down, Left, Right & jump which control the players Avatar.  While at the show, I saw a man demonstrating this mind game controller.  It didn’t work great, but it did work.  There is definitely something to this, I think we are seeing the future here.
3-D – It was everywhere….3-D in all shapes and sizes. From single piece units as small as a camera viewfinder to a 92” rear projection screen by Mitsubishi.  As well as front projection units much larger.  There were standard 2-D and 3-D LCD screens, Led lit LCD screens and the best picture I saw at the CE Show were from the soon to be released OLED (organic light emitting diode) and SONY’s new 55” Crystal LED screen. All these new LED screens are about a half an inch deep.  Sharp showed a really nice 80” LED screen with the best black level I’ve ever seen from a flat panel or from a tube type TV. There was talk on the show floor that Sharp hopes to release this new 80” LED screen late this year.
3-D is also being shown in a wide variety of ways.  Several manufacturers were showing 3-D with the standard Active 3-D glasses.  This is the type of 3-D you see commonly with home use now that uses battery powered glasses that receive a signal from the TV. The TV signal tells the lens of the glasses to turn one eye off while the other eye’s lens can see, then it will switch the second lens off and the first lens on. This back and forth action separates the two images, allowing your brain to process the 3-D image. 
A few of the companies were offering passive glasses to see the 3-D image.  These are the types of glasses you use in the commercial movie theaters that look like sun glasses.  These passive glasses use polarized lenses to give you the two different images needed for 3-D. This Polarization effect is kind of like looking through two different angled picket fences that correlate with the image on the screen. This allows one eye to see one image while the other eye sees a second image, thus giving you the 3-D effect.
Finally there is the no glasses 3-D effect.  Most of the manufacturers were showing some version of this, no- glasses, approach to 3-D. For the most part, the way they do this is through polarization like the passive glasses I described earlier.  But this time the polarization is on the screen of the TV rather than in the glasses.  This is the obvious way we would like to see 3-D, no glasses required, but so far it’s not quite there.  With no-glasses 3-D in order for the 3-D effect to work you need to have a focus point for the polarization of the screen.  This is easy if it is for only one person sitting in the ideal spot.  But most families have more than one person in them. So, how do you get this “sweet spot” that you need to be in, to multiple viewers? This is not so easy.  What the manufacturers have cleverly come up with is a way for there to be multiple “sweet spots”.  So there are maybe 5 or 8 viewing positions that will work and give you the 3-D effect.  If you are not in one of those “sweet spots” the image is either not in 3-D or worse, you get a much distorted image.  In some cases this distorted image actually made me a little dizzy.  It really can play with your mind a bit. Also the content processing is more complicated.  So we will see this new technology for retail displays and some special signage displays.  Though we may see it show up in the home soon, I don’t think it will be for me just yet.
With all this said, I saw some pretty promising, no-glasses required 3-D at the show.  Sony had a very good demo of multi-angled 3-D as well as from Sharp and Samsung.  Probably the most elaborate display of the multiple uses of 3-D flat panel technology came from Toshiba.  They showed all three basic types of 3-D plus a holographic video display image that was pretty impressive.  They also showed a little bit different use of the new dual image technology, a TV that you could, with the aid of some polarized glasses, watch two different programs from the same screen. So you are saying, perfect for the bedroom right? Well not just yet, but sometime soon according to Toshiba? How does it work you ask? The polarized glasses, unlike 3-D, polarize both lenses the same way, but the other pair of glasses are polarized in the opposite manor.  With this it’s like 3-D, in that there are again two images, but this time you only see one of the images from each pair of glasses.  Which image is determined by which pair of glasses you put on.  To hear your program you must use headphones set up for your glasses on screen image.  We asked when this and some of the other innovative products Toshiba were showing would be available, but we could not find anyone who would commit to a time frame.    
There were also a lot of cool odds and ends from Robots (one that look like Justin Bieber, who was also there), Internet oriented “Smart TV”, Cameras, Energy Saving devices (one of which we designed and installed the functioning part of their display, Reliant NRG) to the largest assortment of Phone and iPad Bling that I have ever seen.
It is a great show and this year seemed to be busting at the seams with optimism towards the coming year.  Let’s hope it’s a great year for everyone.

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