CES: Day 2
As CES headed into its second day, I spent most of it in the Central Hall, with a detour to the North Hall. Once upon a time, I devoted a full day to the impressive and overwhelming Central Hall. But over time I realized I could get through it far more quickly, and last year I even zipped through faster than I expected.
The Central Hall is where most of the Big Guys live. Samsung, LG, Toshiba, Panasonic, Microsoft and more. And more and more. And that you realize after a while they they all pretty much make and sell the same things. Some a little better, some with a few different bells-and-whistles, some a little less so. But basically it's differences in degrees. So, to go into detail about why what one has that's different and better is an exercise in futility.
Especially with TVs. The TVs there are very impressive. But they're all impressive, even the low-end ones. And they all have their own jargon to explain why theirs is The Best, but the jargon is meaningless. Saying that their sets are best because they use Active Nano Differential VM Technology sounds great, and maybe even is. But the guy next door has his own Best and Greatest Jargon to balance it. And ultimately, TV choice is very subjective, and the best way to buy one is to ask friends what they have and like, and to go into a store and look at screens to see what most-appeals to you. There is a new technology that all major companies are offering this year that makes a difference -- it's not actually new at all, but it was always cost-prohibitive in large screens. That's been resolved, which is why it's now hit the bigtime -- OLED. It's still more expensive, but presents a seriously impressive image.
That said, as it happens, I actually recently bought a new TV about six weeks ago and did pretty much just that. One thing I found in comments and writing is that among all the technologies, the one that was most important was something called "Full array." That allows for deeper colors and separation for more crispness and images to stand out. In fact, when I went to the store, I had a pretty good idea what I was going to get -- but when I was there, that brand had two sets next to each other: the one I was going to get with "array" technology, and the next step up that was notably more (though at a great sale price) but had "full array." And the difference was actually very noticeable. And seriously impressive. So I bit the bullet and took the next step up. Thankfully it was during the holiday season and there was that great sale price. For the record, I got an LG SK9000, I believe the model was. (The step below was SK8000, and extremely good.) By the way, depending on the set-up where you'll be watching is how good a set handles viewing angles -- if you'll be watching head-on, everyone is great. But some don't handle watching from the side, as well. LG is not at the high end of angles, but above average.
And 8K sets are being pushed, as well. But that's borderline pointless. There almost no native 8K content. And the human eye can't really, practically differentiative between 4K and 8K. And 8K is massively expensive, perhaps in the $15,000-20,000 range for a large screen set.
As for TVs, though, I of course spent some time with the folks at the oft-mentioned here Stream TV Networks, who make the seriously-impressive Ultra-D technology for glassless 3D viewing. As I wrote a few weeks back, they finally made a major announcement of a deal with the manufacturing giant BOE to put the product into production. So, as you might imagine, they had good spirits all around. And two things stood out. The first is the improvements they made even from last year's high-end product, an 8K-Lite set (halfway between 4K and 8K). With the use of backlighting and an 8K lens, the images pop out even better. And the second thing is -- because of this, a lot of TV manufacturers are now coming to Stream TV Networks to talk because this gives their own 8K sets a value they didn't have before. So, we'll see how things go.
A few random observations from the day's wanderings --
In the robot arena, the Samsung Bot division had something they called GEMS, for Gait Enhancing and Motivating System. This is sort of a leg prosthetic for the elderly with a balance problem or a person with a walking issue that strap on at the hip that helps with walking.
Samsung and Qualcomm both had notable presentations with 5G, though there isn't much to show yet, other than displays with data about how it all works and how great it will be. Qualcomm had a Mixed Reality (Virtual Reality goggles mixed with real world action) demonstration for 5G that I tried -- cliff diving in Hawaii that was streamed in. It wasn't overly impressive for the content, but it was SO data heavy that it wouldn't have been able to be transmitted in the current 4G.
Lots of Smart kitchen appliance and Smart washers, dryers, steamers and the like, from most of the big companies. That's one thing that was noticeable at the show -- service products have gotten very mature, some with Smart capabilities built in (using the Cloud and artificial intelligence) and others that just work more efficiently and conveniently.
It's been a long day wandering the halls, so we'll leave it at that for now. Tomorrow I'm off to the Eureka Park area at the Sands Convention Center. These are mostly start-up companies and pavilions from international companies trying to break into the U.S. market. It's always fascinating and its own kind of madhouse zoo, with companies more crammed together and vying for your attention than even at the main Las Vegas Convention Center. Some are products incredibly inventive which alas will never see the light of day (either for lack of funding or lack of a market for who will ever buy the thing), but I've seen a few subsequently make it.
And the start of the journey back home -- always done in two parts, stopping part of the way back in Primm at the Nevada state line for a shorter drive back on the last day, so it's still a day more off...
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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