CES Day 3 -- Yes, There's More
Yesterday, my travels around CES most notably took me through the jungles of The World of Televisions. I tend to avoid most specifics about TV at CES because a) most TVs today at worst look wonderful, b) all the jargon each company offers to why they're so special ("Our Graphic Hi-Res MDP is the industry leader" is meaningless mumbo-jumbo, and c) the best way to figure out what television to buy is to ask friends what they have and do they like it.
But there are new developments that leap out generically in the field. And those are worth mentioning.
A few years back, the OLED technology was developed for screens which was significantly higher-resolution and crisper than LED or LCD. But it was very expensive and difficult to employ for large screens, and so was limited for smaller needs, like Smartphones. Times change, and today the best TVs -- even big screens -- are using OLED, and the image is tremendous.
Another new technology is HDR -- high dynamic range. The easiest way to describe this is that rather than increasing the number of pixels for higher resolution, it improves the quality of the pixels themselves, like better contrast. And the image is tremendous.
Put OLED and HDR together, and the quality of the picture in new TVs was seriously remarkable. Not quite at the level of "4K resolution" you may have heard about as the next standard, but stunningly sharp and crisp. Companies are still trying to push 4K sets, but don't be razzle-dazzled. It's not ready yet. The image is brilliant, but the problem is that there's no native 4K content to play. (Think of having the greatest DVD player, but they haven't invented DVDs yet.) And now some companies are even pushing 8K...!)
Speaking of TV manufacturers pushing technologies you don't need -- remember being told last year how "curved screens" were going to change life itself (and I explained it was close to meaningless)? Well, it was remarkable to see how many manufacturers (like LG) had zero curved screens on display. A few did, but even then they weren't highlighting them as the greatest thing ever. They were just there in the booth among everything else.
A few specifics did seem intriguing. One from LG was called "Magic Zoom." Basically, it let you highlight portions of the screen, and magnify the image around three times. It wasn't something people would use often, I'd think, but I could see it being of value.
By the way, 4K is not without total value. There are a growing number of camcorders that can shoot at that resolution. There still is the issue of playback, but you can always watch in the camera's viewfinder -- or that 4K set you bought. I did see one especially-interesting use of 4K, though -- Sony had the first-ever 4K Smartphone, the Z5 Premium. It took 4K videos and could play them back on the phone, and the videos were absolutely gorgeous. I didn't see a price, but I'm sure it's massive.
And of course there's no way I can mention TVs and not include the Stream TV Networks folks I write about, with their Ultra-D technology for glassless 3D television. As I mentioned last month, they've finally come to market with one company, and more appear on the way by summer. But also, their gaming end is expanding significantly, and one sample for a game called, I think, Tank Wars, was quite amazing. They have a deal they're working on with the NFL, as well as the NBA. They've sold sets to Duke University (for medical use) and Florida State University (for the film department), and in conjunction with their partner Inception Visual who works with AT&T, they've been running tests with many AT&T clients. But what's also interesting is that their glassless 3D tablets are moving along, and so is their full mobile field, including Smartphones. So, they are finally beginning to reach a level of public viability and maturity, even if it hasn't quite broken through yet.
Finally, one thing I've noticed from my recent years covering the IFA tech show in Berlin, which has a lot more home appliances than CES, though the products generally are only available in Europe, is that this is a field that seems more creative today than computers. So, I checked out that area here at CES. And it was just as fascinating, and also nice to see that some of the products are slowly coming to the U.S. market. Out of many, I'll mention a couple, one being refrigerators from Samsung. These had LED panels on the doors which let you see what was inside the fridge without having to open the doors, using inside cameras. Additionally, you can order foods you're low on right from the door, connecting online through the touch screens. Another interesting appliance was LG's Twin Washer, which let you do two separate washes at the same time.
And of course there's more, but we'll leave it there, because the doors have opened, and it's time for the safari to continue...
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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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