Live from CES: Day 2
Just some ruminations about yesterday, as I sit here in the Sands/Venetian Expo Center press room, rather than the Convention Center. The Innovation Awards are here, along with a lot of lighting and home appliance products, some other folderol and (most-fun and oddest of all) the mass of start-up companies in the Eureka Park.
Yesterday I met up with my Northwestern friend Wally Prodazik who flew in for a couple of days of the show. I'm mentioned Wally here (or, sorry, Walter, as his business cards say). Among his many hats, he's curator of the Museum of Broadcast Communication in Chicago, co-author (with another Northwestern fellow who I worked on the campus radio station WNUR with, Harry Castleman) of Watching TV, now in its third printing, and professor at the University of Illinois campus in Chicago. You may have seen Wally, too, as a "talking head" on the recent CNN series on The 90s. You can't miss him, he's the one who looks like Wally Podrazik.
It's always fun wandering around with Wally at this things. When you stop to talk to a vendor, they have no idea what they're in for. The questions come pouring out of him like machine gun fire. And good, insightful questions, that go in areas they generally don't expect. "Hmm, I'll have to check into that," is a common reply -- though mostly it's clear they like discussing their products in detail.
We spent a lot of time at LG, where we ran into one of his LG friends John Taylor, who I met last year when Wally was at the show. When I had asked him what John did, he said, "He's Vice President in charge of everything." (More specifically he's VP of Public Affairs and Communications.) We got a detailed tour of some of their behind-the-scenes areas, particularly artificial intelligence. And when I asked him a question that I prefaced might be too unfair to answer, "If one is going to buy a new television, what one, single feature would you say is the most important?", since there are likely SO many factors, he instead said, "Oh, that's easy. OLED, OLED and OLED." That's a very high quality type of screen. Years ago the challenge was that OLED screens could only be made small -- now they can make them for TVs.
Speaking of TVs, yes, of course, we made my annual stop at the good folks a Stream TV Networks, who I've mentioned her often, the people who make glassless 3D televisions. Again, it's still "coming," but they just announced a deal on Tuesday with BOE, a major Chinese company for high-end panels that will allow them to jump from producing only 4K sets to what they refer to as "8K Lite." (Long story -- the short version is that this will have half the pixels of actual 8K but twice as many as 4K....but far less-expensive than 8K). The product looks tremendous, and they were also showing off glassless 3D panels for tablets and mobile phones, both of which should be...coming. It's been a long time, but the product is very mature and -- we'll see, when.
Not long after, that lead to the strangest occurrence I've experience in all my years at CES. At around 11:15, there was total power failure! Not just around us, but the North and Central Halls were out for almost two hours . The South Hall got limited power back in maybe 30 minutes. Of all places to have a power failure... What was funny though is that, if you're going to have a massive power failure, in some ways that's where it should be. Immediately, mobile phones were whipped out, and flashlight apps were immediately turned on all over the place. If you've wondered if that flashlight app is really useful -- it is!
This photo doesn't do it justice because I used my camera's flash, so it brightened up the cavernous area. I should have left it off and just shown the pitch darkness with flashlight apps all over, but you'll get the idea and see a bunch of the "flashlights." It's also very blurry since...well, it was really dark. And the light level hardly ideal.
It wasn't problematic, just momentarily “concerning,” because you’re in the middle of a massive convention hall surrounded by 150,000 people, in (at first) total darkness, and don’t know exactly the way out. But after about 10 seconds, all these flashlight apps went on, and it was actually sort of charming – if odd -- and pretty easy to get around. Almost the strangest thing is that every once in a while a loudspeaker announcement would come on, through the omnipotent darkness. And it was perhaps the most incomprehensible mumbo jumbo I've heard. Everyone would laugh, because you couldn't make out a word. It made the announcements on Chicago L sound almost Shakespearean. Eventually by about the sixth try, we could make out some words. They were telling us the power was out, and we should be careful. Got it...
Onward into the Sands.
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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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