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Sunday, January 11, 2015

2015 Annual CES Sumary

2015 CES was extra fun for me, as I had five young guys accompany me, one of which was my son. This allowed me to periodically see the show ‘through their eyes’ noticing what interested them most, and the questions they asked, etc. They all work in technical fields such as computers and videography, which influenced the degree of their technical interests, but more than anything I noticed how different they were from me on a much more fundamental and societal level. Young people today are so extremely comfortable with the new, and quite complicated, ‘connected world’ and it’s impact on lifestyle, that it automatically allows them to see different aspects and ramifications of new products. Aspects that I, not only don’t think of, but don’t always fully understand, even after having it explained to me!  I don’t Tweet. Or Instagram. Or Snapchat. I’m not Linkedin. No Google Plus. I don’t ‘IM’ on ‘FB’. I rarely even text. I call. I don’t stream my movies, I watch them the old fashioned way, by getting a ‘disc’ in the ‘mailbox’, and reading it with a “Laser”. ‘Talk about feeling old! A week with these guys, seeing the latest consumer electronics, and occasionally relating my remembrances of ‘Days of CES Past’ made me feel like I was ready for the scrap heap myself! But it made for one of the most interesting of my 36 consecutive annual CES excursions.

So, what was cool (IMHO)? Well, there was a boatload of movement in automotive tech. And in aftermarket audio, there are new headunits that work seamlessly with your phone to bring all of its 4G connectivity, and all of its device-resident content to an easy to use 7” screen in your dash. This Parrot one looks like it will be the best, as it displays vehicle engine parameters, acts as a DVR for several cameras, and plays nice with both android and iphones, although I’m sure it will be pricey. />There were a few of the new, ‘mid drive’ electric bikes there that will revolutionize bicycling like this Felt one that uses the Bosch drive system. This ebike thing is really heating up. Having the motor in the bottom bracket/crank allows it to take advantage of the gearing. And the huge advancment in torque sensors and fast processors makes the motor respond so smoothly to your pedaling, you just feel like you're Lance Armstrong. />A lot of 3D printing, but no ‘killer app’ yet to explode the category. />There were hundreds of drones due to the killer app of aerial videography. This one is ready to fly, and shoot 1080p 60fps right out of the box for $1,300. />This tracker tracks your stuff for just $29! />For people with iphones or anyphone without an SD card slot, this is a little hard drive you can easily access or move files to and from your phone, up to 128GB! />Here’s a great version of a wall charger for all devices. />Smartphones have only been out for, what, five years now? And already there are price-competitive, full feature phones coming out from makers like Blu, Alcatel, and ZTE, at around $200 instead of the $600 we’ve grown accustomed to! />How ‘bout electronic pain relief? />This is the best bluetooth speaker I’ve ever seen. It's small, durable, waterproof, terrific sounding, and if you get a second one you can stack them and they automatically both play, or set them to each play left and right channels and have stereo!
4K TV’s were ALL that anyone showed at CES. That’s right,... HDTV’s are “out of style”! This is strange since there is virtually NO 4K CONTENT AVAILABLE! ? But, that doesn’t stop the TV makers from showing off their great work at creating gorgeous display panels that only look their best in stores playing special 4K footage out of computers. Panasonic did show a prototype 4K Blu-ray Player that may be available next year, and may have some movies available sometime, somewhere. Perhaps for sale, but no plans of anyone like Netflix renting them. Dish satelite tv service said it will have a 4K service soon, but again, no mention of what might be available to see on it. So, why get a 4K TV set, you ask? Well, if you’re in need of a new set, and if you have say, $1,000 more to spend than the $1,000 that you can buy a 70” HDTV for, then you should spring for the 4K one. Because: A; There might be stuff to watch in a year or two. B; The up converters in these sets do help our current 1080p content look a little better on them. And, C; The wonderful thing about a 4K TV is that you can view your photos (which, if you have a 5+ megapixel camera, are all higher resolution than 1080p) on it and they look way better! The best looking 4K sets so far are the O(organic)LED ones, like those from LG. However, there are no firm dates or even price ranges given as of yet. Curved TV’s were again shown all over the place, and, again, I will predict that these will go the way of 3d tv (which I accurately predicted would not be a big thing, back some 5 yrs. or so ago). The problem is that TV watching is usually done with more than one person, and with a curved screen, only one person can sit in the middle. Duh! Samsung and LG did show prototypes ($100,000+) of flexible/bendable/motorized tv’s though -- so if you’re ever watching alone you can curve it! As with my 2014 summary, I’ll say the best TV product is the Channel Master DVR that does not need a monthly subscription service. It is what we’ve all wanted for decades now, and can all benefit from, unlike a silly curved tv. 

However, desktop computer monitors are ideal for curved screens, and I think we’re all going to want one of these curved, extra-wide (21x9 aspect ratio) (same as 2.3:1 ‘anamorphic’ movies) giant monitors, (once they come down in price) because you can put 3 documents or ‘windows’ up at a time and really increase productivity. The curve is more than just cool-looking at that point, as it keeps you from having to re-focus your eyes as you scan the huge display space. Another thing you can do is watch 2.3:1 movies (if you don’t mind sitting at your desk) without seeing black bars top and bottom. (rant alert-) What I didn’t see, and even when I asked in every booth, doesn’t exist, is any 2.3:1 (‘21x9’) ultra wide screen TVs! I still don’t understand this. About half the movies made today are 2.3:1 and half are 16:9. AND, the better movies (more expensively made, anyway) are the 2.3:1 ultra wide screen ones! SO, when we watch the better movies on our 16:9 TVs, they are smaller (a third smaller!), and when we watch the mediocre movies (and tv shows), they are a third bigger--? Isn’t that sorta the opposite of logical? Anyway, I just thought somebody would make a 21x9 aspect ratio TV panel. For the people that care about that. Seems like there’d be a large enough market for at least a few of those. But no. (-okay, rant over.) 

Alright,... it’s time for… ‘The coolest thing I saw at CES this year’: I finally saw a smart watch that is worth buying (after 3 yrs and dozens of models). The LG G Watch R is the first smartwatch so far, that has enough stuff in it, isn’t too big, and looks good, IMHO. Unfortunately it’s still $300 because it just came out, but I’m sure it will be down towards $200 within the year, and then cheaper on the next version as they get popular and they build in quantity. To me, a smartwatch is not worth having if you can’t answer a simple text or quick email without having to pull out your phone. And this one does that by just talking into it. It also has a heart rate monitor built right in, and a lot of other smooth, well designed touches. I hope the iwatch will have voice input for responding to texts as well. This is where watches become truly usable, don’t you think? I think this watch will truly keep you from having to pull your phone out about 35% of the time. I’m ready to buy this one. Uh,... can I borrow $300?

see also: 2014 CES Summary