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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Annual CES Summary 2017

Annual CES Summary 2017 

My son Ethan joined me again this year, as well as two of his friends, and we all had a great time. The first day it was just Ethan
and I and we push-scootered it over to the show, about a mile and a half, in about 15 minutes! Then the remaining three days, with four of us, we hiked about 1/4 mile to the MGM and rode their shuttle bus to the show - about 45 minutes! I wish I had four scooters! In addition to seeing most of the 2.5 million square feet of CES booths, we rode in a self driving car, drove the BMW i3 pure electric, rocked the after-show party in the Gibson booth, saw the Blue Man Group one nite, and went ‘downtown’ one nite for more reasonably priced food and gaming. I taught the young guys how to play craps the way Wally Nathan taught me, and they all walked away up considerably! Of course, the next nite they gave most of it back, but, that’s Vegas! 

yes, they're back!
The show broke turnstile records at over 176,000 attendees! This year was the 50th anniversary of the show, and so they did ‘years you’ve attended’ ribbons on our badges, and since it’s my 38th year, my “35+ Years” ribbon caused a lot of people to ask me what it was like way back when. My answer was “nothing at all like today”. I would say, about 95% of everything on the show floor today has some sort of smart chip in it, as a minimum. And several items, like smartphones and self-driving cars, have computers that are thousands of times more powerful than the Cray Supercomputer of the late 70’s when I first attended. But here’s the thing about CES. If you had heard people on that show floor, in 1978, predicting 30 years ahead, they’d have said “yeah, we’re gonna have supercomputers that fit in our pocket!” Because that’s what CES is all about, pushing the envelope, and being optimistic enough to expect the most from technology and how it can be applied to better humanity. You feel it all over the show, no matter what year it is. I still like going, just for the dose of optimism, let alone seeing the gadgets. And believe me, I need a dose of optimism this year more than any other. ‘Speaking of gadgets:

There were way more robots this year! I really think we’re all gonna have a little robot in our home soon. And not just a vacuum, but a robot to help fix dinner and do the dishes! Along with robots, smart home automation is finally becoming plug and play. Alexa is Amazon’s smart house technology that works in devices like Echo and Lenovo’s Smart Assistant Speaker, as well as Ford cars and hundreds of accessories. Google Home is pretty much the same thing, only different. These mini blind motors fit inside your 2” blinds and become automated with timers and lots of other features for just $100. 

VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) were this year’s top 'buzz-tech’. VR is basically the big fat eye-covering headsets you see people wearing as they move their heads all around to reveal a 360 degree alternate universe of computer generated visuals. These graphics and sometimes actual video footage allow you to visit, and even interact with, environments from the deep sea to outer space and everywhere in between. Of course, gaming is the first, killer app for this, but many predict huge expansion to even include regular movie viewing. AR typically uses see-thru glasses that let you see normally, but add extra information and images about your specific surroundings. Industries’ already utilizing AR include advertising, construction, healthcare, training, and the military.


I haven't understood the hype about 3d printing all these years, until this year. I saw big leaps of improvement in materials like metalized plastics and carbon fiber-like super strong stuff that they're making bicycles and even whole cars out of! Even the little models and figurines were so much more impressive. One booth had an 10", full color figurine of a guy, sitting next to a few photos of him, and the likeness and detail was just amazing. So I said "but then you had to pay an artist to do all that detailed painting, right?" And he said "no paint, it comes right out of the printer like that"! Check out the photo of the full size concept car that was 3D printed.  

These are the best headphones I’ve ever seen, or heard. They have every feature you’ve ever seen, or heard, in a headphone. They are wired or wireless, lightweight, closed air, talk-thru, 30hr batt, active noise canceling, muti-band EQ, touch panel, phone mic, collapsible, fantastic sound quality, and are made by the industries’ leading headphone maker.
These earbuds are custom molded to your ear and they say they stay in, and block out noise. They’re about $200

5G - There’s some hype about 5G coming for our mobile devices, but they admit it’s years’ away so why even talk about it yet. Especially when 4G isn’t fully fleshed out yet. It’s supposed to be 100 megabytes/second, and it’s way more like 30 in reality still. Go to on you phone’s browser (or get the app) and run the test periodically to see what you’re really getting. Then tell your provider “ forget ‘5G’ until you can get your 4G up to speed”.

Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are new encode/decode surround sound formats that add height to the experience. You need to add speakers to your ceiling or ones that point up at, and bounce sound off of your ceiling. You also need a newer A/V receiver that has these decoders, and it is only on blu-ray discs and some streaming content, because it is too much data to fit on a regular DVD or broadcast television. But, wow, the dimension of height sure does add to the surround experience. Here’s a more detailed description if you’re interested.  

All of the tv manufacturers debuted OLED tv’s a few years ago. And they looked so good, that we felt we had reached plateau, or even a ceiling in improving picture quality. No backlighting, just an led for every pixel, making contrast numbers infinite! However, only LG went into full production of them since they were so expensive to make, there wasn’t a big market for them. So, for the last few years, the price and quality of regular, 4k LCD with LED backlighting sets have dropped to where you can get a big tv that looks pretty terrific for under $1,000! But the LG OLED TV’s were 5 and 6 thousand dollars for their 55” and 65” sets, respectively. But they still sold a bunch to people wanting the (very noticeably) best picture quality available. Well, now, production costs are coming down, and you can buy the LG OLED sets for 3 and $4,000, and other’s are coming out with OLED tv’s as well. Sony showed a 65” and 77” set in their booth (no pricing details yet) that they say will ship this year. Interesting note: Sony made the tv’s screen be the speaker on these sets, something which has been bandied about for years in the business, but they’re the first to go full production with it (not that anyone would want to use a tv’s internal speakers). A small Chinese maker showed OLED tv’s as well. And LG doubled down with more models of OLED including a 77” and a 65” that has a 1/8” thick screen weighing 18 lbs. that you can hang on your wall with stick-on magnets! It has a ribbon cable that goes down to a remote tuner/power supply box. Oh,…it’s also flexible!! We recently bought one of the 65” LG OLED sets for $2,700 on Amazon (“used-like new”) and we are blown away daily at the contrast and vivid color. So,… the future of displays we’ve all dreamed about for years has arrived! Get ready to see even more ultra-hi-res displays in retail environments on every spare surface they have - even curves!  

StarTrek TRICORDER!  - No shit, this is big. A smartphone that can scan and identify different molecular compositions! 

The LAST MILE......
"Look, Ma, no hands! fact, driver!"
One of my favorite categories of consumer electronics is electric scooters and bikes. These "last mile" transportation vehicles are growing in importance as more and more people have moved to cities. Plus, the technology of electric motors with lithium batteries on lightweight alloy frames continue to reveal more viable personal transport solutions for neighborhood errands and fun recreation! Here’s my favorite e-scooter (I know I listed it in last year’s ces summary, but it’s still the best this year, and is right now, at a 50% off ces promo price!). We bought electric bikes this past year and really enjoy them greatly. There were many showings of e-bikes and e-scooters at this year’s CES (over 50 that I saw), which tells me that this way of gettin’ around is definitely gonna be in our future. You could probably hear people in the booth saying: "yeah, in 30 years we'll have real hoverboards".

- There. ...I succeeded in getting all the way through my CES summary without using the word drones. D'oh!