Just returned from 3 days at CES 2012. I've uploaded an album of photos I took at CES - check it out!
I was last at the Consumer Electronics Show two years ago, in 2010. The word back then in 2010 was "3D" - everything was all about 3D TV. Not anymore. The word in 2012 is "smart". Everything is smart. TVs are smart, interfaces are smart, apps are smart, health and fitness devices are smart - even refrigerators and ovens are smart (well, at least they are claimed to be smart).
3D. What about 3D? A flop in the marketplace, 3D was a bit of a sideshow act at 2012 CES. True, LG had an amazing 3D display in the entrance hall, but it felt a lot more Disney World than living room. Was this really consumer 3D? 3D glasses were discreetly available for 3D TV models, but the glasses weren't pushed on the crowd like they were a few years ago. In what seemed like an admission of the failure of 3D in the market, Samsung was showing a Dual-View HD television that instead of using active shutter glasses to project stereoscopic images to your left and right eyes, used the same trick to allow two people to simultaneously watch two different tv shows. Three problems with this idea: 1) tinny lousy audio came out of speakers in the glasses, 2) my glasses didn't switch shows, and 3) who watches TV shows anyway - TV is about the Internet!
There were a number of displays of "glasses-free 3D." This is what I was waiting for! But, alas, a disappointment. Blurry low-res images and a sense of an impending headache if I watched the screen too long. Maybe next year?
OLED and 8K While 3D continued to disappoint, OLED delivered. Samsung and LG's 55" LED TVs were amazing to experience - incredibly vivid and captivating. Even the back of the Samsung was finished like a piece of sculpture. Sharp, on the other hand, showed off an 85 inch 8K LCD TV. With a 16x HD resolution of 7630 by 4320 pixels, it had a constant crowd of people transfixed by a level of detail that looked more like a window onto the world than a piece of electronics. Samsung and Sharp also had very compelling interactive displays. My favorite was the (unfortunately $8000) Samsung 40" table top screen running Microsoft Surface. Imagine that on your kitchen table a few years down the road.
Smart appliances. While I'm convinced that TV has gotten very smart, I'm not convinced about refrigerators. LG touted a smart fridge that orders food for you and tells you when things are about to expire. Problem is, you have to scan items into the fridge with a barcode reader or scan your grocery receipts into the fridge. Frankly, it sounds like a lot of work. I just want to throw things into my refrigerator. I don't want to have to interact with it and tend to its information needs!
Vacuum cleaners, on the other hand, continue to smarten up. Roomba has quite a bit of competition now. Just about everyone was introducing a sleek new robot vacuum cleaner this year, with LG's one of most impressive I saw.
Robots. And what about robots? Well, 2012 wasn't the year of the robot, unfortunately. Paro, the therapeutic seal robot was on display, but is still way too expensive for the average consumer. Some of the robots were just plain embarrassing, such as a party robot boombox complete with drink holder. I have to admit that I wasn't present for the appearance of Justin Bieber with the TOSY mRobo dancing robot shown at CES, but doubt it would have made me a fan of either the robot or Justin Bieber.
Blurring the line. Another trend at CES 2012 was the continued blurring of line between the virtual and the real. There were quite a few displays of augmented reality used in the service of retailing, such at the FaceCake augmented reality system using Microsoft's Kinect Fusion, that lets you virtually try on clothing. While these systems turn real items into virtual items, CES also had the MakerBot replicator, which turns virtual items into real items. The MakerBot replicator is an under $2000 3D printer that lets you print physical objects at home. A whole new medium for user generated content!
Health. CES 2012 also found the technology fitness category exploding, with wearable devices to monitor your heart rate, sleep, calories, body temperature and sweat. The Basis does all of this in the form factor of a watch - no straps or medical looking devices, just a wristwatch.
What else? The list goes on and on. Sleek ultrabooks that compete with the Macbook Air (though seriously, can't someone come up with their own original design?) Micro projectors from 3M that project large bright images, one with a wifi dongle that supports up to 20 users. More smartphone cases than you could possible imagine. "Personal cloud" devices for creating your own private cloud. All in all, an exhausting but stimulating three days!