Monday, January 6 was the regular Press Day at CES, with many of the major electronics brands hosting big, high-budget press conferences to announce new products and pound their respective chests in the consumer product space. Our team at CES hit a couple of the big names in the home/media space. You can read our earlier post about Dish’s announcements, and we’ll summarize our perspective on the highlights about the other events we attended here.
Intel was hyper-focused on removing the fiction from science fiction with this CES press conference. Mooly Eden hopped on stage and presented the vision Intel has for the next generation of user experience. Their new combined technologies under the RealSense brand bring voice and a new 3D camera sensor together. These innovations in such a slim, integrated form factor broaden the options of interface choices and enhance the ability to interact with a PC.
The depth camera was impressive in its ability to eliminate the need for green screens in a consumer settings and opened new opportunities for augmented reality interactions.
Facial recognition brought a mixed feeling from those of us that attended Intel’s event. The novel use of this tech in Google Earth was not earth shattering. The best use of this tech would be the ability for content providers to gauge interactions from their audience, hopefully with some form of opting in.
In many ways the late part of their press conference delivered on what we were hoping for with the Leap Motion Controller where they nailed fine grain control of the Windows 8 UI. The search functions in Windows 8.1 were turbo-charged with Intel’s partnership with Nuance’s Dragon Assistant and some contextual voice functions. These innovations as a suite of offerings combined certainly got us a little closer to Star Trek.
Prayers to the plasma gods went unanswered with Panasonic’s new lineup of AX899 Series TVs this year. The Viera brand ushered in claims of plasma level picture quality with Studio Master Drive technology. We will go eyes on in the coming days with the hopes that hold true. Josh said that he won’t fully believe that claim until he can watch hockey on one.
Personalization of the TV experience was the other big push from Panasonic this year with a set of functions tied to a Life+Screen initiative that looked to blend customized viewing preference recommendations with voice recognition.
Of the press conferences we attended at CES, Samsung’s was the most…awkward. The scuttle that will likely be what this particular event gets remembered for was Michael Bay melting down and walking off stage when he couldn’t recover from a teleprompter snafu. But Samsung actually had a theme—an ambitious theme—for their announcements, all focused around products that helped create a better home.
From the announced Samsung Smart Home platform to new innovations in home appliances and entertainment devices, they tried desperately to convey a message that they clearly expected the attending press to care about more. Molly Wood once described Samsung’s approach to PR events as “tone deaf,” and that pretty much sums it up. They had interesting products to announce, but they just tried too hard to make us care about how they got here. They seem completely unable to connect and engage with the audience.
That said, if you’re into TVs and mobile tech, Samsung had the requisite 4K displays front and center, they showed a curved display that seemingly rendered Michael Bay speechless, and a flexible widescreen TV that transformed from a flat screen to a curved display with the touch of a button. (It sounds lame, but it’s actually kind of cool to see in person.) They also announced a new line of pro-grade appliances that seemed innovative, but the message was mired by long-winded, scripted chef endorsements. Samsung’s other big push was on a new line of tablets—four new Pro tablets sporting Android, styli, and leather backs and ranging from between 8.4 to 12.2 inches.
Sony offered the last press conference of the day, and as they’ve done the last couple of years, it was held in their booth right on the show floor. After a day of mediocre, at best, press conferences, the change of venue was welcome. They started by recapping all the success they’ve had in 2013 across all of their product lines. Then they declared that 2014 is the “year of play.” They want this year to be focused on using all of their devices to play. By that they mean playing games on the PlayStation, playing video on a Bravia TV, or any other form of media across all of their devices.
The first product segment that Sony dug into was 4k Ultra High Definition (UHD). They are looking to address the biggest problem facing 4k: content delivery. They have the world’s first, and only, in-home downloadable 4k content marketplace. They say that it currently offers over 140 4k titles including movies, TV shows, and shorts. Sony will also be including a 500px app on their Bravia TVs that will allow consumers to view 4k photos in their native resolution. The built-in YouTube app will also stream 4k video. Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, was also on hand to talk about how they are delivering 4k of all of their original series. They are using HEVC encoding at about 15 Mbps, so it will require an internet connection of at least 20 Mbps.
Sony didn’t actually spend much time talking about their new 4k UHD televisions. They offer them in a variety of sizes ranging from 65″ to 85″. Specifically mentioned was the new X900B series. It is a wedge-snapped design that has much larger speakers than we’re used to seeing in TVs. All of the new TVs have a new 60P HEVC decoder built-in. For those who may have already purchased a current generation UHD from Sony they are offering a media player with the same decoder.
Sony has clearly shown that they own 4k from end to end. They produce 4k cameras, servers for processing the video, a content delivery solution, and the televisions on which to watch the glorious UHD content. They know that getting the content to the end-user is the hardest step, and this year it looks as if they may have some good solutions for solving that problem.