Interesting sights at CES

Home Energy Management

Just like the Jetson’s everything in the home of the future will be connected and controllable. The benefits of convenience and resource savings are real, but the future on display by GE, Panasonic, Control4, and Motorola, will take years to become mainstream. In addition to Nucleus (GE’s smartplug) there were entries from several new vendors – ThinkECO, Wattclever, CurrentCost, and RCS Technology. There is a low barrier to entry for a ZigBee + WiFi chipset in a plug. You can expect smartplugs to become generic items bought like CFL bulbs at the hardware store with 99c smartphone apps to control them.

Everybody-TV

A media converter box [MCB] typically contains an ARM processor running embedded Linux with hardware (ICs) for video/audio decode and HDMI output plus Wifi. It has become an OEM line-item available from a range of Taiwan/Chinese vendors. Just append your software application layer, brand name and the letters “TV”. There was GoogleTV (on display but not strongly hyped and no Google logo on anyone’s shirt) in the Sony and Intel displays. Yahoo Connected TV, introduced in 2007 for specific Samsung TVs, can now be added to any TV with their MCB to adds widgets to standard broadcasts. The widgets have been upgraded to include social links. This can be a useful complement to your existing viewing pattern. IomegaTV with Boxee was the best integration of Boxee software with cloud storage, option TB local storage and a simple QWERTY remote. Intel’s SmartTV from perplexes me. Using a laptop with a 2nd generation Intel multi-core processor AND a custom MCB, you can download 1080p content from CinemaNow and stream it to a TV. With 1080p decode chipsets readily available, why would I need a new laptop computer? My guess is the laptop is transcoding H.264 streams at 10-20mpbs into a higher bit-rate stream for a low-cost MCB while using an optimized point to point 802.11n protocol. While the bandwidth hit (N+1 streams vs. N) is probably tolerable, you’ll likely buy that new laptop for other reasons than CinemaNow. I guess I’ll have to read the copy Screen Future: The Future of Entertainment, Computing and the Devices We Love to learn more. And every TV maker I didn’t mention had MCB solutions on display with Hulu, Boxee or custom UI control screens.

Senior computing

MyGait sells a PC with a color-coded keyboard and a simple walled-garden user interface. I asked the representative how to get on Facebook (~5M seniors and growing rapidly). And, just like the AOL in the ’90s you had to open an Internet search box and type facebook.com. And a $20/month service fee for 24/7 customer help is included in the purchase. Yet another thing for your mother to sign-up and forget about. The Quality of Life Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University was demonstrating Lean&Zoom. Using a webcam, the zoom scale on the screen is automatically adjusted based on the distance to your face. Having trouble reading something? Just lean a bit closer and the screen scales up. clever. Brain fitness was represented by Dakim. There is a substantial body of clinical research supporting mental stimulation to delay or diminish Alzheimer’s. And all of the demo stations were occupied by older folks. The software is $240 or $2400 with an integrated computer. Yikes, Apple has demonstrated that an iPad can stimulate the brain of anything from a cat to a centenarian.

3D Everywhere

TVs that use glasses that look just like neutral density sunglasses to produce realistic 3D. TV’s that don’t require glasses at all. The 3DS from Nintendo. Reasonably priced 3D cameras. Dizzyingly cool.

Random cool stuff

  • Westone earbuds for cycling – reduced wind noise allows reduced volume for better safety.
  • A pretty cool sandcastle as part of a 3D camera demonstration. (but not the world’s greatest – google Imperial Beach).
  • Wireless power from Fulton Innovation. Charge your Tesla without a plug. If you want to know how much it costs, you don’t own a Tesla. But the concept of simplifying electric car charging is good.
  • Missed the robots
  • Lady GaGa glasses – wasn’t there, didn’t care
  • Sometime my nephew needs: A flying saucer controlled by an iPhone with webcame and 100ft range.

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