JPR’s best of CES

Posted: 10.24.03

We have a list of favorite shows, the ones we say that if we could only go to or two they would be the ones. Of course, Siggraph is number one. What surprises a lot of our friends and clients is that CeBit is number two. The third has become CES, nudging out IBC. CES is where it's been happening for the last three years, and this year was a clear winner. You could measure it in the attendance and in the mood of the attendees. It was also the conference where the most new products were introduced, and possibly the most innovative and eclectic products. It seems only fitting then to have favorite things at these favored and favorite shows; and, as you may have guessed by now, we do. They're not all about pixels. A couple of them we noticed were copied by CEA for their most innovative awards—oh well, we'll just take that as an honor.

Philips L.G. Philips' 52-inch display

L.G. Philips stunned us with their 52W, a 52-inch wide-screen display—the largest TFT-LCD to ever be demonstrated. Its 1920 x 1080 resolution—2.07 million pixels—is more than seven times a standard definition (SD) television and twice as many as high as found in many HDTVs. The 52W also boasts the world's widest viewing angle (176 degrees), with a minimum of color-shifting, and incorporates a modern, ÒwideÓ aspect ratio of 16:9. Bruce Berkoff, EVP at L.G. Philips, told us that this beauty will probably never be sold. Its size is incompatible with standard manufacturing sizes. It's more a proof of concept and showpiece; we offered to let him show it off in our office.

Jabra Jabra in-your-ear headset

From the huge to the tiny: stick it in your ear—Jabra introduced their FreeSpeak Headset. This tiny 0.8-ounce (23g), 1/2 x 2-3/8 x 4-inch wireless headset tucks up behind your ear and communicates with your phone via Bluetooth. If your old phone doesn't have Bluetooth, Jabra has an adapter for it. It's got a volume control, on/off switch, in-use indicator, and a very comfortable fit using a gel tip for your ear. It is so lightweight and comfortable that we honestly didn't know we were wearing it, and Jon tried to explain that to the company when they tackled him and threw him to ground to get it back as we left. The FreeSpeak also won the Innovations 2003 Design and Engineering Showcase Honors at CES.

InFocus In-Focus ScreenPlay 7200

We're saving our allowance and when we get a few thousand bucks we're going to buy an In-Focus ScreenPlay 7200. What a beauty this is. Jon had the pleasure of borrowing its little brother, the 110, for his talk on Convergence. The 7200 uses the TI Mustang HD2 DLPT and provides a true 720p high-definition display using technology from Carl Zeiss and Faroudja. It has 1280 x 720 resolution, 1000 lumens, and 1400:1 contrast ratio. We think the CES team was following us around, because this product also received the Innovations 2003 Design and Engineer.

Kodak Kodak OLED display

Kodak showed its 15-inch OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) display, the biggest one to date and proof that this technology isn't limited to watches and PDAs. The display featured full-color, 1280 x 720 (HDTV) resolution; a display area of 326.4 x 183.6 mm; a 65-degree viewing angle; and a brightness that rivals the best active-matrix LCD monitors on the market today. Organic thin-film materials emit light when stimulated by an electric charge. Benefits over conventional technologies include higher contrast for superb readability in most lighting conditions, faster response time to support streaming video, industry-leading and thinner design for better ergonomics, and no back light. They're also flexible and could be rolled up inside your pen—think about that for a PDA.

DVDxcopy DVDXCopy software

You can too copy your DVDs and not get hauled off to jail by Jack V's black guard. You can, that is, if you've got a copy of plucky little 321's DVDXCopy. DVDXCopy lets you make backup copies of all your DVD movies using a standard DVD+R or DVD-R burner. Best of all, your copies will play on your home DVD player just like regular DVDs! The program restores scratched and damaged DVDs and copies all menus, trailers and special features. This product didn't win any CES innovation award (gee, I wonder why), but it was clearly one of the most popular products at the show—for days we were spotting people carrying the box around. 321 is slugging it out in the courts against the movie industry, which is convinced we're all going to go out and make copies (at one copy per hour or so) and then sell them for 39 cents and put Will Smith's 401K in jeopardy.

Vivitar Vivitar binoculars cum camera

I can see you now, and what's more I can remember what I saw. Vivitar has created a pair of binoculars with a built-in camera. Great for watching sporting events, wildlife, or your neighbors—now, whatever you see can be captured for posterity, or for income-enhancing blackmail. The company isn't talking too much about this product; we did learn it is VGA resolution and will go to a higher resolution in the next version.

Roxio's CD/DVD software

Roxio previewed its promised CD and DVD software at CES and, in addition, the company has designed a new interface to let users create music CDs, DVDs, and backup data and manage and edit audio, video, and still photos. The product is due out in the spring and promises to raise the bar for competing companies including Pinnacle and Ulead. The product is the culmination of Roxio's acquisition of MGI, which gave the company PhotoSuite and VideoWave as complements to its own CD Creator and Toast.CEO Chris Gorog has told investors that the new product will not be less than $99.95 on introduction.

AiboSony's Aibo robot dog

Sony's Aibo dog has gotten kind of lonely lately, and so Sony has introduced a new friend, a double-jointed robot capable of doing light errands—we think. The prototype at the show just stood there, and in the video (as seen here) just did acrobatics. Speaking of lonely, just how lonely do you have to be to shell out as much as $2,500 for a mechanical dog? Still, it would be fun É robot dogThe latest doggies-in-the-window come in the cute, low-cost model shown here (for around $599), or scary, hunky new silver jobs that are faster and smarter than ever.


Creative's Prodikeys keyboard

Creative has had this device on the market for a while and it's a darned cute little device. It lets users put their computer to work as a midi as well as a productivity machine. It's a normal keyboard with piano keys hidden under a wrist rest.

Midi has always been a wonderful technology for the non- and the almost- musician, since it fills in where imagination and talent take the day off. However, there are likely to be new applications for this device as consumers start working more with their video files. A product like Prodikeys lets users create their own soundtracks. In most cases people won't be creating art, but serviceable tunes; however, there's no reason why art can't happen as well.

The tool is designed to work with Creative's Sound Blaster audio card, and the company intends to keep users hooked with downloadable content.

The Segway mobility device

SegwayQuite a few people saw the famous Segway scooter up close for the first time—including us. It's bigger than we thought, dead quiet, and a bunch of them tooling around together look pretty cool—the perfect vehicle for gangs of nerds to terrorize trade shows or Silicon Valley campuses. Berkeley has already forbidden them on sidewalks and we see why. No one wants one of these things sneaking up behind them when they're out enjoying a nice stroll. But, we could see the Segway becoming a viable alternative to motor scooters and even taxis on urban streets and as a result contributing to less pollution and congestion—not anytime soon, mind you. But isn't it good that people are thinking of these things?

ESS's Digital Media Processor

DVD is just hitting its stride and the DVD semiconductor companies are eager to find new applications for video. As a result, we're seeing experimental applications that we hope come into our home someday soon. ESS's DMP is a handy little handheld-sized device that lets users access audio files, JPEG photos, MPEG-1, and MPEG-4 video using flash memory cards. They can use it to play slide shows or to make presentations on its own little screen or use the TV-out. ESS has built the ES6420 chip to make it happen and the chip includes a digital interface for flash memory and MP3/WMA, JPEG, MPEG-1/MPEG-4/Motion JPEG decoding. In addition it has an On-Screen Display controller, TV-encoder, IDE, and USB interfaces for hard drive support and file transfer to a PC.

Was CES fun? You betcha! We got to see and play with so much neat stuff, and an analyst's badge gets to the front of the line and usually a T-shirt or something. (We did manage to score a copy of DVDXCopy; we're still waiting for the 52-inch screen to be delivered.)