Ground report from the Mecca of tech
The world’s largest Consumer Electronics Show reflects a change of guard that has been in the making for quite a few years. "Selling Televisions is going to be tough in the future CES this year has seen the maturing of certain TV technologies that have been either half-baked or...brunch Updated: Jan 12, 2013 18:41 IST
It’s late at night, very late. I’m in Las Vegas and we are hours away from the opening of the world’s largest Consumer Electronics Show – CES 2013. The gates to this incredible technology extravaganza will open in a few hours and more than 1,65,000 people will troop in with glazed eyes and stupefied expressions. This is truly the mecca of tech and expectations are sky high as more than 3,000 companies from across the globe will announce and demonstrate thousands of new devices.
I’ve been privileged to have been given a preview to many of the products that will be unveiled tomorrow morning and some of them are awesome. But far more important than what turns out to be the best and worst of CES this year (my detailed column next week) is the feeling that this year signifies a change of guard. CES 2013 reflects a reboot of technology, a reset that has been in the making for quite a few years. Some of the technology trends that will shape our future have become clear this year at CES.
Selling Televisions is going to be tough in the future CES this year has seen the maturing of certain TV technologies that have been either half-baked or just not ready for prime time. OLED (very low power consumption, super thin, amazing contrasts, incredible colours) is now a reality. Ultra High Definition is the future (almost four times the 1080P HD resolution that we all see and marvel at today). Plus Glassless 3D (many different kinds, and some of them are actually starting to look good), Super Smart TVs (they study what you watch and plan and remind you of shows and movies that are similar and build customised content pages) and voice and gesture controls (instead of clunky controls you now speak to your TV to filter channels and content to what you want to see).
There are even TVs that are so powerful (quad core processor and graphic engines) that they can transmit two completely different full-screen images so that two people can watch the same screen but completely different content at the same time (you can watch sports while your parents can watch a movie). Thus TVs have gone from being a idiot box to a connected, very smart, very intelligent family device. And yet companies will find selling TVs in the future very difficult. OLED and Ultra HD are going to be very expensive for the next four years (almost six times more expensive to current TVs). But even if one was to wait for prices to come down from the stratosphere, the big problem is going to be content. Every single time TV displays have moved to the next level, growth has been fuelled by content. The first SD flat plasma TVs took off with the advent of DVDs and our current HD TVs only look good with Blu Rays or HD broadcast channels.Unfortunately nothing like that seems to be coming in fast and buying a TV that is capable of Ultra HD but without any content to see it is self-defeatist in purpose. Sales of these amazingly capable and very high tech TVs are going to be severely handicapped with no compelling reason to upgrade. Phablets are the Next Big Thing, and that’s not necessarily a Good Thing Every company worth its salt has a super large screen phone either announced or on display at CES. Five inches is just about the starting point for each and full-HD resolution (1920x1080) is now the benchmark.
This is a quantum leap forward as last year there was just one phone with a five- inch screen and that had a very average resolution. This is a great showcase of how quickly technology is moving ahead and also bodes well for the consumer as large screen phones with such high resolutions tend to be super specced, very high featured and have extremely powerful hardware inside.
But it’s also very worrisome as it also seemed that almost every company had only larger screens as the only real innovation to show. As each company turns out a big screen phone (and some take it to ridiculous levels like 6.1 inches) there is almost no differentiator from one to another. Also, such large screen phones aren’t for everyone as a lot of people find them difficult to handle, carry and make calls on. Yet, the calling card for each mobile brand seemed to be only large, larger, largest.
I was expecting a lot more innovation on many different fronts but that wasn’t the case at CES this year. Maybe MWC (Mobile World Congress) could change that! Your Body is going to be Tech’s biggest playground.
My column last week showcased a lot of new wearable tech that would ensure your body was fitter and stronger. That turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg as CES took it to a whole new level. From weighing scales that analyse your weight, fat, heart beat and also the air quality around you (measures carbon dioxide that builds up to excessive levels in confined spaces like bedrooms and gyms) to a smart fork and spoon that tells you if you’re eating too fast or too much.
There are more than 30 new bio-feedback bands and clip-on devices that tell you exactly what your body is doing (or not doing). There’s even tech for your soul with a new app called GPS for your soul that measures your heart rate variability, pinpoints stress levels and then offers you music, breathing exercises and pictures of your loved ones that can help you destress.
Tech for your body is a great category and one that may just bring about a true digital health revolution. There were other clear tech trends that emerged. Car and tech have now become perfect soulmates (connected cars, cars with more computing power than a roomful of computers, cars that communicate with all the devices you already own), tablets have become the biggest innovation arena (a paper-thin flexible tablet called PaperTab was showcased as were tablets with great new ways of typing including virtual keyboards) and the fact that from now on almost all top-of-the-line cameras will have to have an operating system that can do more than just take pictures, be WiFi enabled and be able to take in a SIM card too (seems like the Samsung Galaxy camera has really set the cat amongst the pigeons).
Usually, CES is just a showcase of some great devices and products. This year it’s a guiding light to how technology will shape up in the next five years. Watch out next week for my detailed CES 2013 column where I introduce you to the best and worst of this mega event, one device at a time!
(Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at twitter.com/RajivMakhni)
From HT Brunch, January 13
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