Thursday, January 06, 2011

CES 2011

CES 2011, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, is an awful lot like 2010 except I think attendance has gone up slightly. They claim they were expected 120,00, but it did not look that crowded; that would match peak crowds from before the crash.

There were quite a number of HUGE demos from vendors, much bigger individual floor spaces than I ever remember, all in the central hall. However, the south and north halls had much lamer, smaller vendors than I remember in the past. Nowhere near as much car tech as in the past.

There are a few big new items named in news reports, like new tablets to compete against the iPad. I don't really have a reason to look for a tablet yet, and if I did, I'd probably get an iPad, so I ignored those. I also ignored the 4G phones as I have a new iPhone and don't really need the frustration of wondering when Apple will introduce their 4G model.

I love my iPhone but increasingly I hate AT&T. There was literally no data reception all day long at the convention center, undoubtedly because the network was clogged from overuse. Here's a thought AT&T: when you know that 120,000 important gadget geeks are judging your network, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

There was also a bizarre chemical spill that shut down the strip just as the show was opening. I'm blaming AT&T for that as well.

The news reports are also talking about the fact that 3D TV has taken a backseat because of its failure over the last year. Well, it's true that 3D has failed. I predicted this at last year's show because of the down market, combined with the fact that everyone just bought expensive new HDTVs already. Add to that the other inherent problems with 3D.

But they are wrong that it has taken a backseat; 3D was all over the show, perhaps more so than any other technology, and again I predict failure. In addition to the aforementioned problems, 3D set makers believed the failure was due to the fact that the glasses they were trying to sell were too expensive. They were using the shutter-system that were $150/pair, were heavy, and required recharging. However, they gave a much clearer image.

They have moved backwards to polarized glasses which are cheap and easier to wear, but with worse picture quality. I happened to walk by the Panasonic booth as they were starting a demo and there were available seats (a rarity) so I watched. I've gone on record in the past as stating that I hate 3D. I have plenty of vision problems and am one of the sizable minority who gets a headache with the glasses on, trying to focus my eyes on something that isn't there. No exception today, less than two minutes into the presentation and I had a splitting headache. It did not help that the audio was at ear-splitting levels, especially through the sub-woofer.

When using polarized lenses, by definition, the light is dropped by a full stop. This makes everything look dim. I have real trouble seeing dim images. The things that look best in 3D are daytime exteriors. No surprise that the sports highlights that they showed were very involving.

They showed sections of TRON which looks like a nightmare for 3D. The movie takes place in a dark fantasy land where everyone is dressed alike. There was so little light I could not see actors' faces and could not tell who was whom.

The other problem is that it is rife for gimmickry. Many of the shots overemphasize depth to comical proportions. A car turning a corner looked like it was about 100 feet long as it came towards the camera. A kid sitting on a twin bed looked like it had been designed Wilt Chamberlain. Even a normal guy looked like one of the undersea creatures in THE ABYSS because the depth on his head was overdone. At best it was distracting and never added anything to the quality.

There was very little else that caught my eye, but I went through the show pretty quickly.
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