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CES 2010: Shifting Wireless Broadband Into Overdrive

In January 2008 we heralded the Sprint WiMax network (“Winner: Sprint's Broadband Gamble”). A lot's changed since then (see this January's “4G in the U.S.A.”) but one thing hasn't. At the time we said the network promised to be the most open in the world. We described Sprint's business model as “A new cellular service will sell high-speed data access instead of phones and phone calls.”

That vision apparently hasn't changed. This week at CES the company unveiled the Overdrive, a sort of portable Wi-Fi router for 4G users. The idea of the Overdrive is this: Your plug the Overdrive (via USB) into your laptop, which itself is on the Internet via the 4G network. Up to 5 users can connect to the Overdrive via Wi-Fi, just as they might connect to the Wi-Fi router in your home. The $99 Overdrive, which is actually made by Sierra Wireless, is smaller than a pack of cigarettes.

As a Wi-Fi router, the Overdrive is fantastic, but not new. Sprint had an earlier box, the MiFi, which did the same for Sprint's 3G network (the Overdrive will connect to the older and larger 3G network if the 4G network, which still only exists in 20-odd cities, can't be found).

But the Overdrive has some other nice features as well. It has 32 GB of storage, which your 5 users can access. An activity screen on the laptop shows things like the cellular signal strength, the number of users connected, whether GPS is active (so that your users can be located by Google Maps and the like) and how much storage is being used. An admin screen lets you assign MAC addresses, create passwords — all the things you can do with your home router.

Back in 2008 I speculated that some subscribers might use the WiMax network as their exclusive broadband provider, in the home as well as outside. The Overdrive goes a long way to making that home experience as similar to, and as useful as, a cable or DSL subscription.

CES 2010: Going Over The Top

Taking off my journalist hat for a moment, and considering myself as a consumer of electronics, the best thing I've brought into my living room in the past few years is a small black $99 box made by a small company named Roku. The Roku box delivers Netflix's instant Internet movie service — more than 10 000 of them — to the television instead of the computer.

I've probably watched 200 movies in the past two years that I would have watched on cable channels — or wouldn't have watched at all. In the battle between cable and the Internet for my movie-watching soul, the Internet is winning. I've scaled back my cable subscription to a minimal package, in large part because I don't need the premium movie channels. There's an entertainment industry name for what I'm doing, it's called going “Over The Top.”

If I tried to go Over The Top for all my video needs, it would take a lot more than Netflix. In fact, movies are the easiest part of it; offered, as they are, on Amazon, iTunes, and any number of other services. Television programming is much harder to find. According to one speaker at a panel session here at CES on Thursday, “I Want My IPTV,” only 53 percent of broadcast and 8 percent of cable programming can be found (not counting piracy).

Netflix isn't the only way video coming to my living room via the Internet, and while I was the one to solve the movie problem, for everything else, my wife is the queen of Over The Top. She buys TV shows on iTunes — Glee, Damages, and Castle have been the recent favorites — and we watch them via Apple TV. Some other shows are free; she podcasts The Rachel Maddow Show, for example, which we can then also watch on Apple TV. (Remarkably, MSNBC makes just the audio stream as well as the video available, and both are free of commercials.) Or, for her at least, on her iPod or iPhone (yes, she has one of each).

We haven't figured out a good way to watch The Daily Show on the television but it's easily watched on the computer at the show's website. (And while it's not commercial-free, there are only a handful of shorter-than-a-minute commercial breaks in the show.) Likewise for all the shows available on Hulu.

At the “I Want My IPTV” panel, the moderator, Brian Cooleyof CNET, described a way of doing that with an Apple Mini, a Panasonic digital projector, and a wireless keyboard and mouse. While not cheap, the whole solution costs less than a 50-inch television. More to the point, if doing so would let us cut the cable tie completely, instead of just scaling it back, I'd save more than $50 each month. (That's a new $2000 LCD projector in little more than three years.)

Needless to say, the cable companies are not thrilled about Over The Top viewing, and the television studios aren't happy about it either, even as they grudgingly make more and more of their content available. Take for example the ongoing war between Hulu and Boxee. (Hulu is an effort by the parent company of NBC to make its shows available directly on the Internet; Boxee is a software program that lets you play videos and music to your television.) NBC is willing, for now, to let you watch its shows on the small screen, presumably to maintain viewer loyalty in the long run, but it's not, as yet, ready to come to grips with alternative ways for you to watch them on the living room's big screen.

There's $120 billion dollars in advertising revenue at stake, and a handful of 30-second videos delivered to the web audience, a la the Daily Show, aren't going to make a dent in it. Likewise, even if my wife and I paid, say, $20 each for the dozen shows we like to watch, that's less than half of what we pay the cable company today. For a cable company, this would be the very worst form of unbundling and it would do to the cable business what CDOs did for the banking industry.

When I wrote about Microsoft's IPTV software, back in 2005 ("The Battle For Broadband"), it was a way of using the Internet to go around the cable industry's pipeline of movies and television programming into the living room. Today, phone companies like AT&T (with its U-verse DSL service), and Verizon (FiOS optical fiber service), are trying to do just that. For consumers like my wife and me, though, that's just a different pea trapped in the same pod. We're looking to break free entirely. “Free” not in the sense of a free lunch; "free" as in "freedom": We want to watch what we want to watch, when we want, on whatever device we want, from LCD television to laptop to smartphone.

That day is coming. But if the history of digital music (a much, much smaller and if not exactly obscure object of desire) is any guide, hold on, it's going to be a bumpy ride. It'll take a messy decade of format wars, copy-protection wars, and device wars before the dust settles.

CES 2010: Gadget Lust

I’m not your classic early adopter; I don’t love every new gizmo I see, just because it’s new. But there have been a few products introduced at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show so far that I instantly found myself itching to get my hands on. They aren’t the most expensive or the most state of the art. But I could use them right now.

Robot. I haven’t gotten over to the robot zone at CES yet, so perhaps this is not the only robot that will make sense to me, but it is the first one. The Mint from Evolution Robotics cleans floors, not rugs, using standard pads made by Swiffer. I have a white kitchen floor (this was not my idea), it’s a nightmare to keep clean. I already use Swiffer sometimes—manually—I’d love to hand my Swiffer pads over to a robot. And, tipping the scales, it’s smaller and cuter than a Roomba; it wouldn’t look awkward parked in the corner. The Mint will ship in the second half of the year, at under $250.

Flipkiller. Everyone has an answer to Flip HD, the popular point, shoot, and upload video camera. I saw a lot of them (including Sony’s Bloggie, the product I’m nominating for worst name); all were fine, but none had a compelling reason to choose them instead of the established Flip. Then I saw Kodak’s Playsport Video Camera. It’s an HD video camera like the Flip—and it’s waterproof. There’s the compelling feature; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in the surf taking videos of the kids, distracted by worrying that an unexpected wave might takeout the camera. (Given how many books I’ve lost to the surf, this is not an idle worry.) So splash proof would be enough, but the Playsport works underwater, and its shape and feel--solid, slightly curved, with a rubberized surface—made me not want to put it down. Kodak also says they’ve addressed the problem of screen visibility in bright sunlight by switching the viewfinder to a sepia mode (the recorded video stays full color); if it works, it’ll be great. The Playsport will retail at around $150, about the same price as a Flip, and will be available in time for my spring beach vacation.

Keyboard. A keyboard? I’m lusting after a keyboard? Yes, at least, I want to try it. The Ergomotion keyboard from Smartfish Technologies is designed to reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries by moving—it cycles through different positions, changing your hand angle as you type. I’m not sure if it’ll work or will simply be distracting, but if it does, it’s brilliant. It will retail for under $150.

CES 2010: The Challenge of Naming Technology

Consumer electronics technology evolves more quickly, more quickly, it seems, than the industry’s vocabulary. So this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has been full of vocabulary lessons—some for me, some for the folks in the booths. It’s all a little confusing right now, and I hope it gets sorted out before it has to get translated to those salespeople at Best Buy, and, in turn, to the consumer.

3D television is ubiquitous at the Show, and it will certainly be appearing on retail shelves this year. (I’m not saying that it will fly off those shelves to consumer’s homes; whether it will or not is another discussion. But people indeed are talking about it.

The moniker 3D itself; that’s easy. Manufacturers have done a good job of explaining the glasses; there are two basic kinds, passive and active. The passive kind are the type handed out in most movie theaters—they are cheap and disposable and have polarized lenses that are weird to wear out in the sun. The active kind has a battery and an on switch; that’s because they have little shutters inside that open and close rapidly. Whew, that was simple.

In the countless panels on 3D television’s rollout held yesterday, however, a few more terms distinguishing different technologies were tossed about—over/under and side-by-side. I finally pulled someone aside who explained to me that in 3D TV each standard frame is split into two to fit the 3D image into a standard transmission, then, when it arrives at the TV, the halves are displayed individually, stretched to fill out the screen. Over/under and side-by-side refers to whether the split is horizontal or vertical. (There’s also alternating lines, but that was more self-explanatory.)

Sometimes, the first term grabbed out of the vernacular to describe a technology doesn’t work out and needs to be replaced. Last year, TV manufacturers called their capabilities to display YouTube videos and the like widgets; this year the software formally known as a widget is now an App; unifying itself with the smart-phone terminology.

TV manufacturers also seem to be using a new tag for some of their LCD TVs; they used to call LCD’s backlit with LEDs just that, LCD’s with an LED backlight. Now they’re calling them LED TVs, reserving the LCD name for those backlit by fluorescent tubes. It’ll sound to the consumer like an entire new technology, not simply familiar technology with a different light bulb. But I guess that’s the idea.

In the picoprojector (those little projectors that can be built into small devices, unveiled at the 2009 show) and e-book fields, there are a variety of technical approaches that don’t have catchy names, however, I did expect the folks in the booths (at least those who aren’t hired demonstrators) to at least know the names. So I was a little dismayed when I was checking out the very cool Nikon camera/projector and the otherwise knowledgeable Nikon representative couldn’t tell me what type of projector Nikon had chosen for the device.

“It’s pico,” the representative told me.

“Uh, no,” I said. “Pico is a class of products. Pico is not a technology.”

He referred me to another representative, who he said was the technical guy who handles all the technical questions.

“It’s not pico,” he said.

Not pico is not a technology either. I started to excuse myself and move away, when they called to a third rep in the back. Did he have an answer?

“LCOS,” he said.

“Very good!” I finally had an answer. I left while rep number three was explaining Liquid Crystal on Silicon to reps number two and one. I do understand that this isn’t the greatest acronym, and consumers really don’t need to know exactly how it works. But OLED isn’t a great acronym and consumers don’t know how it works, but they know it’s an alternative to LCD, not some vague TV technology called flat.

Ten minutes later I was checking out a color e-book at Fujitsu, available in Japan only. It’s not a great e-book; it’s slow and dim. But it’s color, which other e-book technology, so far, can’t do. I was dying to know what it was. Not having learned my lesson, I asked the rep in the booth.

“It’s e-paper,” he said.

“No, e-paper is not a technology, it’s…..never mind.”

I left. I found out later, by the way, that Fujitsu is using cholesteric liquid crystal to generate the color; and you’ll learn more about that in the March issue of Spectrum.

Photo: Till Niermann

CES 2010: Sony Finally Backs Down On Memory Stick Technology

Anyone who owns a Sony camera or laptop is familiar with the Memory Stick. While the rest of the consumer electronics world was getting their flash memory in the format of Compact Flash, initially, and later SD and micro SD, Sony went its own way with the Memory Stick, a flash chip in the form of a stick of gum. This meant that Sony camera users couldn’t swap cards with their non-Sony friends or use them in non-Sony devices. Seems like Sony would have given up on it years ago.

But Sony doesn’t surrender in format wars easily, as we know from the Betamax battle; not even when the war is over. At the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, however, Sony raised a tentative white flag—the company’s latest line of cameras will include a slot for SD memory cards alongside the Memory Stick slot. The company also announced that it will start selling its own brand of SD and micros cards.

It did not completely take Memory Stick off of life support, however. The company also announced a few camera models that can communicate with each other and other devices wirelessly. The wireless transmitter, however, comes built into a special Memory Stick.

CES 2010: TVs Get a Fourth Color, Twitter, Skype and More

The 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, being held this week in Las Vegas, is not shaping up to be a show about new categories of technology. We’re going to see, hopefully, new and better versions of devices that we already are at least slightly familiar with—ereaders, tiny projectors, touch-screen computers. And we’re going to see a lot of new features in established products, the most ubiquitous, it seems, is 3-D capabilities in televisions. Some will likely catch on and we’ll wonder how we ever existed without them, while others, introduced yesterday at the marathon of press conferences that precedes the opening of CES, left me scratching my head.

Four-color television, demonstrated by Sharp, is going to come at an expensive premium for some years to come, but, if LED television indeed becomes the industry standard, may end up commonplace. Sharp adds yellow pixels to the red, green, and blue pixels that typically make up a color picture, improving the realism of the color image. (When you’ve just got red, green, and blue, you’ve got to create yellow by mixing red and green.) Yellows (Sharp demonstrated sunflowers and brass instruments) look particularly great; but other colors also appeared more saturated.

Twitter on television, introduced so far by Sharp and Samsung, is a bit of a head scratcher. Maybe compulsive twitterers will want to see their 140 character tweets prance across their TV screens as they compose them, more likely they’ll stick to tweeting on their smartphones even when they’re watching TV. Skype on TV, introduced by LG and Panasonic, makes a more sense, since families are likely to video Skype in groups and you might want to see grandma on the big screen.

How about TV viewing on the TV remote? In some of Samsung’s new models, if you’re watching a movie from a disk on the TV itself, you can take advantage of the idle tuner by watching standard television on a screen on the remote. Useful or head scratcher?

Radio controlled helicopters are in every toy store; the latest model, the AR.Drone from Parrot, includes two video cameras that send a feed to your iPhone. The usefulness of this feature escaped me until I found myself sitting behind a wall of cameras that blocked my view at a press conference, and started thinking that if I had that video hovercraft with me I could send it up in the air and look right over those annoying heads.

The digital photo frame has been around for a few years—it cycles through a series of stored photos for display.  Casio’s latest model, the Digital Art Frame, takes those photos and, at the touch of a button, runs them through an image processing sequence to display them as “art,” styled as watercolors, pastels, oil paintings, etc. (You can already do this with most photo editing software; Casio brings this capability to the frame.) A head-scratcher for sure, although I did think the Gothic Oil Painting style was a clever way to jump on the current popularity of vampire chic.

CES 2010: Another CES, another Watch-Phone

Ever since the image of Dick Tracy talking into his wrist first graced the comic pages the watch-phone has been a longed-for fantasy. At first, it was just so much sci fi. Then it became something that, in the early days of brick-like cell phones, was just beyond the horizon; it was coming, and it would be huge. And then it was actually achievable, but too clunky to be comfortable—remember Microsoft’s Spot?

But for several years, we've had the technology to build a reasonably sized watch phone. People have built them. And then introduced them at CES.

This year’s version, demonstrated in Las Vegas at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, was a $199 GSM watch phone from Kempler & Strauss. It seems to work just fine, at least, as best I could tell in the noisy environment of a product launch event. And the very nice gentlemen who developed it and are trying to market it were thrilled by the response of videographers and photographers crowding around their display.

But, I hate to tell them, while the fantasy image of the watch phone as being the ultimate consumer device persists, no one wants one.

The reason is not what you think. It’s not that it’s not stylish enough, or the technology isn’t quite there yet, or that users might feel odd speaking into their wrists. It’s because everyone who wants one already owns a watch-phone—it’s their standard cell phone.

Ask a teenager—my son, for example—what time it is, and he will pull out his cell phone. He carries it with him everywhere; it’s his calendar, his camera, and his watch. He’s used to it being in his back pocket—the idea of carrying a clock on his wrist is foreign to him. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve offered to buy him a watch—I mean, doesn’t he need a watch? No, actually, he doesn’t.)

So I’m sorry Kempler; I’m sorry Dick Tracy—things have changed, and it’s time to let go of the fantasy and move on. And we journalists at CES are going to have to find a first-day story that’s not about the latest watch-phone.

CES 2010: Livin' the 3D Life

CES has barely started, but it has already come into focus. I can't tell you exactly what the show is about yet, but I can tell you its format--3D.

Today was a day of big press conferences by big companies and each one highlighted 3D. Toshiba, Samsung, Panasonic, even Monster Cable--they all touted their new 3D products. I'm writing this instead of going to Sony's 90-minute press conference (twice as long as anyone else's; my colleague Tekla Perry is there) but I guarantee that more than a few of those minutes will be devoted to new 3D televisions and surely 3D Blu-Ray players (and who knows what other 3D products as well; Panasonic showed a 3D videocamera).

According to Jeffrey Katzenberg, 4 of the top 10 box office successes of the 2009 movie year were 3D, even though there were only 10 3D feature movies made in the entire year (out of 170 total movies released), including his own Monsters vs Aliens. Yes, that Jeffrey Katzenberg--the CEO of Dreamworks Animation. He was on hand at the Samsung press conference (along with the CEO of Technicolor, Fred Rose) to express his admiration for Samsung's new line of 3D-capable televisions ("works of art") and his happiness at being part of "the Samsung family."

Samsung was not the only maker to pull big-name partners out of the wings. Panasonic trotted out recorded versions of the heads of DirectTV and Skype and, in person, film producer Jon Landau, whose move Avatar has already, he mentioned in passing, broken the $1 billion mark. According to Box Office Mojo, two-thirds of that is outside the U.S.) DirectTV announced that beginning tomorrow it will be broadcasting 3D to its customers, with new set-top boxes and software to accommodate it.

Toshiba made 3D the centerpiece of its press conference. More accurately, the company's major announcement was about several new lines of televisions that incorporate its version of the Cell microprocessor, and what made the Cell especially important was the ways it renders 3D better than regular processors. (Spectrum gave the Cell a thumbs up all the way back in January of 2006, in "Winner: Multimedia Monster"; more recently we made gentle fun of Toshiba for building it into a top-of-the-line laptop, the Qosmio, though we did include it in our 2008 Holiday Gift guide)

Even Monster Cable followed form, both in terms celebrity endorsers--flanked by the son, daughter, and nephew of the late Miles Davis, company president Noel Lee announced a special Miles Davis  headphone-and-CD-and-DVD package in honor of the 50th anniversary of "Kind of Blue"--and in terms of 3D. Monster doesn't have an 3D-specific products, but Lee got one of today's biggest laughs when he announced, in a booming voice, "I LOVE 3D! Not because I love 3D, but because it needs faster cables!" Monster's HDMI now goes up to a crazy 15.8 Gb/s with today's announcements.

There's no limit to 3D mania. Tomorrow I have an appointment to talk with a company making a $100 pair of 3D active glasses that have a high-end microprocessor built right into them.

Only Sharp stood outside, not even a little wet from the wave of 3D products announced here. Instead, it showed off something that seemed even more innovative or at least more immediately useful, a new collection of televisions that use what it calls QuadPixel. In short, it has added a fourth, yellow subpixel--instead of RGB, its sets are now RGBY. It had seven different QuadPixel televisions on stage, and I have to say, the colors looked stunning. And no special glasses were needed.



President-elect to the Bioethical Society highlights ethics of Deep Brain Stimulation

The American Society for Bioethics has chosen Dr. Joseph Fins as its president for the 2011 term, a choice that will likely bring needed attention to the ethical issues surrounding the implementation of deep brain stimulators.

For much of his career at Weill Cornell Medical college, Fins has done what bio-ethecists do—fretted, advocated, encouraged, and debated about the proper treatment of patients. He's shown particular concern for people who recieve deep brain stimulation while in a state of vegetation and has written numerous papers about the potential benefits of this kind of therapy. 

Patients who have been unresponsive for over about a year have traditionally been viewed as hopeless cases and are not typically considered as candidates for DBS. A 2007 paper by Fins in Nature challenged this dogma when it revealed therapeutic benefits for a patient who recieved DBS after having been in a minimally concious state for over six years. The work not only broadens the therapeutic spectrum for this kind of patient, but also complicates our standard diagram of conciousness, which we tend to view as a discrete state. The mind of a vegetative patient begins to look more like a banked fire scattered with embers and the potential to at least partially reignite.

But then comes the ethical part. With a device as new and sucessful and complicated as the deep brain stimulator, great care needs to be taken to ensure that the individuals who go under the knife and allow surgeons to wire up their thought boxes are treated more as patients than as research subjects. Fins has used many panel discussions and opinion articles to discuss the on going care of DBS patients, and urge surgeons to make the long term commitment to patients who have already been mined for data.

One of the main problems that Fins talks about, beyond a lack of long-term initiative, is the need to spread basic neurosurgical information beyond specialists. When a patient goes home to a small community after recieving a deep brain stimulator, it is not acceptable for them to have to return to a specialized facility every time they need a minor tune up or a new battery. Fins likens the situation to the relative ease of maintaining a heart pacemaker, and says we can do better.

Lest people like Fins come across as downers, it's important to point out that his suggestions serve not only to caution people in the field of DBS. Doing things like developing long-term relationships with DBS patients will ultimately benefit the technology as we gather complete records of its perormance. Hopefully will is part of his agenda as presdent next year.

Boeing's Plastic Plane Takes Off

boeing 787 dreamliner

Back in 2006, I wrote: "Sometime next year, the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner will rise into the skies above Seattle. The takeoff will probably be like any other, but the plane sure won't."

Well, the "next year" part was a little off. After more than two years of delays, the first flight of the 787 happened yesterday.

Now, as for the plane itself, it's very special indeed. From my 2006 Spectrum article, "Carbon Takeoff":

The midsize, wide-body 787--whose overall design Boeing finalized just a few months ago--is the first commercial jet to have fuselage and wings made almost entirely of advanced, plasticlike materials known as composites. Composites are mixtures of resins and high-strength fibers of carbon, boron, graphite, or glass. They are generally lighter, stronger, and more resistant to fatigue and corrosion than the aluminum alloys widely used in planes today. In the 787, Boeing is using mostly carbon-fiber composites, which in smaller quantities are found in items such as high-end bicycle frames and the fenders of expensive sports cars.

The aerospace industry has sought to use more and more composites instead of metal to create more agile and fuel-efficient aircraft. These new materials have been going into military planes for decades, and in recent commercial aircraft they account for 10 to 25 percent of the total weight; they are used in small fuselage components, tails, and select portions of the wings, such as trailing-edge flaps.

But fully half of Boeing's 250-seat Dreamliner will be composites. The company says that thanks to the new materials, an improved aerodynamic design, and better engines and onboard systems, the 787 will burn 20 percent less fuel than comparable jetliners and have maintenance costs 10 percent lower.

The use of composites is just part of the story. The other big innovation was the way Boing had the new plane designed. The company recruited collaborators from Japan, Italy, and Australia to help not only fabricate but also design the 787. To design the carbon wings Boing partnered with three "heavies" of Japanese industry: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, and Fuji Heavy Industries. Again from my story:

[Boeing wing design team leader Mark Jenks] says that for past planes, Boeing followed a "build to print" model: the partners would come in only at a later stage and would basically fabricate the parts according to Boeing's specifications. But for the 787, the partners were brought in about four and a half years earlier, which gave them enough time to participate in the early design work and provide input based on their manufacturing expertise. The scheme also let Boeing spread the risk, because the company's partners picked up a sizable portion of the development costs in exchange for a bigger share of the profits that will accrue if the plane is successful.

Having more hands in the drawing board had its advantages but it surely created problems as well. The Seattle Times reported early this month:

Then, starting in 2007, supply-chain problems led to a series of morale-sapping delays costing billions of dollars, and the Dreamliner program shuddered to a standstill.

As the long-delayed first flight finally arrives, any sense of triumph has been dampened by repeated snarls in building the first few jets, compounded this year by a design flaw discovered at the wing-body joint.

Aviation Week had more details on the recent wing problem:

After five earlier delays that put the program about two years behind schedule, Boeing expected the 787 to fly last June. But a last-minute analysis of stresses placed on stringers in its wing as the wing bent to simulated flight loads did not conform to predictions in Boeing's computer analysis. The weakness showed as delamination at the ends of the stringers. They are rib-like strengtheners that run the length of the wing. They are connected to the fuselage at the side-of-body join and it was in that region that they failed to meet specifications. There are 17 for each wing and all were strengthened.

In the end, Boeing's decision to focus on a midsize, fuel-efficient plane -- in contrast to the gigantic A380 of archrival Airbus -- proved a prescient, and profitable, choice. Boeing says it has received 840 orders so far, which makes the 787 the fastest-selling new commercial jetliner ever.

The image we ran in my 2006 story was an artist's rendering; it showed a computer-generated 787 gliding against blue sky and fluffy clouds. Yesterday was a gray rainy day in Everett, Wash., from where the plane took off. But at least now the images are real.

boeing dreamliner 787

Photos: Boeing


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