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.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.