CES Diary-Part 2

Here’s part 2 of Tom Crook’s visit to CES 2010.Check out Part 1 here

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Here are some of the “2010 Innovations” exhibits that caught my eye:

AAMP of America


Restores audio quality reduced by MP3 compression.

A classic example of new technologies creating new problems requiring new technology to create new problems, I mean, uh, solutions… Another example: think of the proliferation of 3rd-party OEM docking stations…

Dell Latitude Z

“true wireless experience” Also, very beautiful. Laptop as art. Simple, graceful, elegant, and utilitarian.


LCD Deluxe Digital Microscope 44345

1st consumer digital microscope

Get this: it doesn’t use the Gracenote ® SDK!


Entourage Systems Inc

enTourage eDGe

“World’s first interactive dualbook, which integrates the applications of a notebook, e-reader, notepad, as well as an audio/video recorder and player in a central device.”

Yeah? So? Can you make telephone calls with it and does it video record in 3-D? And, most importantly, does it use the Gracenote ® SDK? What? It doesn’t play music? Forget it then, I’m outta here…


SDI Technologies

iHome App Enhanced iPod/iPhone Clock Speaker System iA5

“…providing users the most connected and engaging sleep experience available”

I don’t know about you, but personally, when I’m pullin’ down a few Z’s, I wanna be disconnected and unengaged. I’m, like, tired, ya know?

Pocket Radar, Inc.

“world’s only pocket-size speed tracking radar”

A definite must-have…


Firefly FF00109

Okay, as art, this was impressive. For me, this was the most beautiful iPod/iPhone speaker docking station I’ve yet seen. It looks great in a classy display case. In a museum. For me, at least, it wouldn’t fit in with my modest personal surroundings… It would sort of stick out, like angel food in the midst of a herd of heart-broken tarantulas (apologies to Raymond Chandler…). Hey, maybe it comes in black or maybe gun-metal gray… Maybe they would then have to call it the “Dragonfly” or “Gunship”…


Focusing on Ford


Dave Gersbeck

Dearborn, MI

Dave is a great guy and a lot of fun to talk to. We really appreciate the time Dave spent talking with us. Dave shared with us “myFord Touch”, a project, international in scope, predicted to find its way into 80% of all Ford cars sold over the next five years.

Ford has two major concerns with this project in terms of what it refers to as the “Human Machine Interface” (HMI):

1. Safety

2. Simplicity

Ford has acknowledged safety issues arise when cramming increasing amounts of ever more sophisticated electronic functions in cars that beg people to play with them while driving… And not only Ford. There was a subtle undercurrent of quiet acknowledgement among several exhibitors that, glitzy exciting new technology notwithstanding, there may perhaps be some potential “issues” that should be addressed. Preferably with more bottom-line impacting products! Unfortunately, we didn’t encounter any exhibitors that could offer any objective data that could quantify adverse impacts any of the exhibited products might have, let alone the efficacy of products or features that might offer mitigation…

Taking Ford, again, as an example, “myFord Touch” offers two customizable LCD screens, a sort of dynamic dashboard the driver plays with via touch-sensitive thumb controls on the steering wheel, an arrangement Ford thinks helps with the, get this, safety angle. The left screen displays vehicle information you need to drive the car — you know, things like how fast you’re moving and whether or not you’re about to run out of peak-oil petroleum, or whatever you’re running on… The right screen is concerned with what Ford refers to as “infotainment” functions; there are four of them: entertainment, phone, navigation & climate. In that order.

No one really knows, or can predict, what impact “myFord Touch” will have. From an even larger perspective, no one really knows what impact any of a number of the technologies exhibited at CES 2010 will have. Quality Assurance efforts can only do so much. No one is going to fund a study where one group of rats, I mean, uh, people, are given cars with “myFord Touch”, and another group has all of their personal electronics taken away and given cars that don’t even have radios in them, to see which group suffered the most traffic accidents over five years. Ain’t gonna happen — aside from the ethical issues, such a study is probably illegal, and, do we really want to know what the results of that study would be? Not in a consumer-driven economy. Time spent studying and testing a new technology is time that could be spent deploying products to market using that technology so that we can make money! Technology, at least so far, is largely treated by humans as innocent until proven guilty. Or maybe worry about later.

Maybe carpal thumb syndrome will be the worst thing “myFord Touch” drivers will experience. On the other hand, no one predicted the problems that arise when humans use keyboards over a period of decades.

Ford is also working with MapQuest to provide real-time on-line navigation. Your cell-phone is used to validate your access to the service. Which brings up the question of which providers provide what and whether or not your provider is compatible with other providers. It’s complicated! It’s not like we’re living in the bad old creeping socialism days of regulated monopolies when you didn’t have the opportunity to deal with multiple providers colluding, I mean, competing, with each other, all for the benefit of the consumer, of course…

We also talked to Ford about Gracenote ®, Pandora, and other partners they’re working with as well as Ford’s SDKs, and their interest in ASR/TTS.


Three afterwords: phone, reader, TV. And they all functionally overlap… My big question: will you be able to listen to music while reading your reader? Forget about whether or not you should — people are gonna wanna do this. A little Bach in the background while pondering the latest in cosmology with the Astrophysics Journal? Perhaps some Pachelbel while researching renaissance siege weapons? Or maybe chillin’ with a little Snoop Dog while gettin’ the lowdown on urban warfare? You can do all this, now, with the phone… Problem is, the screen on the phone is tiny… Hey, can you put a phone in the reader? And while we’re at it, how ‘bout a camera… No forget the camera… A video recorder! No, wait, does it film in 3-D? Anyone who’s anyone has gotta have 3-D. 2-D is just so Thomas Edison-ish…

Oh, yeah, almost forgot. TV. 3-D of course… Wait, do I need glasses for that? One more thing: can we make the whole thing out of flexible plastic that you can fold up into something the size of a credit card and stick it in your back pocket? Or maybe, at least hang the thing around your neck like a CES exhibition pass, have it display your name & corporate affiliation, while recording everything, and giving you directions to get to the next exhibit so that you can record and be recorded… And last but not least, to enhance the entire experience, have some cool Gracenote ® technology giving you the metadata on the music that you’re currently listening to… Wait, wait! I got it: a little projective heads up display so that you can watch a video while walking around, recording, and some Gracenote ® technology simultaneously giving you the metadata on what y’all are watching. While walking around. Recording. In 3-D… Then we can all upload all of our CES 3-D recordings of everyone else recording and compete for the best virtual CES experience. The winner wins three weeks in a consumer electronics detox center…

It’s real hard to predict, especially about the future. One thing is clear: for now at least, everything goes into the car. Everything.


Besides, there’s less room in the place we sleep in as the population increases. So now you have to buy, at least, two of everything: one for the car, one for where you sleep (if there’s still room), and maybe another one for the office, and maybe another one for you when you, sort of, get away from it all… TV, radio, music, camera, video recorder, phone, reader. If you’re in a relationship, sharing all of this stuff with someone, and well, something happens, one or both of you is gonna have to buy a lot of stuff! But hey, that’s okay — upgrade opportunity! Unless you can somehow network all of the devices together, and download as needed from a highly redundant database, via wireless, of course. Maybe throw a few clauses in the ‘ol prenup where you both promise to share personal data accumulated during the relationship forever and ever, Amen. The romance may be over, but thanks to WeRememberEvenWhenYouDon’tWantTo ® Memory Technologies, Inc., yours and what’s-their-face’s memories live on! Forever!

More new stuff begets more new stuff. Remember when you were told that flat panel TVs could “just be hung on the wall”? Well, we’ve created a new need for: bracketing systems! Reminds me of the Gold Rush of 1849 when the merchants made out like bandits selling basic commodities for a fortune. I don’t know, maybe the real future is in bracketing systems… And “bolting systems” so that the weight of the flat panel display doesn’t rip out the drywall in case you missed a stud… ‘Course when QUE gets its act together and puts everything on a sheet of plastic that you can hang on the wall with thumbtacks, we can then make new products that mitigate the toxic effects of all the strange chemicals doped onto a large plastic substrate…

But which TV to get (HD3DTV, aka “HD 3D TV” – Sony)? The places we watch TVs in are getting smaller, but the screens are getting bigger! HDTV, plasma, LCD, LED, RGB, RGBY (hey, why not the other two secondary colors as well — and why stop there when you’ve got the tertiary colors?), 3-D, and if the latter, which one — with glasses or without? Whatever happened to the wonderful world of holographic projection? You know, Disneyland, The Haunted Mansion, your very own ghost riding shotgun with you in your casket? Or Star Wars’ Obi Wan Kenobi “happening” on to the R2D2 holographic recording of the Princess? Is this like the 1962 World’s Fair when AT&T exhibited the picture phone and it never really happened?


Which reminds me. The past. It never goes away. CES had a number of exhibits appealing to nostalgia. iPod boom-box docking stations, devices dressed up in the guise of old telephones and ancient radios… There will never be a bright new shining future. It’s all about accretion. We accumulate. And accumulate. Slowly, the old makes way for the new as things fall apart or, in retrospect, are finally recognized as garbage. Sometimes the past seems better, and in some ways it was; however, as someone once observed, a lot of the artifacts from the past seem better only because, as time goes by, only the best tend to survive the sieve of time.

Perhaps 90% of everything, at any time, is garbage. The paradox is that it sometimes seems as if 90% of the money, at any one time, is made on the garbage.

Think of CES as one big social experiment. There is no long-term quality assurance on any of this stuff that will give us any idea of what the impact will be. We don’t know how addictive these technologies will be or how they will affect us, our relationships with each other, or the folks that will come after us.

We need more meta-electronics! Self-referential electronics to track the electronics! Maybe with an “adviser” built in. Five years from now, you could have a conversation with your adviser, with optional yearly upgrades, informing you that your iPod is so passé that you should be embarrassed to be seen in public with it and that it’s time to get an iCoach so that you can get your sorry excuse for a life in shape…

Here’s another paradox: some people are too busy working on products and technologies to actually consume them! It seems that there is a possibility of some sort of divide growing between producers and consumers. An unprecedented era of entertainment options but little or no time for those producing those options to consume them. That’s not all bad. Production, in this case, is probably more interesting than consumption anyway. I’ve talked about this with folks in the Bay Area and folks at CES. So far, I have found that this paradox resonates with the people I’ve talked to.

That’s enough. I feel as if I’ve eaten too much electronic ice-cream. I’m gonna curl up in a corner with a slide-rule. By candlelight. However, at the same time, I would like to listen to some Medieval Monophony. Some Gracenote ® technology offering translations of the lyrics from the Latin would be nice.

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