Last week, I spent 4 days in Las Vegas for the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show. My primary goal was to network, but I did get a chance to spend a day walking the floor of the show. It's an overwhelming experience, as there are literally thousands of companies, most with extravagant product demos, booth babes, and a myriad of light-emitting displays that surprisingly did not bring about instant seizures.
3D technology, in displays and gaming, was undoubtedly the prevalent theme of CES 2010, with every major electronics manufacturer unveiling their 3D television. In fact, Panasonic's VT25 series won CNETs Best of CES award and will likely become the first 3D television to hit the market. This space is definitely starting to explode, with several networks - including ESPN and Discovery - announcing plans to launch dedicated 3D networks in 2010. I must admit, having just seen Avatar, I'm intrigued by the prospect of watching the World Cup in 3D this year. The displays are fabulous and, in many of the demos, I could really see how gaming and certain types of content could really benefit from this technology. The only downside is that they require you to wear fairly large 3D glasses (which must also draw their own power). Trust me, they look kind of ridiculous. Furthermore, there seems to be a fundamental perspective problem with the technology as the quality of the 3D effect degrades to the point of causing headaches as you move away from a 90 degree angle with the display. Are people really going to have 10 pairs of 3D glasses on hand to have their friends over to watch football on a Sunday? I'm not sure that the technology will get broad adoption until someone figures out how to cheaply replicate the effect without relying on the glasses (and 3M is working on it...)
I probably have an unconventional view of "what's cool", but here's my (short) list of most interesting technologies that I saw on the floor, primarily because they pertained to improving the environment and trying to address the most challenging problem facing the world: energy.
- Chevy Volt - yes, I know EVs have been announced for quite some time, but this was the first time I actually got to see this car in person. It's a sexy car and the fact that you can monitor and control it using your iPhone sealed the deal for me. How awesome is that? I'm getting one... well, that is, if my Tesla Model S order falls through.
- Panasonic's Fuel Cell Cogeneration System - this is essentially a residential fuel cell that can generate electricity and hot water from natural gas (hydrogen) and oxygen from the air. These are the same polymer membrane exchange fuel cells that are powering vehicles, but can now heat and power your home while reducing your energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Durability and cost are likely a concern, but I have to imagine that these things will improve over time as this technology is commercialized and hits mass market. Here's a picture of the unit they had on display (kind of looks like a Flux Capacitor, right?):
There were a bunch of other gadgety things that were interesting, notably Sony's video camera stabilization technology and LED TVs that were as thick as an iPhone, but I didn't get a chance to take pictures of those. I did get cornered at the Sony booth to do a video interview about what I saw as the future of in-home media consumption, which you can happily see after the jump (cut to 2:17):