The Human-Human Interface

Top Ten CES Trends

  1. XM2go
    Handheld receiver for the XM digital satellite radio service. This is more than just cool – I am an iPOD slut myself – but remember the Iridium satellite phone? Was it just a few years early? Is Teledesic still out there on the Bill Gates/Craig McCaw roadmap? And I note WildBlue is now offering to sign up customers. Also showing at CES was high speed internet to your SUV, courtesy of RaySat.
  2. Spawn of TiVo
    Everybody and their brother, from Microsoft’s Windows affiliates to start-ups like Stack 9 Systems, is offering digital home media entertainment systems. They all wish the issue of copyright would just go away. But Hollywood seems to feel it has a grip on its content now – and is releasing it a little at a time, as its technology analysts and licensing attorneys slowly become more comfortable with particular technology avenues. Cable has the advantage of a good understanding of how far studios are willing to go; they ought to think more about how to share in the monetizing of the burgeoning number of avenues. See for example, the Time Warner Cable – Scientific Atlanta – Maxtor partnership for a storage company that seems to get it.
  3. Spawn of iPOD
    The iPOD is about accessing your legitimately acquired music anywhere you go by taking it with you. Several services now exist allowing you to access your legitimately acquired media by taking a device with you that can interconnect back to your home where the media is stored.
  4. Microsoft IPTV
    This year’s Movielink – Microsoft has taken several whacks at developing technology for delivering media via IP. They still seem to have a fundamental disinclination to care about content rights.
  5. Icuiti V920 Digital Video Eyewear
    Eyewear with 640×480 resolution, S-Video input. “Image appears as if projected at a distance of 11 feet. Seems like a niche market – “view confidential material in privacy”.
  6. MobiTV
    This was debuted in 2004. What struck me was the 18 cable networks that are providing content. My informal discussions with several program networks indicates their technology groups are increasingly being shifted away from interactive TV on a cable platform (i.e. OCAP or ETV-enabled) and toward mobile and broadband paths. MSOs are losing the attention of their programming partners.
  7. Panasonic OxyRide Battery
    Claims double the life of alkaline battery, and 50% more power. There is a huge opportunity underlying the consumer electronics boom of recent years, as taken for granted elements such as batteries fail to keep up with innovation and become a gating factor in what the technologies can deliver.
  8. Gracenote
    Here’s an example of another element that is a gating factor for technology innovation. Most music CD’s don’t carry actual metadata – software such as iTunes or MusicMatch must go online to acquire and download information such as artist, track titles. Can anyone say “guide data”?
  9. Icon-TV
    A company that is entirely focused on the automotive market for headrest and flip-down monitors.
  10. Technology Trivialization
    This year’s CES saw dozens of manufacturers of MP3 players, in smaller and cheaper form factors, differentiated apparently only by amount of storage. These things are now about to migrate into tchotchkes – next year, manufacturers will give away free keychains in the form of MP3 players.
    The flip side of this trend is Sony’s Qualia. For example, a portable mini-disc player, dime-a-dozen, except this one is “made by master craftsmen, each case fashioned from a block of pure brass, each one truly a work of art.”

Honorable Mention
XaviX is a developer of interactive sports products that plug into television – sensors in the users device – e.g. a baseball bat – calculate interaction with on-screen elements, e.g. the pitcher. Another leveraging of the television environment in which cable is not participating. Plus, they have a Jackie Chan fighting game!

MIGO is software that loads on an iPOD or a USB flash drive – you plug that device into any PC, on the road, and it downloads personal information, settings, even desktop look and feel. When your done, it’s zapped away and you go on your way. I simply find it hard to believe, but I want to believe!

Top Ten Personal Favorites

  1. Sea Doo Personal Water Propeller
    Just like the loud fast watercraft you love or hate at your favorite lake or ocean, but personal size. Hold the handles and the one-foot diameter propeller pulls you through the water at up to a couple miles per hour.
  2. Razor Pocket Rocket
    Not your father’s Razor scooter. Under four feet long and driven by two 12 volt batteries that deliver sppeds up to 15 MPH, this one has already been banned from the streets in some cities. A similar model comes in a classic American chopper style.
  3. Dream Cookee Well-Being Mixer
    A standard juicer and mixer, but with a low-noise design. “You can use it in the late night or realy morning as it is designed to remarkably reduce noises.”
  4. CLEAN SAK Wireless Vacuum Cleaner
    OK, you’re in a high-tech trade show, “wireless” anything is a good pitch, then you realize this is just a version of the Dust Buster, right? Wrong! It also has a built-in Mood Lamp! It’s designed to look elegant on an end table, glowing with good vibes while it recharges for the next popcorn spill clean up.
  5. PMX Rocker
    2.4 Ghz Digital Wireless audio, 240 Watt total system power, 4×4″ midrange flat cone drivers, 2 x 1″ tweeters, Virtual 8″ bass delivery system. Oh, by the way, it’s a chair. Exclusively in white leateher.
  6. BeBeSounds Prenatal Listener and Player.
    I bought a prenatal heart monitor from these guys when my wife was pregnant with our first kid, at my first Consumer Electronics Show. We couldn’t really hear anything, even at 8 months. Now you can get one that allows you to play soothing music or instructional audio directly into the womb! OK, if that’s too sweet, there’s also the Angelcare Movement Sensor – “An alarm will sound alerting you to check your baby only if she becomes absolutely still for 20 seconds and no movement whatsoever is detected.”
  7. Taser X26 Citizen Defense System
    The definition of “consumer electronics” keeps getting broader and better. From Taser International, you get a TASER, holster, digital power magazine, air cartridges, a DVD training video and one free “one-on-one training with Law Enforcement Officer.” Manufacturer’s suggested retail, $999.00.
  8. Beyond Microwave Oven and Bread Maker
    Featuring a bar code scanner – simply swipe the packages bar code and it sets the cooking time automagically. “Over 4000 UPCs preprogrammed at factory”. This is the company that debuted the Icebox line of counter-mounted PCs with the cool white surface made famous by Apple and the iPOD. The company is now a subsidiary of Salton Inc, “the company that revolutionalized [sic] nutritional juicing with the Juiceman…and in-home grilling with the George Foreman grill.”
  9. Holotron
    One of several 3-D prototypes around the show. And, it seems, every show. They never seem to get much beyond the quality of the old paper and cellophane glasses from 50 years ago. Wonder why that is? (this site is actually not working – the last of the garage technology companies?)
  10. Media Destroyer
    After a big day of new media absorption, it brings closure of a sort to come across a line of Media Destroyers – the medium-specific CD Destroyer, or the MD100 all around Media Destroyer which shreds compact disks, credit cards (not a moment too soon for me), and floppy disks. From Royal, which also makes personal shredders. I knew I was important the day they brought a personal shredder into my office – but now I want one of their desktop models – the Micro4s stands no taller and wider than a sheet of letter-size paper.

Honorable Mention
I couldn’t get enough of DreamTech this year. How about the UV Germicidal Lamp/Well-Being Hair Clipper Pro MC-3000. After all, “when a hair clipper is used for many persons continuously, the particles of the scalp and hair of all the persons are stuck to the clipper, and disseminated indiscriminately.”

There’s also and Optical PenMouse – an optical mouse in the form factor of a pen that you hold upright while you move your arm – the writing position allegedly healthier for your carpal nerve endings than the palm-down mouse moving position. Maybe so.

Favorite Company Name:
Sacred Sun (PC power components from China)
Skullcandy – headsets, earphones and other stuff that grows out of your head like cheek studs or third eyes. They brag, “one of the most recognizable brands in the snow-sports industry.”

The Counterfeit Money Detector features detection of watermarks, magnetic ink, etc. From Accubanker, the automated bill counter people.

The Amazing Corewall is emblematic of the greater attention to how the introduction of consumer technology changes a lot about our built, living environment, and how little support systems have evolved to keep up, until now. Corewall Systems displayed their product at the CES NEXT/GEN Demonstration House (which will also migrate to the International Builders Show. A corewall is a prefab unit designed to insert inside the framing of a new home – the unit contains built-in conduits for electrical, plumbing, HVAC and communications lines, evidently modular enough to almost snap together.

Along these lines, I liked some designer handbags for carrying laptop PCs, looking like actual stylish bags (and matching clutch) that women would be caught dead carrying, rather than Alpha Geek style from the likes of Targus.

I also like the Wallhugger line of power adapters.